Nor could the permanent residents of the city be divided with certainty into those who were poor and those who were not. Poverty itself is always difficult to define. Certainly a family which could not support its members without sustained recourse to private or public assistance would always be included among the poor. 2 To so me analysts, however, this group - the truly indigent - represented only the most extreme form of poverty; thc urban poor can also be said to have included many houscholding familics who, in normal times, seemed to be economically indcpendent. For often these people were able to support themselvcs and their families only so long as they - and the local economy - remained in good hcalth; they were liable to slip over thc edgc into dcstitution as soon as they faced so me unmasterable catastrophc - a sudden collapsc in the markct for the goods they made, a suddcn risc in the price of bread, the onset of a disabling illncss, thc death of a provider, or the birth of yct anothcr dependant. -' In late fiftcenth-century Nuremberg a city ordinancc required that labourers in the building industry be given thcir daily wagcs in the morning, so that they could bring thc money
to their wives when they went horne for a midday snack. 4 People like this obviously lived perilously close to the margins of poverty; even when they were able to support themselves, they were bound to be conscious of indigence as a constant, looming threat.