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Abstract

Current social welfare history texts in the United States tend to cover quickly the time periods before the passage of the Elizabethan Poor Laws in 1601. This is an unfortunate informationalgap since what is labeled social welfare today has been organized and delivered for centuries before 1601 through the rich religious traditions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and thousands of other traditional religions throughout the world. This article provides a broad historical overview of the organization, the roles, and the services provided by the social welfare system in Christian communities, during their first three centuries, throughout what is now considered Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. This article also encourages scholars representing the other major religious traditions to also chronicle their unique social welfare heritage.

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