I was reading about Welfare States and came across this on Wikipedia:

Emperor Ashoka of India put forward his idea of a welfare state in the 3rd century BCE. [...] The concepts of welfare and pension were introduced in early Islamic law as forms of Zakat (charity), one of the Five Pillars of Islam, under the Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th century... The taxes (including Zakat and Jizya) collected in the treasury of an Islamic government were used to provide income for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. (Wikipedia)

Beyond those two examples from pre-modern history, I wanted to know if there are more. And I also wanted to know the reasons why they (including the two examples already mentioned) stopped being welfare states. Was it just a regime change, or was it due to the model not being economically sustainable?

What were the earliest examples of welfare states, what qualities did they have, and why did the end?

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    I think it would help if you define better welfare states. If we call Zakat as welfare, we can arguably put many other religious or state taxes in this category, which then makes the answer very broad and useless. – Greg Feb 13 '19 at 1:51
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    Definition from the wiki article you linked - "The welfare state is a form of government in which the state protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of the citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for citizens unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life." Pretty sure that caliphate might've qualified for the last principle, but not the first two. Besides, welfare isn't the only thing zakat money can be spent on - you'd need to check how the money was actually distributed. – Danila Smirnov Feb 13 '19 at 3:38
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    @TheZ well, after reading up on Caliphate - I can't find any mention of actual income for the poor (besides the zakat). I did find that the government was to stockpile food to be distributed in case of a famine; that can be called a welfare program, I guess. – Danila Smirnov Feb 13 '19 at 4:35
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    Having some humanitarian policies and being a welfare state is two different things. – John Dee Feb 13 '19 at 5:41
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    The Roman corn dole comes to mind. In antiquity, Rome distributed free or subsidised grain to the poorest ~200,000 of its citizens. – Semaphore Feb 13 '19 at 6:17

Yes, there are other examples.



Regular grain distribution began in 123 BC with a grain law proposed by Gaius Gracchus and approved by the Roman Plebeian Council (popular assembly). The numbers of those receiving free or subsidized grain expanded to a high of an estimated 320,000 people at one point.[22][23] In the 3rd century AD, the dole of grain was replaced by bread, probably during the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211 AD). Severus also began providing olive oil to residents of Rome, and later the emperor Aurelian (270-275) ordered the distribution of wine and pork.[24] The doles of bread, olive oil, wine, and pork apparently continued until near the end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD.[25] The dole in the early Roman Empire is estimated to account for 15 to 33 percent of the total grain imported and consumed in Rome.[26]

And Welfare has not ended.

Most countries have varying degrees of welfare policies, which have evolved from the days of Rome when the Romans would dole out Wine to their residents, to the detriment of everyone else.

United Kingdom for example

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

The modern welfare state in the United Kingdom began operations with the Liberal welfare reforms of 1906–1914 under Liberal Prime Minister H. H. Asquith.[73] These included the passing of the Old-Age Pensions Act in 1908, the introduction of free school meals in 1909, the 1909 Labour Exchanges Act, the Development Act 1909, which heralded greater Government intervention in economic development, and the enacting of the National Insurance Act 1911 setting up a national insurance contribution for unemployment and health benefits from work.[74][75]

Middle east


Saudi Arabia,[62][63][64] Kuwait,[65] and Qatar have become welfare states exclusively for their own citizens.

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  • Please state where you copy from – mmmmmm Aug 9 at 10:25
  • @mmmmmm I have provided the links. They are all to wikipedia – Steven Ian Gall Aug 9 at 10:26
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    Then say they are from Wikipedia. I can't see where a link is to. – mmmmmm Aug 9 at 10:28
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    Also if they are just from a simple search then the question should mention them and it does. your answer should be deeper history.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3708/2510 – mmmmmm Aug 9 at 10:33
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    Sorry the question should show that as that is minimal reasurch needed. In fact the question does show research as a quote from Wikipedia. I cannot see how simply quoting the same page as rhe question does can hope to answer the question – mmmmmm Aug 9 at 10:39

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