Robert Love’s Warnings examines the operation of the poor law in Boston. The city’s selectmen hired “warners,” such as Love, to search for newcomers and warn them to leave. Strangers could stay and seek employment, but if they needed relief, the colony would have to pay for it. The book provides biographical sketches of those people whom Love warned. Love, who searched Boston’s streets for transients and recent arrivals, left detailed accounts of strangers’ names, birthplaces, last habitation, occupation, Boston residence, and the number of people in their party by age and sex. The biographical sketches are based on Love’s records and its nominal linkage to other sources that uncover the lives of those warned.

The book sustains George Ravenstein’s “Laws of Migration,” as revised by twentieth-century demographers. Just as in late nineteenth-century England, most of the migrants in Dayton and Salinger’s research had moved a short distance, in this...

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