British in Depth Study

This includes liberal reforms and social reformers, Womens suffrage, and WW1

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Background info. 1890-1905

The 19th century saw many changes that affected ordinary people...

  • Slum clearance had started and many houses now were connected to sewerage systems
  • All children had to go to school and education was free
  • All male householders had the right to vote in elections
  • Wages had risen and the average family was better off than it had been in the beginning of the century

However... there were still a lot of poor people. The question was 'Whose job it was to do something about this?'

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Social Reformers (1)

Most Victorians had believed that the poor were somehow responsible for their own proverty - for example they were lazy, or 'drank' their own money. 

By the end of the 19th century people were beginning to see there were social and economical reasons for poverty and it wasn't actually the peoples fault. 

Charles Booth

  • Born into a wealthy ship owning family and moved to London. He refused to accept the official statistics that said 25% of the population was living in poverty.
  • He set up his own team of paid investigators.
  • Over a period of around 17 years, he and his team investigated the living conditions, income and spending of over 4000 people in London.
  • He found that nearly 31% of Londoners were living below the 'poverty line'. They did not have the money to buy enough food, shelter and clothing to survive.
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Social Reformers (2)

Seebohm Rowntree

  • Rowntree belonged to a York-based chocolate manufactures.
  • He was interested in Booth's findings and wanted to see if the same would be said about people living in York. 
  • He divided poverty into two kinds:

1. Primary Poverty -        No matter how hard the family worked, they would                                                    never earn enough to provide themselves with adequate                                          food, shelter and clothing.

2. Secondary Poverty - These families could just about feed, clothe and shelter                                             themselves. They were living on the edge/ 

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Charities and the Poor Law Workhouses


  • Provided help in the form of money, food or clothes. 
  • By 1905 there were 700-800 in London alone.
  • Some charities dealt specifically with children. (e.g. Bernardo's set up by Dr Bernardo in 1867)

The Poor Law, Workhouses

  • The most dreaded and feared type of help.
  • Workhouses provided food and shelter for the poor, but were grim places.
  • It was one thing to be poor but another thing to accept relief. 
  • Tremendous shame and disgrace was attached to this.
  • To accept relief was to accept defeat.
  • Old people dreaded retirement , when they were too old to work. 
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Why did Poverty become a Political Issue?


4. The Labour party had just been formed and they represented the working class people. They wanted to help get better living conditions for working people as well fairer wages and more equality when it came to money. The Liberals were afraid of the Labour Party as they were a threat and takes votes away from them. 

5. Many younger 'New Liberals' like David Lloyd George ans Winston Churchill genuinely wanted to help poor people. They were challenging traditional ideas that people should work out their own problems. The New Liberals believed that the State/Government should provide help for the people. 

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