History the liberal reforms

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liberal reforms - what was britian like in 1906

  • In 1906 britian was the richest country in the world. income from land, industry and trade was enormous across the British empire brought some people huge wealth.
  • rich with an income of over £10000 a year.
  • Middle class lived comfortably on about £400 - £600 a year.
  • Lower middle class people - like teachers and shopkeepers could live in a well funished house and hire a servant on an income of £150 a year.

most people earned less than this. in fact large numbers of people lived in poverty.

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why were the liberal reforms passed? 1

The liberal government of 1906-1914 passed a whole series of laws to deal with poverty.

In the 20th century a number of surveys were published which provided accurate information about poverty.

  • Charles Booth was a wealthy ship owner. He began a huge survey of londons poor. 1889 - 1903. As many as 38% population lived on wages which were just enough or just less than someone could live on.
  • Seebohm Rowntree. he realised it was important to decide what level of income was just enough to live on. anyone below would be defined as living in poverty. he calculated that a family of 2 parents and 3 children needed £1.08 and a half p a week to live on. Hed realised 10% of the population lived in poverty and another 18% were below it for some part of there life.
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why were the liberal reforms passed? 2

Rowntree described a life cycle which workin people hovered below the poverty line all their lives:

  • A young unmarried person could live on the low wages.
  • Marrying and having children pushed people below the poverty line.
  • when children began to earn and left there home. they passed above the line but could easily fall below it.
  • old age brought poverty through the loss of work or lower earnings.


Army leaders were worried about the physical health of british people when recruiting for the boer war in 1899 - 1902. Many men were too small, mal nourished or to ill to be taken into the army.

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The Labour Party.

  • The liberal party tried to speak for working men. the were several working class mp's by 1906. they called themselves lib labs.

In 1900 some socialists and a few trade unions to represent working people. It took the name the labour party and won 29 seats in the 1906 election.

  • they were keen to point out that the other parties had failed to deal with poverty.
  • they called for higher wages and higher taxes on the irch to help the poor.

Although the labour party was only small in 1906, the liberals were worried that they would lose working class votes to them. they had to show they cared about poverty too.

Many liberals believed people had to choose whether to look after themselves, and not rely on the government to help them. But younger liberals, like david lloyd gearge and winston churchill, pointed out that the poor people revealed by Booth and Rowntreehad no freedom to choose. The government should intervene to provise basic security in their lives.

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