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Historians beliefs

  • Self-help’ was very important in Victorian times. Public libraries were built in many cities so that more people had access to improve their lives during their free time. The Museums Act of 1845 gave town councils with large boroughs the power to set up museums for the public. Members of Parliament thought that working class people would improve their lives by visiting the museums instead of spending their free time in pubs.
  • Some historians say the improvements were made because the public were beginning to complain about the lack of education and support for young children who worked long, hard days in factories. These historians also believe that the government wanted to educate people so that they could make more money for the country.
  • Many historians think that the likelihood is that Britain's economy grew unevenly but gradually from 1700 to 1900, but there was no revolutionary 'spurt' of growth between 1780 and 1830. They are in opposition to traditional historians who believe that industrial advancements such as machinery and railways, revolutionised Britain, boosted the economy and laid the foundations for long-term change.
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Transport changes

  • The world shrank – in 1700 it took four days to get from London to Manchester, but in 1880 it took four hours. Raw materials, goods, food (eg fresh milk) and post arrived faster.
  • Economic growth – the railways needed bricks, cement, sleepers, iron and coal and as a result, those industries were stimulated. In 1847, more than a quarter of a million people worked on the railways. Their wages helped the economy grow.
  • Finance – huge numbers of people bought shares in railway companies. Many later lost their money when the boom ended.
  • The 1844 Railway Regulation Act improved conditions in third-class. In 1883, the Cheap Trains Act made railway companies offer a greater number of cheap trains for workers. Transport became available to more people than ever before.
  • The growth of the shipping industry allowed a huge growth in worldwide trade.
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