OCR History - Liberal Reforms

Cards for the Liberal Reforms topic of the British Depth Study paper, OCR History. Hope these help! (:

Poverty in the 20th Century


  • Gave money, clothes, food and shelter.
  • 700-800 in London 1905.
  • Children live by begging and stealing, die from starvation and disease.
  • Dr. Barnados children's homes help children suffering in poverty.


  • Belief = people responsible for their own poverty.
  • 'Poor Law' offered help, but seen as giving up and was disliked.
  • People save wages, and dread sickness, unemployment and retirement - elderly ok, but only if they have relatives too look after them.
  • No hope of better times.

Poor Law

  • Workhouse provides work and shelter, but dreaded. 
  • Those helped by the Poor Law seen as a 'pauper', shame and disgrace.
  • Outdoor relief provided help outisde the workhouse, e.g. money.
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Public Attention (1)

Salvation Army

  • William and Catherine Booth
  • Think poverty is beyond people's control.
  • Christian groups preach, turn prostitutes and criminals from sin, give soup and bread. Salvation army = different, as went to the poor, members were like an army, wore a uniform and had brass bands.
  • 1900 = own training centres, labour exchange, farms and a brickworks - jobs give people a sense of purpose.

Charles Booth

  • From family of wealthy shipowners, moved to London.
  • Conducted survey - 25% in poverty in London - team of investigators look at living conditions, income and spending of 4,000 people.
  • Causes = 85% due to unemployment and low wages - not their own fault.
  • Made circles of poverty - centre = those 
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Public Attention (2)

Seebohm Rowntree

  • York chocolate manufacturers and quakers.
  • Influenced by Charles Booth.
  • Survey showed that 28% in poverty in York.
  • Primary poverty = not own fault, nothing they can do = 10%.
  • Secondary poverty = can just about feed and clothe themselves, could fall into pirmary poverty at any time = 18%.
  • Made primary poverty line = likely to fall into poverty during childhood, marriage with a young family, and in old age.
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A Political Issue (1)

Liberal Party

  • Come into power 1906. David Lloyd George and Churchill = 'New Liberals' - challenge ideas, know that poverty is not the fault of the poor, think state have a duty to provide security and freedom.
  • End of 1800s = local authorities (often Liberal) provide clean water, sewers, lighting, clean streets - show what can be done locally and nationally.

Labour Party

  • 1900s = want to close gap between rich and poor, and improve working and living conditions. Rivals of Liberal Party.
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A Political Issue (2)

Boer War

  • 1899, men rejected from army as unfit. 2/3 fail the medical.
  • Germany and USA in a better position, and are far more efficient - Britain need reforms to compete, and improve their national efficiency. 

Rowntree and Booth

  • Their studies are read by many people.
  • Their studies also influenced politicians.
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Liberal Reforms (1)


  • Free school meals 1906 = paid from local rates, used by 158,000 by 1914.
  • School Medical Inspections 1907 = free, compulsory, treatment had to be paid for until 1912.
  • Children's At 1908 = makes children protected persons:
    • Parents can be prosecuted for cruelty, authorities responsible for supervising.
    • Children's homes were registered.
    • Children under 14 not allowed in adult prisons, borstals set up for young offenders, juvenile courts set up.
    • Under 14s not allowed in pubs, no cigarettes allowed to under 16s.
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Liberal Reforms (2)

Sick and Unemployed

  • Labour Exchanges Act 1909 = people can look for jobs more efficiently.
  • National Insurance Act I 1911 = prevents poverty by illness: 
    • Can draw money out if ill. 
    • Compulsory for maual and low paid jobs. 
    • Paid 4d for stamps on a card, government gave 2d, employers gave 3d. 
    • Sick pay = 10s a week, for 13 weeks, 5 s for an additional 13 weeks. 
    • Free medical treatment and maternity care.
    • 10 mil men and 4 mil women covered.
  • National Insurance Act II 1912 = prevents poverty from unemployment:
    • Mainly men in seasonal unemployment e.g. shipbuilding, engineering.
    • Workers pay 2d as do employers and government, for insurance stamps.
    • Paid 7s 6d when unemployed, for a total of 15 weeks. 

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Liberal Reforms (3)


  • Pensions Act 1908 = weekly fund from the government.
    • For over 70's.
    • 5s a week for a single person.
    • 7s6d (later increased to 10s) for a couple.
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How Effective Were the Reforms? (1)


  • People no longer to blame for their own poverty.
  • Reforms = a break with the past, Liberals attacked the causes of poverty, the poor can lead decent lives.


  • 1935-6, Rowntree repeats survey of York. 6.8% now in primary poverty, compared to 15.5 in 1899.
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How Effective Were the Reforms? (2)


  • David Lloyd George pays for taxes by taxing the rich:
    • Liberal House of Commons vote for the pensions.
    • House of Lords = rich Conservatives with a laissez-faire attitude, so vote against the pensions.
    • Only passed when the King threatens to put more Liberals in the House of Lords
  • Some historians think the reforms were just a economic move to improve Britain's workforce.
  • Others think that the reforms were the beginning of the welfare state. 
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How Effective Were the Reforms? (3)

Not All Were Helped

  • Pensions = only 1/2 mil qualified as:
    • Had to be 70+.
    • Had to have had an income below £21 - more earned = lower pensions.
    • Be British citizens - have live in Britain for 20 years.
    • Not been in prison 10 years bfore the pension.
    • Hadn't failed to work.
  • National Insurance = only 10 mil men and 4 mil women qaulified  as:
    • Incomes less that £160 a year.
    • Only seasonal employment.
    • Only covered those who paid, not dependants.
    • Run by local councils.
  • The Poor Law = should have been reformed or abolished, but instead remained for another 20 years. 
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