The Boer War: Recruitment, National Efficiency and New Liberalism

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  • Created by: naomi
  • Created on: 06-05-13 11:17

Problems raised by recruitment

  • huge numbers volunteered to fight in the Boer War but many were rejected
  • 1902: 60% of the male population were physically unfit for military service
  • due to an enormous amount of men not being able to fight, the British took a long time to round up soldiers
  • Britain couldn't maintain its position in the world if the population was unfit
  • the British ecnomic performance was declining

Committee on Physical Deterioration:

A committee set up in 1903 to investigate why recruitment was problematic. Results showed no decrease in physical health but a need for living conditions, working conditions and education to be improved 

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National Efficiency

  • many groups thought it was essential for the British social systems and structures to be improved after hearing the results from the committee on Physical Deterioration
  • it had been seen that Germany was an efficient and competend nation so Britain feared that if it didn't act quickly, Germany would replace Britain and be at the top of the world order of nations

As a result of this, the movement wanted:

  • the empire to be more efficient... almost businesslike
  • a technocratic approach to leading the country
  • a meritocracy - people would get a job because they were the best qualified, not because of their social status
  • modernisation - especially in the military
  • education - top open up so children were in education for longer and to focus on science and technology, then Latin and team games
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Politics side of National Efficiency

Different groups started calling for reform:

  • Socialists - wanted rapid and far reaching political reform
  • Liberals - wanted moderate and graduate reform
  • Conservatives - wanted to maintain the existing political arrangements

Because different groups wanted conflicting aims, the issue of national efficiency brought them informally together into a single movement

National efficiency and social reform was a response to the impact of the Boer War due to no reduction in the support for Britain's imperial role. It showed that the support for the movement was not majorly left or right wing. There was a mixture of views

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Liberal Reforms

1906 Election:

War had impacted the election because it showed the popularity of the Liberals and a reaction against some aspects of imperialism

Joseph Chamberlain's scheme, to tie the empire more closely together with imperial tariffs, was rejected because there was favour for free trade

New Liberliam: the belief that the state should take a more active role in combating social evils and property (role of the state should be increased)

  • New Liberalism's supports such as J.A. Hobson and Lloyd George argued "Nation faced a choice between investing in itself and wasting money on imperialist adventures such as the Boer War"
  • Results of the Boer War strengthened the argument that the state should be at the centre of social improvements and to weaken lassiez-faire. This shows that the Boer War was a significant step towards the foundations of the welfare state
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Liberal Reforms

Examples of Liberal Reforms:

1906: Local authorities offered free school meals to needy children (by 1914 31,000 children were receiving school meals)

1907: Authorities able to carry out medical inspections of children

1908: Children's Act: children at risk could be put into safe custody 

           Old age pensions introduced to people over 70

1909: Help for unemployed to find work

1911: National Insurance Act introduced

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Liberal Reforms

To what extent was the Boer War responsible for reform?

Although the Boer War was a major factor in the production for new liberalism, there were other influences on reforms:

  • Trade Unions: liberals feared losing support if works saw unions as apolitical force rather than an improvement to their working conditions
  • Labour Party: threat from the newly formed labour party - especially as the franchise was extended to workingmen
  • Germany: introduced social reforms under Bismark
  • Social Surveys: Charles Booth in London and B.S. Rowntree in York

Military reforms under the new Liberal Government:

  • 1902: Committee of Imperial Defence
  • 1904: Escher Report recommended radical reform of the army such as the creation of army council, creation of general staff, abolition of commander in chief post, reoganisation of the war office
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