Why was there pressure for social reform in the years 1880-1914? (3.6)


Henry Mayhew

  • one of the first investigative journalists
  • his investigations were not systematic and his statistics were unrealiable
  • they gave an exaggerated picture of the extent of poverty in London
  • his need to make a living led him to be less scrupulous with the truth
  • Mayhew challenged the accepted idea that the poor were responsible for their own poverty
  • he warned of the consequences of inaction
  • Mayhew laid the basis of the investigations of Booth and Rowntree
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Charles Booth

  • his social conscience drove him to investigate the nature of poverty in London
  • he undertook a detailed study of the poor in London
  • Booth was convinced that most of the poor were in distress through circumstances beyond their own control
  • he wanted to explore why people lived the way they did
  • the whole enquiry took nearly 17 years to complete
  • He divided the population into classes - an appreciation of the differences between the classes was fundamental to udnertanding the causes of poverty
  • Class A - at the bottom of any social hierarchy
  • Class B - no security of employment, low-paid workers
  • Class C - life was a constant struggle for survival
  • Class D - regular work and low incomes
  • Class E and Class F - could live comfortable lives
  • Class G and Class H - lower- and upper-middle classes
  • He relied on observation only
  • Did not take into account income when defining poverty
  • Some argued that there was no underpinning philospohy or principle to his investigations
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Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree

  • Championed democracy in the worplace, a minimum wage, family allowances and old age pensions
  • Conducted 3 surveys of poverty in York that suppoerted the findings of Booth in London
  • His aim was to find out both the numbers of people living in poverty and the nature of that poverty
  • First general survey of York in 1899 and published in 1901 - made house-to-house visits and relied on information from clergymen, teachers and voluntary workers
  • He found that 28% of the population of York were in obvious need
  • He worked out that the minimum wage that would be necessary for a family to live in a state of physical efficiency was 21 shillings a week
  • 10% were living below the poverty line and in primary poverty - there was no way they could ever make ends meet
  • 18% were living in secondary poverty - they can obtaint he basic necessities of life provided there are no extra calls on their budget
  • Based mainly on observation and too subjective
  • Poverty was only identified by that which was visible to the investigators
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The Fabian Society: a think tank

  • aimed to advance the principles of socialism in a gradual, non-confrontational way
  • They set an example of good, clean and simple living for others to follow
  • The society held public meetings, published numeroud pamphlets and lobbied politicans on a wide range of topics from porr law reform to international alliances
  • Key members were Sidney and Beatrice Webb - their 'Minority Report to the Commission of the Poor Law' contributed much to the basis of the modern welfare state
  • pamphlets aimed at promoting social justice and were more radical in their policies than the early 20th century reforms of the Liberal government
  • 1906 - they lobbied for the introduction of a minimum wage in order to stop British companies trying to remain competitive by lowering wages
  • 1911 - wanted a universal health service that would enable the Britsh to be sufficiently physically fit to defend and develop their empire
  • 1900 - active in the formation of what was to become the Labour party
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The impact of the Boer War (second - October 1899

  • two out of every three potential recuits did not pass the basic army medical examination
  • fears - the security of the British Empire depended on a fit and efficient army, the successful economies of Germany and the USA seemed to imply that Britain now had an inferior workforce

The Interdepartmental Committee on Physical Deterioration, 1903-4:

  • to investigate claims that the health of the population was deteriorating
  • they concluded that the health of urban populations was being undermined by poverty, ignorance and neglect

The debate on national efficiency:

  • focused attention on the importance of Britain's human resources as being fundamental to national power
  • it encouraged policymakers to look more closely at social and economic policies that were being implemented by Britain's competitors
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