Wales in the Edwardian Era
Welsh demographic change
Between 1871 and 1911 the population of Wales increased from under 1.5 million to just under 2.5 million. Wales was absorbing population at a much higher rate than any other part of the UK. The majority of these people were coming to Glamorgan and Monmouthshire in South Wales, where there were huge increases in population, this was not the case elsewhere in Wales. By 1911 Glamorgan and Monmouthshire has a population of over 1.5 million.
Wales experienced rural depopulation as migrants from the countryside were lured to the towns by the prospect of work in industry. The need to leave the countryside was caused by a depression in agriculture before the Great War, and the industrialisation of urban areas and South Wales in particular. Additionally Wales was largely a land of small upland farms on largely un rewarding soil. The arable sector was very small and little wheat could be grown. Nearly 90% of the land in Wales was occupied by small scale tenant farmers who had taken out large mortgages on severe terms. Agricultural techniques were also quite backward. There was some improvement in the rural areas after 1900 with the industrial growth. After 1900 prices for dairy farmers started to rise and landlords were able to invest in more machinery which improved output. The growth of tourism to the new coastal resorts and the growth of the railways also helped these areas.
There were clear class lines in Wales by WWI. There was a more integrated middle class in the valley towns and villages - a new group of businessmen, shopkeepers, solicitors, journalists and some more affluent workmen. Owner occupation of houses became more widespread and the new middle class was central to the activities of the Liberal Party in Wales. Education had also helped increasing the prospects of the population. The growth of an industrial society meant there was a huge working class in Wales.
Living Conditions in Wales
Wales lagged behind the rest of the world in terms of sub-standard working class housing, in urban overcrowding, it is health and hospital services, in the levels of industrial disease among workers, poverty and ill health among the old, and malnutrition and disease among children
In 1911, the five major boroughs of South Wales showed a death rate of 380 per 1000 children born. The average across England and Wales was 17.5. These main areas of poor living conditions were in the valleys, such as of Swansea, Neath, Ogmore Vale, Garw, Rhondda and Taff.
However, sub-standard living conditions could also be found in the cities, such as Cardiff and Swansea. Splott and Butetown in Cardiff were as deprived as areas of Merthyr. The Irish communities of Cardiff (such as Adamstown) and of…