Why did the Liberal social reforms happen?
People began to research and investigate poverty. Independently of each other, two wealthy businessmen, Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree, sponsored major investigations into the extent and causes of poverty in British cities.
Charles Booth wrote the 'Life and the Labour of people in London' regarding the years of 1886 and 1903. He based his findings on a survey of 4000 people and he found that 30.7% of Londoners lived in poverty. Booth discovered that 85% of those living in poverty were because of problems relating to employment, such as unemployment, low pay or short-time working. He was responsible for the first scientific estimates of poverty and development of survey methods in social investigation.
Seebohm Rowtree wrote 'Poverty: A Study of Town Life' which was published in 1901. He investigated poverty in York and found that around 28% of the population of York were living 'in obvious want and squalor'. Rowntree calculated that the minimum income that a family of 5 needed to simply exist was 21s 8d. This was the 'poverty line'. Rowntree argued that to live below this was to live in 'primary poverty' which he defined as being unable to buy basic necessities no matter how well budgeted the income was. Rowntree said that those living above this poverty line was to live in 'secondary poverty', where the necessities of life (but little else) could be bought.
These reports informed and influenced people to do something about the overwhelming poverty. Booth and Rowntree's findings agreed on two key points:
· up to 30% of the population of the cities were living in or below poverty levels
· the conditions were such that people could not pull themselves out of poverty by their own actions alone. Booth and Rowntree both identified the main causes of poverty as being illness, unemployment and age - both the very young and the old were at risk of poverty
The Boer War
In 1899 the British army began fighting the Boers in South Africa, the war continued until 1902 with the British victorious. During the war, the British army experienced great difficulty in finding fit…