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Issue 4 (Mr Beveridge) Why did the Liberal government of the early 20 th century become involved in passing social reforms? Higher.

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Presentation on theme: "Issue 4 (Mr Beveridge) Why did the Liberal government of the early 20 th century become involved in passing social reforms? Higher."— Presentation transcript:

1 Issue 4 (Mr Beveridge) Why did the Liberal government of the early 20 th century become involved in passing social reforms? Higher

2 Big Picture By end of 19 th century there was increasing evidence that poverty had causes that were often beyond the ability of individuals to help themselves. When the Liberal government came to power in 1906 they began a series of social reforms. Issue looks at REASONS WHY the Liberals intervened to help ease the problem of poverty.

3 Some background (context) Mid 19 th C most people accepted poverty and hardship not things government should or could do anything about If the government became involved in helping poor it would cost money -> taxes would increase Middle class would have to pay more tax yet money would not be spent on them Why should they help people they believed were too lazy to help themselves?

4 19 th Century Attitudes to Poverty? Changed considerably – public and government Government policy towards social issues = ‘laissez-faire’ = to leave alone Feeling that poor should look after themselves at core of Samuel Smiles’ book Self Help He meant that an individual had obligation to look after himself and his family through effort and determination “Self help is the root of all genuine growth”

5 More Primary Sources Norman Pearson (late 19 th C voice on poverty) believed poor were “seldom capable of reform” and that they tended to be “made of inferior material....and cannot be improved” He also argued that the poor were poor “in their blood and bones” and that they should be prevented from breeding

6 Last Resort Scottish Poorhouse and English Workhouse existed to help absolutely destitute Places feared/hated – institutions Signalled person’s failure To enter was shameful/to be avoided at all costs Alternative was to depend on charitable organisations

7 Philanthropy = individuals doing good works to help less fortunate Strong theme running through Victorian/Edwardian society Wealthier people in society felt it was their moral duty to help poor encouraged by Christian belief that it was “better to give than receive” Contemporary historian J.R Green – hundreds of agencies at work over the same ground with no co-operation between them Scrooge

8 Changing Attitudes to Poverty Increasingly clear poor could not deal with circumstances beyond their control Assumption that poverty was in some way the fault of the individual being questioned 1889 writer George Sims argued for government intervention “There is a penalty for packing cattle too closely together: why should there be none for improperly housing men and women and children? The law says that no child shall grow up without reading, writing and arithmetic; but the law does nothing that children may have air, and light, and shelter”

9 Why did the Liberal Reforms of 1906 happen? 1. Pressure from reports on poverty? Rowntree and Booth showed that poverty had causes, was not ‘inborn’ and was widespread 5. New Liberalism? New ideas on state interventionism entered the Cabinet 2. National Security? Boer War scare raised the question - Could Britain defend itself in a major conflict? 6. Municipal socialism? Programmes of social welfare started by Liberal controlled local authorities were used as a model to influence national government to do likewise 4. Political Pragmatism/Advantage? The Liberals could lose votes to Labour if nothing was done to help the condition of the poor 3. National Efficiency? Britain was no longer top industrial nation

10 1. Reports of Booth & Rowntree Investigations by Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree revealed true extent of poverty Charles Booth = London businessman who doubted claims of socialists that ¼ population lived in extreme poverty Worked with team of researchers, weekends/evenings Booth’s work based on hard statistical facts – not opinion Booth published Labour and Life of the People (1889)– 35% London’s population lived in extreme poverty Continued all over London, over next 12 years between 1891 and 1903, Booth published findings in 17 volumes Argued poverty was such a big problem that only government could help If nothing done to improve, Booth argued, Britain in danger of socialist revolution

11 1. continued Rowntree’s study of York (inspired by Booth) – Poverty, A Study of Town Life (1901) – 30% population York lived in extreme poverty Investigations proved causes were often beyond the control of poor themselves Problem therefore national Defined poverty – ‘poverty line’ = least a family could survive on Also defined poverty as ‘primary’ or secondary’ Primary = family lacked sufficient earnings to buy minimum necessities Secondary = earned enough but ‘wasted’ on items eg alcohol, gambling, smoking Concept of ‘deserving poor’ (poor through no fault of their own) took root

12 2. National Security 1899 Boer War - South Africa (part of British Empire at time) Britain had relatively small army, volunteer recruits needed Government alarmed when almost 25% volunteers rejected because physically unfit to serve Figure even higher among volunteers from industrial cities Politicians & public asked could Britain survive a war/protect its empire against a far stronger enemy if nations ‘fighting stock’ so unhealthy?

13 2. contd Interdepartmental Committee on Physical Deterioration created to examine problem of ill-health in England & Wales Royal Commission in Scotland did same Reports 1904 = physical condition many male adults poor – made recommendations about improving diet/overcrowding Recommended free school meals and medical examinations for school children Direct influence on Liberal Reforms

14 3. National Efficiency End of 19thC Britain no longer strongest industrial nation Facing serious competition from new industrial nations eg. Germany Believed that if the health and educational standards of Britain’s workers got worse, Britain’s position as strong industrial power threatened

15 3. contd Concern that in times of economic depression unemployment soared in certain in some areas whilst jobs existed in others! Politicians eg. Churchill = part of problem was unemployed did not know where new jobs were = inefficiency and weakening Britain’s industrial output In Germany a system of welfare benefits and old age pensions already set up (1880s) 1898 New Zealand introduced old-age pensions Lloyd George witnesses/approved of German scheme of sickness insurance on visit 1908 Why couldn’t Britain not do likewise? In response Liberals opened Labour exchanges - helped unemployed seek jobs

16 4. Political Advantage & 5. New Liberalism 1884 most working class men had vote – Liberals had tended to attract many of those votes 1906 newly formed Labour Party competing for same votes Selfish reason – to retain working class votes? Liberals argued Liberalism = individual freedom with least possible involvement of government in lives of ordinary people ‘Old Liberal’ attitudes believed poverty due to personal defects of character but as realisation grew, definition changed/grew ‘New Liberals’ argued state intervention necessary to liberate people from social problems over which they had no control Party had been out of power since 1886 – large number of Liberals willing to swallow their concerns

17 4. contd Nevertheless New Liberal ideas not important in 1906 general election campaign Liberals made no mention of social reforms in party manifesto When Liberals took over government in 1906 some reforms introduced – mostly associated with public concern over national security Only when ‘Old Liberal’ Prime Minister Campbell Bannerman died in 1908 did door open for new ‘interventionist’ ideas Prime Minister Asquith appointed – New Liberals eg. David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill given top jobs -> led to flood of social reforms

18 6. Municipal Socialism By end of 19 th C public become used to increasing levels of local/national govt intervention Improvements carried out by local (municipal) authorities - paid for by system of local taxation - used to improve lives of people locally Wealthy did pay most but was poor who gained most benefit In this sense, basic socialist idea of redistributing wealth could be seen in operation For this reason, local auth action to use local taxation income for social improvement was called Municipal Socialism Nationally: host of laws improved working & living conditions - Factory Acts - Public Health Acts

19 6. contd In growing towns/cities, some Liberal-controlled local auths became deeply involved in social welfare programmes 1873 Liberal Joseph Chamberlain became Mayor of Birmingham and for next 3 years he used his influence in municipal politics to introduces reforms eg. Birmingham’s water supply considered danger to public health. Piped water only supplied 3 days per week, ½ city’s population dependent on well water, much of it polluted by sewage. Chamberlain purchased Birmingham’s water works & gas works. Also cleared many of Birmingham’s slums Chamberlain became known for his brand of ‘municipal socialism’ Words of one report: he left Birmingham “parked, paved, gas and watered and improved”

20 6. contd City authorities spent money on improving wide range of services - hospitals established - attempts made to improve housing - although as late 1886 Glasgow still had 1/3 of its families living in 1 roomed houses - By 1850s, Glasgow Town Hall had control of the city water supply, by 1860s was involved in providing gas street lighting Long before national government got involved in social reforms to improve lives of citizens, local authorities were well on way. Such a trend towards social reform and government control can be considered a factor in setting scene for Liberal reforms (A)


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