Great Britain was a very important, rich nation in the middle of nineteenth century. London was one of the biggest and most powerful cities in Europe.
Merchants and professionals became part of the new high society. They were well educated and lived in beautiful houses with servants.
<ul><li>During the Industrial Revolution thousands of people came from all over the country. Adults and children found work in the factories in terrible conditions. </li></ul>
The biggest impact on the growth of London was the coming of the railroad in the 1830s which displaced thousands of people and accelerated the expansion of the city. The price of this explosive growth and domination of world trade was untold misery and dirt .
Children often did the most dangerous work, for example: chimney sweepers. There were many accidents at work. Workers made very little money and lived in small, dark houses.
The workhouse was little more than a prison for the poor. Civil liberties were denied, families were separated, and human dignity was destroyed. Dickens, because of the childhood trauma caused by his father's imprisonment for debt and his consignment to the blacking factory to help support his family, was a true champion to the poor.
The streets were dirty and narrow. Some people had no work and no home. They became beggars or criminals. The Poor Law of 1598-1601 (changed in 1834) obligated the local priets to take care of the poor in his area.
The Poor Law of 1601 made no mention of workhouses, but it did place a legal responsibility on each parish to care for those within its boundaries who, because of age or infirmity, were unable to work. The workhouse system began to evolve in the 17th century as a way for parishes to reduce the cost to ratepayers of providing poor relief.
The people in the workhouse did unpleasant jobs in return for a little food and some shelter. They were usually hungry, cold and often ill.
Some rich Victorians wanted to help the poor. In London Dr Thomas Barnardo established a home for orphan boys in 1870.
William and Catherine Booth created the Salvation Army in 1878 to help poor, hungry people. Today the Salvation Army is an international organisation.
There were several social reforms during Queen Victoria’s reign, but poverty was a big problem during the nineteenth century.