Reasons for liberal reforms


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Reasons for liberal reforms

  1. 1. LEARNING INTENTIONS • Describe reasons that the Liberal government introduced various social reforms • Social campaigners • National security / threat of war • National efficiency • Political advantage • Municipal socialism • Other countries’ influence
  2. 2. The Liberal Reforms marked a huge change in British society. The end of ‘laissez faire’ meant that the government would now play a big role in people’s lives. But why did this happen?
  3. 3. The deserving poor Before the twentieth century, many people’s attitude to the poor was that it was their own fault. As a result, the government did little or nothing to help them. The very poor had to rely on charity to meet their basic needs. But this began to change in the late-1800s; the ‘deserving poor’ were born.
  4. 4. Booth and Rowntree Most middle and upper class people in Britain had no idea what life was like for the very poorest in society. Two famous reports helped change this. Charles Booth, a London businessman, did not believe that extreme poverty existed in the capital city. He carried out an investigation to prove this.
  5. 5. Booth’s findings In fact it was Booth who was surprised; not only did extreme poverty exist in London, it was worse than anyone had imagined. Booth carried out his reports between 1889 and 1903. He warned that if people’s lives were not improved, a revolution might occur.
  6. 6. “Few of the 200 families who lived there occupied more than one room. 15 rooms out of 20 were filthy to the last degree. Not a room was free of vermin (mice or lice). The little yard at the back was only sufficient for a dust bin, toilet and water tap, which served 7 families.” Excerpt from one of Charles Booth’s reports
  7. 7. The Chocolate Kings Many of Britain’s most famous sweets and chocolates came from the Rowntree family in York, including Kit Kats, Jelly Tots and Fruit Pastilles. The Rowntree Family also helped show Victorian Britain just how bad poverty was.
  8. 8. Joseph Rowntree Joseph Rowntree was the owner of the world famous Rowntree factory in York. Although very rich he believed in treating his workers fairly, offering benefits such as education, medical help and pensions. He inspired his son’s interest in these issues too.
  9. 9. Seebohm Rowntree Seebohm was influenced by his father Joseph and Charles Booth and conducted a study into poverty in his home town of York. His study found that 30% of people lived in extreme poverty. In particular he recognised that poverty was often not the fault of those living in it.
  10. 10. Primary Poverty Primary poverty meant that some families – regardless of how they spent their money – could not afford the minimum amount needed to live on. The publicity this created helped persuade the Liberal government of the need to take action.
  11. 11. Secondary poverty However Rowntree’s report did also give people opposed to helping the poor an excuse not to. He talked about secondary poverty – this meant that a poor family had just enough money to live on but wasted it on luxuries such as alcohol or cigarettes.
  12. 12. Secondary poverty Proving that many poor people wasted their limited money meant that some opposed giving them any help. Rowntree did argue though that often this ‘wasted money’ was actually to help people escape the problems caused by poverty.
  13. 13. The Boer War In the late-1800s Britain was still very much the head of an empire which spanned all across the world. As a result it would periodically find itself involved in wars and needing men to join the armed forces. A conflict in South Africa created a real worry for Britain.
  14. 14. The Boer War In 1899 Britain began fighting a war against the South African Boers. Britain still had a volunteer army and 25% of people who tried to join the army were rejected because they were not fit enough. The number was even higher for recruits from industrial cities.
  15. 15. The Arms Race At this time, Britain was not the only country in with a strong military and desire to control parts of the world. Germany was arming itself and there was a fear that war may soon come. If Britain did not have the soldiers to fight South African farmers, what hope had they against Germany?
  16. 16. Fighting fit for Britain In 1904, two reports showed that all across Britain many adult males were not fit enough to fight because of their poor living and working conditions. Improving living conditions was not just about helping the poorest in society, it was about protecting Great Britain.
  17. 17. Reforms for war? Many of the Liberal reforms were aimed at people who would be the right age to fight if war with Germany came (School Meals, Health Inspections, etc). However a great many reforms, including Old Age Pensions, would not have helped win a war, suggesting national security was not the only consideration.
  18. 18. Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution may have its origins in Britain – but other parts of the world were fast catching up. Britain still lead the world in manufacturing – including goods such as jute and ships – but this could change, meaning Britain would lose power and influence.
  19. 19. The USA and Germany In particular, worried looks were going towards Germany and the United States of America. Both those countries had strong workforces (although they also had poverty problems too). If they caught up with Britain, they could take over its role as the world’s major power.
  20. 20. Germany’s success Poverty existed all around the world – but Germany had taken action to fix this. Germany had already introduced benefits including pensions as long ago as the 1880s. Britain needed to do the same too if it was going to compete with them (both economically and militarily).
  21. 21. Limited impact The need for Britain to compete with other countries was a major influence. However it’s debateable whether the changes actually helped achieve this. Most working conditions remained difficult with long hours and often unsafe conditions. Bigger changes were needed – but these may not have been supported by employers and some politicians.
  22. 22. Working class votes The Reform Acts of 1832, 1867 and 1884 had made big changes to British politics. The increasing number of men – particularly working class – who could vote demanded that politicians listened to them. This meant dealing with the concerns of the poor.
  23. 23. The Labour Party The establishment of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900 gave working class men their own authentic voice. This was a major worry for the Liberals. If Labour attracted working class votes, this could end the Liberals as a political force. The Liberal Reforms could help them keep these votes.
  24. 24. 1906 Manifesto However it is too simple to say that the Liberals only brought in reforms to beat Labour. One major point to consider is that in the 1906 General Election the Liberal manifesto makes almost no mention of social reforms. Other issues must be more important.
  25. 25. The New Liberals Another reason for reform was that new Liberals – with very different opinions – took over the government. Prime Minister Henry Campbell- Bannerman – an ‘Old Liberal’ - died in 1908 and was replaced by Herbert Asquith. He gave jobs to people supportive of reforms, such as David Lloyd George.
  26. 26. The People’s Budget Lloyd George introduced the People’s Budget in 1909. This aimed to raise money from the wealthy to tackle poverty and fund welfare reform. The Budget was voted down by the House of Lords. This lead to two General Elections in 1910 and then the 1911 Parliament Act.
  27. 27. Municipal socialism Socialism was the belief in economic equality, meaning the rich should pay to help the poor. Although most help for poor people came from charities, from the 1850s onwards other changes began to be made by local and national governments, particularly by local (municipal) government.
  28. 28. Local social reforms Local government across Britain began spending local taxpayers’ money on social reforms which improved many lives. By the 1860s in Glasgow, the Council controlled city lighting and the water supply. A new pipeline from Loch Katrine brought clean water to parts of the city that had never enjoyed this before.
  29. 29. Government intervention These changes happened across Britain. Some councils provided better water; others chose to spend money on free school meals for poor children. The success of these reforms – by Labour and Liberal councils – helped show how government could change people’s lives.
  30. 30. Delay national action? ‘Municipal socialism’ certainly helped show what government could achieve. Although it could be argued it delayed national action by giving small help in areas which needed it most. In addition not all local councils participated in these social reforms, meaning that their impact was limited.
  31. 31. Limited reforms Furthermore, the Liberal reforms often did not go far enough to copy what had been done in local areas. For example, free school meals had been tried in different areas. However the initial School Meals Act only gave councils the option to do it, they did not make it compulsory.
  32. 32. Revolution in Britain Unlike many other countries, Britain has never had a genuine political revolution. However since the 1790s, many countries close to Britain (politically and geographically) had done so. Many people believe this was a reason for political reform. Social reforms could help stop revolution too.
  33. 33. Sharing (some) power and wealth The argument was simple. Britain’s ruling classes realised that if they did not give away some power and wealth, the working class could take it all by force. Revolutions had occurred in the USA, France, Italy and other countries since the 1790s. Britain had avoided these events.
  34. 34. Protests in Britain In 1905 there was a failed revolution in Russia. Meanwhile in Britain there was growing political unrest – including violence – over issues such as the right to vote. There was also social unrest through strikes involving workers and trade unions that wanted better rights. Some people feared revolution was coming next.
  35. 35. German Social Reforms Germany was increasingly Britain’s main rival in the world. This was both in an economic and military sense. Germany – under Chancellor Bismarck’s leadership – had introduced various social reforms including Old Age Pensions and Sickness Benefits too.
  36. 36. Lack of support Although some people feared revolution, there was no real national revolution movement. Many of the protests, strikes and riots from that time were located in specific areas, rather than being part of a wider national revolt. Also, many people still lacked awareness of life elsewhere.