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Liberal Reforms Assignment

Winston Churchill was a shadow minister in the Liberal Party. Churchill was concerned about the state of Britain’s labourers at the beginning of the twentieth century. Winston Churchill stated that ‘a large proportion’ of the population is malnourished and not healthy. Churchill’s tone and manner within the letter is unsympathetic. He had an uncaring attitude towards the poor. He was not concerned about poverty for moral reasons. He was concerned about the national efficiency of Britain.

Churchill was interested in America’s attitude towards the poor. He was worried that America was a growing power that dealt with it’s poor much more efficiently than Britain. Most of America’s population were fitter and stronger than Britain’s. Churchill was worried about competition with America. Another concern that Winston Churchill had was that Britain’s empire must remain strong. If a ‘large proportion’ of Britain’s workers were in a poor state then it would give Britain a bad image as an efficient empire.

Source A tells us that poverty was becoming a big concern at the beginning of the twentieth century. Politicians were writing and talking about it. Seebohm Rowntree had written a book about poverty detailing findings in York. Rowntree was one of the first people to do scientific investigations into the causes of poverty. These people were known as the first social scientists. Churchill was impressed by this book.

Source A is useful because it shows that politicians were becoming interested in poverty and it is useful because it shows us what attitude Winston Churchill had towards poor people at that time. He was concerned with the efficiency of the labourer or ‘animal’ but he was not concerned about poverty for moral reasons.

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Source A tells us that Winston Churchill was concerned about the efficiency of Britain’s workers, the British economy and the British Empire. You can learn from the source that Churchill was not sympathising with poor. This is apparent from the language he uses – ‘efficient animal’.

Source B tells us that the writer of Efficiency and Empire is putting across a harsh, unforgiving, reactionary view. The writer is more concerned with the image of Britain and not the shocking reality of the true state of Britain was in at that time. He has a very unsympathetic attitude towards poor people in general. ‘Get rid of them (the tramps) and lock them up for life’.

Source C tells us that David Lloyd George was alarmingly concerned about the poverty that existed in Britain at that time and he shows a sympathetic and generally caring attitude towards poor people. He is concerned about poverty on emotional and moral levels. We can learn this from the overall tone of what Lloyd George is saying. ‘I have had letters from people whose cases I have investigated-honest workman thrown out of work, tramping the streets, begging for work as they would for charity, and at the end of the day trudging home disheartened and empty-handed, to be greeted by faces, and some of them little faces, haggard and pinched with starvation and anxiety.’ Lloyd George is arguing that unemployment is caused by the circumstances of the economy and not by the individual.

Source A is quite useful because it shows that a lot of Britain’s workers at that time were unfit and unhealthy. It also shows that Winston Churchill was concerned about the efficiency of Britain’s labourers and competition with America. Source A is reliable because it shows that politicians were becoming concerned about poverty and were interested in the works of Booth and Rowntree.

Source B is a reliable source. It demonstrates an attitude that was widespread at that time. Poor people were seen to be poor because of their own idleness. This attitude was that it was the fault of the workers themselves that they were poor, excluding all economic and social factors. Source B is quite useful because it tells us that poverty was seen as the individual’s fault and the not the fault of society.

Source C does not support source A or source B. In source C Lloyd George is expressing a humanitarian view. In source A Winston Churchill is concerned with the efficiency of Britain’s empire. Source B is a reactionary attitude that is quite extreme.

However, source C does support source A and B in that all three sources show how poverty had become a big and controversial issue at the start of the 20th century; although each source has a different perspective on the subject.

Old Age Pensions were popular with many people. Source G tells us that outdoor relief was ‘not sufficient to live on’. Outdoor relief was a small amount of money that the parish paid out to people so they could live outside the workhouse in their own home if they did not have another means of income. It was not enough to live on, forcing people to go and live in the workhouse. The workhouse punished people for being poor. If you were too poor to live independently due to unemployment, irregular work, illness, death of the chief wage earner, large family or low wages, then you had to go into the workhouse. The workhouse was the ultimate sacrifice. It stigmatised people severely. People were segregated into gender. Children were separated from their parents. Able-bodied people were forced to do manual labour. The poor house punished you for being poor; it was almost like a prison.

When the Old Age Pensions were introduced, pensioners did not have to rely on the poor law system that forced you into the unrelenting conditions of the workhouse. It was a dignified way of getting money. People had worked all their life and now it was time for the government to give something back. Source G states that pensions made people ‘independent for life’ because there was now a way to get enough money to make people independent from the poor law system, and that pensions relieved the ‘anxiety’ that people had of being forced to live in the workhouse.

Source F shows people queuing at the Post Office to collect their Old Age Pensions. Little is happening in this picture that is distressing or upsetting. Getting Old Age Pensions was a huge change from receiving Poor Law relief whether it was outdoor or indoor. Old people felt dignified when collecting their pension because what they received was not charity.

Source G is quite useful because it tells us that outdoor relief was not ‘sufficient to live on’. It shows that the introduction of pensions was important because people like Flora Thompson had written novels about it. The source should be questioned on its reliability though because it is a novel. This could be biased in subtle ways. It could also exaggerate the truth. In source G the facts are exaggerated: ‘They were suddenly rich’. This is an over-statement because the pensions that were paid out were not a great deal of money but it was better than what existed previously.

Source H is a primary source. It is an example of how the government wanted Labour Exchanges to work. It is government propaganda and therefore it is biased but it is still useful.

Source I is a primary source. It is a newspaper article so therefore the writer could be exaggerating the situation. It does show though that Labour Exchanges were not perfect. It is an example of one Labour Exchange and does not give the whole picture of the 400 plus Labour Exchanges that existed at that time. It is also describing what happened on one particular day. It does not tell us that the scheme was voluntary, although it does show that it was ineffective in some parts of the country.

The Labour Exchanges made it easier for people to find employment. However, they did not create jobs where there were none; source H does not make this point, but source I does.

Sources H and I are useful in understanding the effects of labour exchanges taken together but separately they each exaggerate the true situation.

At the beginning of the twentieth century Britain was a land of contrasts. The divide between the rich and the poor was large. Britain was a small country, yet ruled over a quarter of the world.

In the early 1800s Britain was a very rural country. Lots of people lived in small villages. By 1906 the population had increased dramatically (more than double), and due to the industrial revolution many people now lived in towns and cities. The Poor Law and the parish could not cope with the increased population in towns and cities, making it ineffective and inadequate.

The Liberal reforms were introduced for numerous reasons. Some people in the Liberal Party realised that the rise of the Labour Party was a sign that working class people were not impressed by the Liberals or Conservatives. The new concern for the poor by both parties was done to try and win votes for the working classes.

Lloyd George was born in a Welsh village and he disliked the English upper classes. He wanted to improve the conditions of ordinary people (source C).

The work of Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree revealed the extent of poverty that existed in Britain at that time in a scientific way. They proved that unemployment, old age and disease to be the true causes of poverty, and not laziness. (Sources A and D).

Lloyd George visited Germany. Germany already had a welfare state system. The Liberals hoped that the reforms would produce a stronger and fitter workforce in Britain. In 1880 Britain was the leader of manufacturing output in the world. By 1900 the USA had overtaken Britain in manufacturing output (source A), and Germany was a fierce competitor with Britain by this time.

The Boer War helped in producing the Liberal reforms. Half the men who volunteered were not fit enough to fight. Britain needed a more efficient fighting force if it was going to be able to maintain an empire. (Source A)

Before 1906 there was very little in the way of state welfare for the most vulnerable in society. Charities, or friendly societies, and the poor law provided some relief, but it was very inadequate.

In 1906 the Education Act was passed enabling local education authorities to provide school meals for children. The limitation of this Act was that it was not made compulsory until 1914. Moreover, by 1911 less than a third of education authorities

Were supporting this Act.

The Education Act passed in 1907 made medical inspections for children compulsory. Under this Act the Board of Education was able to specify that at least three inspections must take place during a child’s school years. However, only after 1912 were measures introduced to ensure that treatment would follow inspection.

The Children’s Act introduced in 1908 gave children special status as protected persons. It allowed parents to be prosecuted for neglect. This Act also allowed juvenile courts and remand homes to be used to remove child offenders from adult courts and prisons.

The Old Age Pensions Act of 1908 gave a pension of 5 shillings a week to a single person of 70 or over and 7 shillings 6d to married couples. There were downsides to this Act. Those who had claimed poor relief in the previous year, had failed to work regularly, or been in prison in the previous ten years, were not entitled to claim. The amount of money paid out was relatively small and was just enough to live on. Also, many people never reached pensionable age.

The National Insurance Act was passed in 1911. The worker paid 4d, the employer paid 3d and the state paid 2d. If you were sick, you were paid 10s a week for 26 weeks; you were also entitled to medical attention and treatment. (Source J) The limitations of this Act were that the benefits did not cover the illnesses of wife or children, and that it did not cover hospital treatment.

Labour Exchanges were set up in 1909. These were the forerunners of the modern job centre. The major downside of these exchanges was that they were only voluntary.

The Liberal reforms completely changed the ways that ill-health and poverty were dealt with in Britain because the government was intervening for the first time and getting involved with social issues in a systematic way. The only previous government intervention had been the 1875 Public Health Act. There was only the Poor Law and friendly societies before the reforms were in place. The Liberal reforms were not perfect, even Lloyd George admitted that but they created the foundations of the welfare state.

The introduction of the Parliament Act in 1911 reduced the power of the House of Lords significantly because now they could only delay bills drawn up by the House of Commons and not halt them altogether. During the introduction of the Liberal reforms the House of Lords blocked the bills that had been drawn up by the House of Commons. The House of Commons now had more power than the House of Lords and this would help future Acts to be passed more easily. The government now believed that it was their responsibility to deal with Britain’s poverty and ill-health.

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