History free essay: The Birth of the Modern British State
The Birth of the Modern British State
One of the remarkable aspects of Britain in the early 19th century was the rapid growth of industrialization. In fact, Britain was the largest shipping line and was regarded the most powerful trading nation by the world by 1956. Despite this, industrialization led to a situation in which the society of Britain was made up of two distinct classes; the wealthy and the poor (de Pennington, 2011). Although numerous factories were established during the 19th century, welfare issues emerged related to health, working condition, education and housing. The extreme welfare problems that faced a significant proportion of people in Britain and the researches of
Rowntree and Booth on poverty triggered extensive government intervention between 1870 and 1918.
Despite the fact the industrialization led to the development of the economy of Britain and emergence of the middle class, poverty continued to increase. As de Pennington (2011) noted, the impacts of industrialization are described in a novel called Sybil that was authored by Benjamin Disraeli and published in 1845. de Pennington (2011) explained that industrialization led to the emergence of two distinct classes of people. One class was made up of the working class that was well paid and did not experience poverty. The other class was made up of underpaid people who were poor. The poor in rural areas were working as laborers in agricultural firms. Prior to the 19th century, most people were living in rural areas. The population of Britain increased rapidly during the 9th century, from around 9 million in 1800 to around 41 million in 1901. In order to escape poverty in the rural areas, most people moved to urban areas where they were hired in textile factories and other industries. Since they lacked adequate skills, they were hired as casual laborers. Casual laborers were paid law wages and thus, they remained poor.
The factories that were established in rural areas could not accommodate all people that moved to urban areas. Consequently, some of those who moved to urban areas remained unemployed and they were depending on those that were employed. This led poverty in the urban areas to increase further. Another issue that contributed to the persistence of poverty was the belief held by the Victorians that poverty was “a natural condition of the laboring poor” (de Pennington, 2011). They believed poverty was inevitable to those that worked with hands rather than machines. Lack of relief for the poor made the situation worse. The Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601 was established to support relief system that provided food and clothing to the poor (de Pennington, 2011).. However, the system was under strain from 1780 to the first quarter of 19th century. Despite the fact that industrialization process continued in an upward trend during the 19th century, more people became poorer.
As de Pennington (2011) explained, the working conditions in the textile and other factories were very poor. A remarkable aspect of the 19th century is that children were also involved in work. Prior to the 19th century, children were working occasionally from home (“Factories in the Industrial Revolution,” 2014). In the beginning of gthe19th century, the government established a law prohibiting child labor. However, the laws ceased to work due to the prevailing conditions in the 19th century. For some families to secure enough food and clothing they had to send their children to work. Children as young as six years were hired to work in the factories (BBC, 2014a). The workhouses in most factories were crowded due to the large number of casual laborers that were hired. Also, accidents such as drowning, shaft accidents, explosions and roof falls were frequent in the workhouses (BBC, 2014a). Another issue was the length of working hours. In some factories, laborers worked for 12 to 14 hours per day. Cruel disciplinary measures, including nailing children’s ears on the table were used. Fierce systems of fines were also present in some factories. The employees, especially in the cotton spinning factories, were working in damp, warm conditions (BBC, 2014a).
Housing and Education
The housing conditions for most people that lived in the urban areas were poor. Since there were many people that moved to the urban areas, the number of houses available was not enough for all of them. Also, rent was high, as described by Jackson (2014), yet the wages were low. Consequently, families were compelled to live in the smallest spaces possible. In some cases, families were compelled to live in a single room (de Pennington (2011). Also, overcrowding occurred since some of the people that were not employed lived in the same houses with their relatives or friends. Due to the low wages that were provided to the workers, most children of the poor were not receiving quality education. In a study that was conducted to determine educational progress in slums, it was found that 66 percent of children were behind the curriculum by up to five years. Also, some children from poor families did not go to school. Instead of going to school, some of the children from poor families concentrated on work. Only children from wealthy families had access to the best schools. Also, the percentage of girls going to school was lower than the percentage of boys (BBC, 2014b).
The conditions in urban areas led to the emergence of slums. The studies conducted during the 19th century showed that most children were physically inferior. In London alone, estimates showed that there approximately 60,000 children were physically inferior. One of the reasons why the children were physically inferior is that their parents were usually late to prepare meal for them in the morning before going to school. Consequently, the children went to school without having taken any meal in the morning. According to the results of the studies conducted during the period, 75 percent of the children that were physically inferior suffered for that reason. Another cause of the physical degeneration among children was poor housing conditions resulting from overcrowding in a single room. Some parents also engaged in drunkenness to the extent that they were unable to take care of their children as required. Some of the children were overworked. In some case, for instance, children were required to take milk long distances in the morning before going to school. A study conducted in schools in Leeds showed that 30 out of 50 children had rickets. 27 out of 50 children had teeth problems. The cause of the health problems was lack of access to healthy foods.
Impact of Rowntree’s and Booth’s Research
The research conducted by Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree and Charlase Booth played a significant role in bringing out the true picture of poverty levels in Britain. Rowntree gathered statistics about poverty levels in York, Britain. He assessed how remuneration by firms contributed to poverty (The Rowntree Society, 2014a). He was assisted by a team of researchers to gather data about poverty from 46,000 presidents of York between 1897 and 1898. He published findings for the studies in 1901 in Poverty; a Study in Town Life. The findings of the study indicated that approximately 20,000 people (approximately 28 percent of the population of York) lived in extreme poverty. They lacked enough access to basic needs such as food and clothing (The Rowntree Society, 2014b). Booth conducted research on poverty in London. He noted that some of the people in London spent less than 18 shillings a week and were living in poverty levels (Bristol, 2011, p. 214). The studies led many people to change their ideas about how they perceived poverty and what should be done to eliminate it. Most remarkably, the findings led the liberal government to change its approaches to poverty reduction between 1905 and 1915 (The Rowntree Society, 2014a).
The welfare issues described above triggered the government of Britain to start making law reforms and taking measures meant to improve the welfare of the poor. Major interventions occurred between 1970 and 1918, although the government continued with additional reforms afterwards. When the government that the amount of food produced within the country was not enough to feed its population, it removed laws that limited imports. For instance, the government removed Corn Laws. From then, food imports increased rapidly (Atterbury, 2001). Between 1865 and 1900, food imports increased 32 fold, leading to reduction of prices of most food products. During the same time, the number of people that were employed as far laborers reduced (Atterbury, 2001). The government made numerous reforms that were focused on industries. In 1874, the government established the Factory Act that reduced the number working hours per day to nine (Martin, 1996, p. 303)
Overall, industrial revolution in Britain did not have a significant impact in reducing poverty. Instead of reducing poverty, it exacerbated it. Most people that were employed in factories were poor due to low wages that were offered. Related welfare issues emerged especially in urban areas. Rowntree and Charlase Booth played a good role in their researches since they unraveled the poor conditions that many people in the cities were living in. Eventually, the welfare issues made the government to act through making reforms between 1970 and 1918.
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