Development of the Welfare State

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What factors have led to the development of the British welfare state?

The British welfare state has an impact on our lives on a daily basis and has been transformed since its initial developments in the early 19th century. I will be exploring the social, economic and political factors that led to the development of the British welfare state up to 1945, and I will assess the most dominate features at the time and those that are still prevalent within the current welfare system today. The historical origins of the British welfare state can be dated to Elizabethan times with the introduction of the Poor Law (1601) which dealt with welfare at a local level. This was the first instance where the government attempted to ensure that the poor had the means to live. This continued until the impacts of the Industrial Revolution called for changes in the provision for the poor. From the late 18th century British society was being transformed through economic and industrial growth. There was a revolution in the use of land in the production of raw goods, and technological advances in the use of machinery and the manufacture of goods. The state allowed markets to operate freely without regulation. There was also a mass migration of people moving from towns to the cities seeking employment. Many of these people were dependent on employment within the factories and on the assembly lines.

Although there were many benefits from industrialisation on the economic front, urbanisation created a large concentration of people in many areas, his lead to major problems with health and housing. In addition, when jobs were no longer available, men were unable to support their families. The family unit was often broken with most fathers travelling many miles to their place of work. Many women and children were also forced to find employment as a result of being widowed and orphaned. Poverty, unemployment along with many other social issues became a recognised problem within the...
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