How Far Was Concern over National Security the Real Reason for Liberal Reforms Passed Between 1906 and 1914?

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By the early twentieth century the Liberal Government was worried that Britain’s military capability and general military power was not as strong and it once was. Therefore, the Government’s concern over national security definitely influenced the decision for the reforms. However, there are three main factors that also need to be taken into account when deciding if concern over national security was the real reason for the reforms: the Social reasons, concerns for Britain’s Empire and the Political motive. The Social reasons played a large part in persuading the Liberals to reform. The detailed reports of Booth and Rowntree, and the evidence which was brought to light, highlighted that nearly a 1/3 of Britain’s population lived in poverty. This needed to be addressed by the Government. In addition, criticisms of the Poor Law effectively put pressure on the Liberals. The Boer War shone light on the ineffective and malnourished British Army. Britain’s embarrassing performance and recruitment in the War raised concerns over Britain’s overall military capability and the general health of Britain’s populace. In addition to this, the Liberal Government was concerned that Britain was losing its status as a major industrial power. Political motives for reform include the changing attitudes within the party, New Liberalism, the fear of the ever increasing popularity of the Labour Party and the party advantage which the Liberals would have received from introducing reform.

In 1899, Britain became involved in a war, known as the Boer War, in South Africa, which was part of the British Empire at that time. As a result of Britain having a relatively small army, volunteer recruits were needed to increase the army size. However, the British Government became alarmed when almost 25% of the volunteers were rejected because there were physically unfit to serve in the armed forces. This figure was even higher among volunteers from the industrial cities. Politicians and the...