Liberal Reforms

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Between 1906 & 1914 the liberal government introduced a series of reforms to help the poorest in society. Historians still debate today the reasons for these reforms. Some argue that concern over poverty was the main factor in pushing through the reforms. However others argue there were a number of factors that contributed. Many believe that national security was a main concern after 25% of army recruits were turned away because they were unfit. National efficiency concern might also have pushed the liberals into social reforms. Some others argue it was a selfish act of political advantage to try to hold on to the working class votes. Finally some argue it was an extension of the liberal municipal socialism already taking place at a local level. Before any conclusions can be drawn it is necessary to study all the facts.

The extent of poverty in Britain was brought to light through the surveys of Booth and Rowntree. Booth conducted his survey first, he was told 25% of people living in east London were living in poverty; he believed this to be untrue and wanted to prove it wrong. He discovered it was actually over a third of the population in east London that were living in poverty. Booth then expanded his investigation to the whole of London, it took 12 years and he discovered a third of all people in London were in poverty. Rowntree saw this data and decided to conduct his own survey and also found that in York a third of the population was in poverty. People then realised that if in York, which was seen as a typical English city, they had these problems too that it must be a nation-wide problem. This data proved how many people were actually living in poverty and that the circumstances around why they were poor weren’t always caused by the poor. Rowntree, in his research, looked at poverty very closely; he defined it in two parts, either ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ poverty. People were starting to accept that poverty wasn’t always caused by an individual and...
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