What was the condition of the working class in 1895
The conservatives came into power in 1895 and stayed in power for ten years, these were known as the “Ten Glorious Years. ” Lord Salisbury was the Prime Minister; he was a member of the aristocracy and the House of Lords. Lord Salisbury was an upstanding traditionalist and believed in keeping the status quo intact, which meant that power should remain in the hands of just a few. During this period of conservative rule the government played a limited role in ordinary peoples lives.
In Britain around 1800 the industrial revolution started to begin, prior to this Britain had been an agricultural society and its whole economy had been agriculturally based. From 1847 until 1873 Britain’s industry was in a period of “remarkable prosperity,” Britain’s agriculture also moved into a similar “Golden Age” known as the period of “High Farming”. However from 1873 until 1896 British industry went through a difficult period, which is usually referred to as the “Great Depression. Although exports continued to increase, prices and profits were falling this was mainly due to the fact that Britain was having to deal with overseas competition for the first time. This resulted in terrible unemployment for the working classes during 1875-95; this caused the government to appoint a Royal Commission in 1886 to investigate the problem. Its conclusion was that because there was an absence in profit because of the overseas competition it corresponded with a lack of employment for the labouring classes.
Life for the working class was absolute hell. This was mainly due to the factors that there was no working class political party (no labour party); no MPs and the majority of people did not have the right to vote. However because of the remarkable boom in Britain’s economy in 1850-75 the working class who had jobs enjoyed a wage increase of around 50 per cent, prices also rose but only by about 20 per cent which meant that the workers enjoyed a rise of about 30 per cent in real wages.
In 1832 for the first time there was an extension of the vote, the vote was extended to the “rising middle classes,” the people who owned the factories. The aristocracy and the landowners realised that they had to give this “rising middle class” some sort of power because they owned the factories which produced the goods for Britain’s new industries and this was important because Britain’s economy was rapidly becoming more based on industry rather than agriculture.
In 1868 there was another extension of the vote as the Second Reform Act was passed, this meant that for the first time many of the working class were given the vote. This was important because it meant that the working class people could have more say in how the government was run, it also showed how the laissez faire attitude of previous times was beginning to decline slightly. The government would now have to pass laws that the working class also agreed with, not just laws that only benefited the upper classes.
However even though this was a great step forward the working class still had to fight for acts to be passed that would benefit them, and even when acts were passed they were not made compulsory because the government did not believe they had the right to do so. However in 1895 this attitude began to change as the government realised it had to play some sort of role in peoples lives. Throughout the nineteenth century the British government extended its authority into areas, which had previously not been considered its responsibility.
This often met strong resistance from those who believed in laissez faire, there was a debate over how far the government should intervene on economic matters that complicated the response of the authorities over social issues such as poverty, sanitation, factory reform and education. The populations of the industrial towns and cities were increasing so rapidly during this time that the existing parish poor systems could not cope. This led to terrible conditions in the towns and cities, which helps to explain why Britain’s population was so vulnerable to epidemic disease.
As the population increased and the number of people living in the towns and cities increased because of industrialisation also the number of people living in the in sanitary slums of towns and cities grew, this all meant that people were living in such conditions where ill health was easily maintained. However as medical knowledge grew through the century there began to be increasing emphasis based on the need for improved public hygiene the key to which was clean water.
Neither contagious nor infectious disease could be combated until sanitation was improved and introducing an integrated and concerted public health programme could only do this. This came about in 1848, however London and Scotland were not included and the government did not force councils to promote the health schemes it was not until 1875 that certain measures became compulsory. Britain was number one in 1895 because it was the first country to have been industrialised this also meant that Britain was very powerful. Also Britain had the largest and most powerful navy in the world and a huge Empire scattered right across the world.
Britain was also a democratic country with two political parties, the conservatives and the liberals. Despite all this there was a lot of faults in Britain in 1895 especially concerning the well being of the working class. Britain’s towns were becoming grossly over crowded due to people moving from the country into the towns and cities to find work in the factories, which dominated the towns and cities. As there were no council houses people had to live in houses owned by landlords. There was also limited sanitation which meant that Britain was still experiencing outbreaks of terrible diseases such as Cholera and Typhoid.
There was very limited state intervention, which in turn was not helping the tremendous unemployment rates and the extreme poverty that people were suffering because they were finding it impossible to help themselves. The government did not help people when they needed help because they believed in self-help and also because laissez faire was still lingering this resulted in extreme poverty cause by homelessness and unemployment. This was not helped by the fact that the working class were not represented by any political party.
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