How effective were liberal social reforms of the period 1906-1914?
Liberal social reforms of the period 1906 -1914 were mostly ineffective in their aim to improve the lives of the poor at that time. They were not far reaching enough and not properly implemented by the government. However it could be said that for the first time there was a proper acknowledgement of the plight of the poor working class. In order to assess the effectiveness of the reforms, it is necessary to consider the reasons for their instigation. Liberal social reforms were instigated by several home truths coming to light simultaneously. There was the political reality; the liberal party was determined to marginalise the appeal of the Labour party. They were worried about a large working class being mobilised to vote for their own agenda. There was an economic reality; Britain’s economic prowess was waning in the face of fierce competition from America and Germany. The government was determined to retain her status as a superpower and acknowledged an unhealthy population was no help in this aim. The British military too was in disarray as almost 40 percent of volunteers for the Boer war were unfit to fight. As one liberal MP put it ‘an empire cannot be built on rickety and flat chested citizens.’ Lloyd George admired Germany’s economic and military strength and sought to emulate Bismarck’s progressive social legislation. Arguably the most important reality was the need for ‘National Efficiency’. There was a raised awareness on the subject of poverty. Several studies were carried out which highlighted the harsh reality of life for the working classes. Seebohm Rowntree had found that “the Labouring class receive upon average 25 per cent less food than has been proved by scientific experts to be necessary for the maintenance of physical efficiency...” The Royal Commission minority report concurred to this view and further strengthened the need for action on poverty. The first...
Bibliography: Oxford Open Learning. (2008). AS Level History. Oxford: Oxford Open Learning.
Willis, M. (2009). Britain 1851-1918 A leap in the dark? London: Hodder Education.
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