Why were the Liberal Party motivated to introduce social reforms?
Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree’s important social investigations proved more scientifically that poverty was a major issue in Britain. Evidence showed that 30% of the urban population could be classified as poor, and 10% of the British population were living below the poverty line. Britain had experienced a massive rise in population, with populations in areas such as London, Lancashire and the West Midlands nearly doubling. Industrialisation also led to the rise of conurbations – densely populated urban areas. These results proved that the old system of the Poor Law could no longer cope.
The Liberal Party sought after ‘National efficiency’, in order for Britain’s industrial and military strength to be sustained. This widespread conviction in the Edwardian Period for Britain to create ‘National Efficiency’ meant; health and education provisions for the youth, a healthy workforce to operate factories, and a strong army was required. This notion, closely linked to George Bernard Shaw’s call for ‘selective breeding’, also coincided with Britain beginning to be overtaken by USA and Germany. The Boer War revealed the inequalities of the male British population, whilst also highlighting the problem of disease and malnourishment, with estimations suggesting that two-thirds of volunteers were rejected upon attempting to enlist, deemed ‘unfit’ for service. An example of social reforms aimed at improving the lives of young people, was the Boy Scouts movement. Furthermore, in 1904, a specially appointed Interdepartmental Committee on Physical Deterioration delivered a report to Parliament calling for reforms such as free meals and medical inspections for school children. The Boer War exposed how unhealthy Britain was without state intervention, and these findings began to be linked to Britain’s decline militarily, industrially, and economically.
Initially, the Labour Party...
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