Victorian Social Reform In Britain Essay Research — страница 2

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to write an article concerning the effect of cholera in Bermondsey, extending the idea to the condition of the labouring classes in England and Wales. The talented writers, Reach, Mackay, and Brooks were assigned to various parts of the country whilst Mayhew concentrated on London, and the ensuing articles published in The Morning Chronicle caused quite a reaction. Mayhew` s work was praised by Christian Socialists and Radicals alike and substantial extracts from the reports were published in their own newspapers. The reports were collected and published in 1851 as ? London Labour & London Poor? which highlighted the plight of the unemployed and starving working class. In 1856, Mayhew started a new series of articles about London ` s street folk, but critics stated that

Mayhew originally promised to become the chronicler of the working classes, and seemed to abandon that mission in favour of concentrating on the regressive street folk, probably to increase sales. His ?revelation ? was the existence of a ?barbaric tribe? in the heart of the world` s greatest metropolis., which seemed even more regressive at the time (1850s 1860s as it was a period of relative well- being for the poor.) If Mayhew` s journalistic style lay him open to criticism, it was nothing compared to the caution with which the accounts of Charles Dickens were taken. The Westminster Review, in reviewing Our Mutual Friend in 1866, suggested that Dickens should write a pamphlet or go to Parliament, if he was so serious about the Poor Law, rather than use his novels as an

instrument of reform. In fact, this avenue had greater effect, as his novels would have been more widely read than any political pamphlet. Indeed, the short- hand term for Victorian squalor and deprivation is described as ?Dickensian?. Although Dickens was now a very successful novelist, he continued to be interested in social reform. His unsuccessful investment in a new radical newspaper, The Daily News, did not diminish his determination to create a vehicle for his ideas, and in 1850 he began editing Household Words which included articles on politics, science and history. To boost sales, it also contained short stories, humorous pieces and serialisations of novels that were concerned with social issues such as his own ?Hard Times? (1854) and Elizabeth Gaskell’s ?North and

South? and ?Cranford?. During this time Dickens campaigned in favour of parliamentary reform and improvements in the education of the poor, and was extremely hostile to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act and wrote several articles on the workhouse system, public health and legal reform . Elizabeth Gaskell herself was a writer who came from a Unitarian background, and her marriage to William Gaskell, a Unitarian minister, afforded her the opportunity to visit his parishioners, who were textile workers. She was sufficiently moved by the poverty that she witnessed, to write novels sympathising with the poor and advocating social reform. ?Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life? attempted to address the issue of urban poverty, Chartism and the rise of the trade unions. Although a little

melodramatic in places, its story- line of love, murder and wrongful arrest is gripping even to a modern readership, and the descriptive passages served only to confirm everything that Engels had written. The closing years of the nineteenth century brought about a change in the attitudes towards poverty, in that contemporary writers differentiated between the poor and the working classes. The major shift was from the blame of the feckless, to the blame in the actual structure of the economy, the move from advocating self- help, to governmental intervention, ?individualism? to ?collectivism?. The Public Health Acts of 1848 and 1875 were largely left to local authorities to uphold, as they were not compulsory. It was only when the nation` s industrial advantage over it` s main

competitors began to erode that questions of eugenics were asked. ?In the 1890s and 1900s there was much anxious discussion among doctors, education experts, nutritionists and criminologists of `physical deterioration` and `racial degeneracy`; and in all these fields expert opinion was deeply divided between a small but embattled minority who detected signs of irreversible organic decline in the British race, and a majority who thought that the symptoms of decay could be treated and cured by political intervention and environmental improvements.? (Harris 1993 p231/2) Despite the fact that the United States size alone accounted for it` s eventual supremacy, and the British entrepreneur` s lack of capital re-investment allowed Germany to gain ground, it was found that the