Victorian Social Reform In Britain Essay Research — страница 3

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?foot-soldiers of the industrial machine? were unfit and uneducated for battle against their rivals. The poor standard of potential recruits for the Boer War sparked the realisation that the defence and expansion of the Empire was at stake. Not only this, the rise of trade union membership and socialist ideas accounted for establishment fears of revolution, the Independent Labour Party was formed in 1893,and it became clear that a series of measures would have to be implemented to placate the populace. Reform movements began to take place within the major political parties, and the newly empowered middle classes began to feel uneasy. This was reflected in the literature of the time from writers such as Morris, Carlyle, and Ruskin who warned that traditional English freedoms were

under threat from land -desecrating capitalists and that the dignity of labour must be re-affirmed. There were those who were of middle class origin, that wished to see for themselves the problems faced by the poverty-stricken, in an attempt to alleviate their suffering. Charles Booth was such a man, made wealthy from his shipping interests, and dismissive of contemporary anecdotal literature of the time, as it conflicted with his own experiences in London. Dismissing the Social Democratic Federation` s estimate that one in four Londoners were in great poverty, as socialist propaganda, he decided to carry out a survey for himself. Seventeen years and seventeen volumes forced him to come to the conclusion that the SDF had, in fact, underestimated the problem. Finding The 1881

Census inadequate, as he wished to find out the breakdown of occupations, income, and the distribution of wealth, Booth perused the London School Board records and went out and interviewed people. His helpers in this mammoth undertaking included Beatrice Potter, later Webb, who helped write the parts entitled ?The Trades? which eventually was published under the title ?Life and Labour of the People? in April 1889. It featured detailed accounts, diagrams and tables of statistics as well as his `poverty map`, a colour coded map indicating occupations and incomes, general state of the environment in each street. Booth found himself asking how poverty could be quantified, and the `poverty line` came into being. The figure of eighteen to twenty-one shillings per week for a moderate-

sized family, encompassing Classes C & D (A being the lowest), could, Booth calculated , ?make ends meet? with frugality and self-discipline . Booth` s work presented the facts, but not the reasons, nor was there any comparison with other areas. However, the work was unprecedented in its descriptions and discoveries, as much as 85% cited irregular employment and low pay, or large family and sickness. The popular middle class myth of ?idleness? accounted for a mere 15%, thus despite himself, ?Booth lent support to the socialist view that poverty was a collective, not an individual, responsibility? (Fried & Elman, 1969,xxviii) Booth` s findings did little to revise his conservative views however, reassuring the public that despite his investigations, the threat of

revolution was distant. His views appeared contradictory. Fearing that the people from Class B would drag those above them down, thus destroying the social structure, he advocated compulsory labour camps to train skills and discipline, under threat of the poor house. This contradicted his ?laissez-faire principles?, but he saw these measures as ?state socialism? in order to help those who could not help themselves, thus benefiting society as a whole. He reasoned that those with a stake in society and liable to rise up in revolution (Class E & F), would be pacified by the abolition of poverty, regain a sense of obedience and sense of duty, and industry would become more efficient in the face of foreign competition. Booth`s subsequent discovery of poverty in all areas of

London, often in the same areas as the middle and upper classes, did not modify his original opinions and turning his attentions to the state of industry, the long hours and low pay and insecurity, he supported the rights of the entrepreneur. The `socialist ` measures should, he explained, not hinder the creativity and wealth of industry and that education of the worker was the way forward. The influence of social and political institutions, religious bodies and philanthropic organisations was, he concluded, negligible, and that the moral shaping forces on the poor were likely to be socialism and trade unionism. He was prepared to admit, that socialism offered faith, hope and dignity and that it meant more than state repression and anti-individualism . His eagerly anticipated