Divided society: poverty, housing; politics

Divided society: poverty, housing; politics

Divided Society: Poverty

  • Poor living conditions existed throughout the country, with a concentration in urban areas caused by industrialisation.
  • The unemployed and low-wage earners lived in overcrowded slums which often lacked basic facilities like toilets, running water, and gas.
  • The Seebohm Rowntree poverty survey of 1901 unearthed the startling amount of poverty that existed within Britain, especially in working-class families.
  • The existence of a vicious cycle of poverty was prevalent, with little opportunity to escape. Ill health often led to loss of employment, which in turn led to poverty.
  • Various charitable and philanthropic organisations attempted to alleviate poverty, but they were often ineffective. This led to pressure for state intervention, resulting in the introduction of the Liberal welfare reforms from 1906 to 1914.

Divided Society: Housing

  • The urban poor lived in unsanitary tenements characterised by overcrowding, dampness and lack of ventilation.
  • Poor sanitation led to high disease rates and early deaths.
  • Efforts by Non-Governmental Organisations, such as Housing Associations, sought to improve housing conditions for the poor.
  • Housing Acts such as those in 1919, 1924 and 1930 by the central government aimed at slum clearance and the creation of council houses.
  • The improvement of housing conditions was slow progressing, with many families still living in slums as late as the 1930s.

Divided Society: Politics

  • The late 19th and early 20th century in Britain was marked by significant political upheaval prompted by industrial and social change.
  • The emergence of Labour Party as a major political in the early 20th century, representing the interests of the working-class.
  • The Representation of the People Acts in 1918 and 1928 which granted voting rights to all men and women over 21 years, highlighting the democratic expansion.
  • The widening political division between conservatives and liberals on one side and labour on the other, leading to class-based voting patterns.
  • The role of political parties fluctuated over this period, with the Labour party gaining more influence in the interwar years.
  • The political response to the Great Depression in 1929 further divided society and led to the downfall of the Labour government in 1931.
  • The abandonment of laissez-faire principles in government and greater state intervention in economic and social issues became more prevalent from the 1930s onwards.