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National Efficency

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Why was national efficiency an issue in Britain in the early years of the 20th century? National efficiency was a movement sustained by parties on the left, new liberals and even imperialists. It started to develop in the 1890's and went on into the early years of the 20th century, as concern's about Britain's future as a major power throughout the world started to develop. The main problems where the poor fitness of volunteers, embarrassing defeats and waste of resources at the Boer war, poor conditions for the lower class' of society and education. The rate below the poverty line in the early 20th century Britain was agonizingly high due to individuals being solely individual and responsible for themselves and their family. It was claimed that a third of the population was living below the poverty line after a man named Charles Booth, a shipping magnate published details of his 'scientific' investigations. Seebohm Rowntree reflected Booth's work, though prompted partly by humanitarian concerns and violent demonstrations. It showed that those who where most badly hit by the concern were the most vulnerable of society. ...read more.


In addition, as Britain was the world's leading industrial nation in the 19th century but as industries and economies started to grow in other countries. Jobs were starting to be lost in Britain as other countries could provide the same service for cheaper. Britain's national efficiency needed state intervention, as it was clearly needed in order for Britain to improve. The three main aims of national efficiency in the 20th century were; to improve the social standards for all classes, the economy and the military. As the USA, Germany and Japan started to become more dominant as industrial countries, this created competition for Britain's once leading economy and put it under threat. Due to their new industrial techniques, this was a major factor in why these countries soon became rivals to Britain's economy along with their rapidly growing population. The USA and Germany had introduced tariff's that restricted the countries import and export so more national good's were bought within the countries. This made industries like textiles suffer, this was a major industry for Britain as is was dependent on old traditional industries that could not be expanded or modernised with innovations. ...read more.


Social reforms were called up for the government but all failed to deliver. One questionable act was the Education act of 1902. This was because it meant that parents had to start paying for their children to go to catholic school's. This did not go down with non-conformists who believed that if people wanted to learn about religion it should be at church on a Sunday. In retaliation to this, 70,000 people did not pay their taxes because of this. Competition for economic dominance started to form with Germany, the USA and Japan stepping to the mark with their economic and industrial strength rapidly building. The Boer war demonstrated Britain's greed and badly trained military personal. However, this stems from how Britain could improve their national efficiency and that is by reducing poverty. As Britain's military was none conscription so volunteer's were needed. The most likely people to volunteer were the unemployed, who were most defiantly lower class, therefore if the government could improve the quality of life and health of the lower working class, bridge the social divide. They would have an efficient workforce to drive Britain's economy back too the top and have a hard working military force, well enough to be a good enough standard. ...read more.

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