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In the rest of the U.K., to what extent did the domestic legislative reforms of the liberal’s administration of 1868-74 Improve conditions for the working class?

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Introduction

In the rest of the U.K., to what extent did the domestic legislative reforms of the liberal's administration of 1868-74 Improve conditions for the working class? Society was in desperate need of a political shake-up, and Gladstone although deeply involved with Ireland attempted a great programme of reforms. Gladstone had to satisfy a number of political pressure groups both within and outside the liberals, whilst keeping to what he believed in; sound finance, religious toleration and equality of opportunity. The third is the most important as he aimed to help the working classes, it was an, "Attack on privilege to create a meritocracy." Gladstone did bring in many reforms that were designed to help the working classes but how far did they go to bring social change. An example of the political pressures can be drawn from the education reforms. The middle classes had wanted educational reform after seeing U.S.A. and Prussia offering free education, and thought that Britain was falling behind. The liberals however had to work between extremely fine lines as they had opposing pressures from Anglicans and Nonconformists. There were other opposing pressures from the national education league and the national education union, who were opposed on whether or not education should be denominational. ...read more.

Middle

This would have improved working conditions greatly, had there not been a second measure, this took away virtually all power from the trade unionists. The criminal law amendment act forbade violence in strikes and made picketing illegal. This originates from Gladstone's religious views and how he is against the use of force to sway opinions. This amendment act cancelled out the trade union act as without picketing they had little power. The working class were furious; their chance of decent working conditions was ripped away from them. Having done this Gladstone unsurprisingly lost the majority of his working class support. The public health act of 1872 was probably the reform most directly linked to the question. Public health was in desperate need of great improval at the start of the 19th century, many Prime Ministers tried to tackle these problems but few succeeded. Gladstone was one of these, he attempted to solve the problems but his act was another failure. He established Urban and Rural sanitary authorities that were responsible for public health in local authorities. This had followed the findings of the Royal commission on sanitary matters, and the ideas were good in principle. ...read more.

Conclusion

In his reforms we can see how they were shaped to please everyone but however he managed to neither please few of these pressure groups nor make any major improvements for the conditions of the working class. Some of his reforms, such as the education reform and the public health acts, laid the foundations for further reforms and did further down the line improve conditions for the lower classes. They were, however, in the short term not that influential, due to the pressure groups Gladstone had to please; this led to him introducing halfhearted reforms. Other reforms like the licensing act did help the working class indirectly, but only in a small way. His trade union reform was pointless as he gave the trade unions power and then took it straight back, not benefiting the working class at all. Many historians, including E.J. Feuchtwanger believe that, "In terms of legislative achievement the government was to become one of the greatest of the 19th Century." I, however, totally disagree with this. Although Gladstone did introduce many reforms they were neither far-reaching nor influential. It was an attack on the privileged and did allow further reforms to be introduced in the future to help the working class. At that time, however, they did not do much to improve conditions for the working class. ...read more.

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