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Why did the Liberals introduce some social reforms in the period 1906-1914?

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Why did the Liberals introduce some social reforms in the period 1906-1914? In January 1906 the Liberals won a landslide victory winning nearly 400 seats compared to the Conservatives 157. This was a new era for the Liberal party and the country, the government was no longer dominated by of wealthy landowners and aristocrats but contained new radical thinking Liberals. This government was no longer to pursue laissez faire policies as the Gladstonian Liberals had but was to start a new era of social reform. But why did the Liberals decide to pursue this policy of new liberalism and take the first steps to socially reform Britain? There were mixed motives within the Liberal party for carrying out these social reforms. The attitudes to the poor were now changing throughout the country, thanks to the research of people such as Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree people no longer believed that the poor were in poverty just because they were lazy but because of low wages and large families that they could not afford. It was revealed that up to 30% of the population were living in poverty and some liberals felt this was socially unjust. ...read more.


Britain was expecting a major war in Europe soon and needed to have a healthy nation to defend the British Empire it was also thought that a healthy workforce would be more productive as fewer days of work would be missed. This was seen to be the case in Germany which had already began to introduce the welfare state and had now overtaken Britain in productivity. Germany had also extended the school leaving age and so had a better educated workforce this was again seen to increase productivity and it also increased pressure on the Liberals to make changes. One of the major reasons why the Liberals began to make changes was because of the extension of the franchise in 19** now nearly all men had the vote and so the Liberals had to take into account the views of the working classes. Trade unions were also becoming more prominent and increasing pressure on the government to give working people a fair deal. When the Labour party began to emerge in the early 1900's the Liberals knew they would have to act to retain working class support or risk loosing support to Labour, however they also believed ...read more.


However they lost their overall majority, probably because some of the middle class voters had been scared off by the new radical thinking Liberals. This forced the Liberals to join with both the Labour Party and the Irish Nationalists to regain the majority but in order for the parties to agree to this there were conditions the Irish nationalists wanted a home rule bill and Labour demanded that a National insurance scheme should be set up and in 1911 David Lloyd George helped to set it up. Overall there were a multitude of reasons why the Liberals began to introduce these social reforms into Britain, but mainly it was a mixture of changing attitudes towards the poor both within the Liberal party and the country through out a the threat of loosing support to the newly formed Labour party, as the working classes could now vote they would surely turn towards Labour if the Liberals did not do anything to help them. As a result the liberals took the first steps on the road towards a welfare state, setting up old age pensions, National insurance, unemployment benefit and the points in the so called children's charter. These were the foundations in which a proper welfare state was to be built in the future. ...read more.

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