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    Liberal reforms of the early 20th Century

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    1. What were the reasons behind the Liberal reforms of the early 20th Century? e.g. things such as school meals, national insurance etc.

    2. Why did the Liberals go out of power?

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    1. What were the reasons behind the Liberal reforms of the early 20th Century?

    a. British Inequalities: British Politics under the Conservatives
    Events leading up to early 20th Century. Both the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the development of industrialization placed stress on the British government. High taxes, bad harvests, and tens of thousands of former soldiers returning to the labor market overwhelmed the government of Tory prime minister Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd earl of Liverpool, who became head of government in 1812. A severe economic downturn occurred in 1815. Interest payments on the national debt were so high that the government could do little to alleviate the suffering of the working poor. During the early decades of the 19th century, the poor frequently rioted. (1)
    Because the Tories continued to fear the radicalism that had developed in the wake of the French Revolution, protest movements met a forceful response. In 1819 Parliament passed the Six Acts in response to rioting. These acts curtailed civil liberties by limiting the freedom of the press, restricting public meetings, and increasing penalties for those who advocated action that might cause public disturbances. Other laws prohibited political rallies and the formation of labor organizations. (1) To protect the interests of landlords, Parliament passed the Corn Laws of 1815, which placed taxes on imported grain. The repeal of the income tax in 1817 benefited merchants and manufacturers. At the same time, however, Parliament shifted the major burden of taxes onto commercial and industrial businesses, whose owners were largely unrepresented in Parliament. The poor resented new taxes passed on consumption goods such as tea, beer, tobacco, and sugar, which were the few luxury items in their lives.
    There was increasing sentiment for radical reform among leading intellectuals. The ideas of British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who in his philosophy of utilitarianism preached that the aim of government should be the greatest happiness for the greatest number, were particularly influential. Romanticism in poetry—led by William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lord Byron—stressed natural freedom over the constrictions of the traditional world. There were only two real areas of progress in these years, however. The first was the abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1833. The second was in matters of religion. In 1828, under increasing pressure from dissenters (Protestants who were not members of the Church of England), Parliament repealed the Test Acts. These acts had barred dissenters from working in government jobs and the professions, and from attending universities. In the following year, after a long struggle in Ireland, Parliament removed the legal restrictions that had prevented Catholics from holding public office in the United Kingdom. The issue of Catholic emancipation was so divisive that it split the Tory Party. (1)
    b. Inequalities --- > Reforms & Liberal Party
    With the Tory Party divided, the Whig government of Charles Grey, 2nd earl Grey, took office in 1830. Grey's government finally instituted parliamentary reforms that restructured the outdated electoral system. Prior to Grey's reforms, only voters who owned sizable areas of land in a patchwork of districts created during medieval times could elect members to the House of Commons. This system denied the vote to merchants, manufacturers, and skilled laborers who did not own land. Regions that had been prosperous hundreds of years earlier were over represented in Parliament while many new urban centers had no representation at all. Some parliamentary seats were virtually owned by individuals. One town represented in Parliament had disappeared under the sea. (1)
    The Reform Bill of 1832 was the first successful attempt to correct these inequities. Although the bill was a moderate compromise, it was defeated twice in the House of Lords; only when King William IV threatened to create a number of new Whig peers in the House of Lords was it allowed to pass. The act decreased the amount of land one had to own to qualify to vote, especially in towns. It redistributed nearly one-quarter of the seats in the House of Commons, mainly from the agricultural southwest to the industrial northwest, but this was still far too few seats to reflect the redistribution of population. More than 250,000 adult males were added to the electoral rolls, but still only 20 percent now had the vote in England; the figure was 12 percent in Scotland, and 5 percent in Ireland. (1)
    The Reform Act of 1832 was a bitter disappointment to many radicals who had hoped for fundamental change. Social discontent in Britain came to mirror the country's emerging class structure. The wealthy, who had been divided between landowners and capitalists, gradually merged into a single ruling class that dominated the government, the church, and the military. Birth and family connections combined to define its members, who attended elite public schools and universities. The middle classes, which had expanded greatly in the 18th century, now participated in the ...

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    This solution discusses the reasons behind the Liberal reforms of the early 20th Century e.g. school meals, national insurance etc. and why the Liberals went out of power.

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