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Changing Attitudes to Poverty From Cradle to the Grave The Problem of Poverty around 1900
Starter • Collect ‘The Causes of Poverty’ help sheet. • We have looked at the main causes of poverty around 1900. • In your pairs, look at the list/diagram of the 11 causes of poverty. Show whose fault it is by putting a tick in the columns; for eg. Old age must be ‘no-one’ because we all grow old at some point – this is no-one’s fault. • *NB. Some of the causes might be the fault of more than one group
Part 1 • The last 3 factors were not really as important as some people thought. • However, they did mean that the people who did think they were important believed if people were poor then it was their own fault. • They could stop being poor if they changed the way they behaved and did not waste money.
…contd • The years 1890 -1951 saw a tremendous change in attitudes to poverty. • By the end of the nineteenth century many people of the governing classes believed that it was not the government’s job to get rid of poverty. • People were expected to help themselves out of poverty or just suffer for being poor
…contd • Around the start of the century a great deal of more accurate information emerged about the causes and extent of poverty. • This helped lead to attitudes changing. • Governments began to take action to tackle the problem of poverty.
Nineteenth Century Attitudes to Poverty • Before 1850 governments in Britain believed in the idea of laissez-faire. • Thus, governments believed they should leave things alone, not interfere). **COPY ABOVE** • So…if a family lived in bad conditions in a slum it was up to them to move somewhere better. • It was not up to the government or local council to force the landlords to improve things
…contd • They believed that the individual person was responsible for his or her own life and they knew best what was good or bad for themselves. • The government did not seem to realise people lived in slums because they had to live near the husband’s work and they could not afford anything better. • If they complained to the landlord and asked him to improve things they might find themselves evicted from their home.
…contd • Even in 1850 one or two exceptions to the idea of laissez-faire had begun to appear. • In the 1830’s and 1840’s the governments passed laws to control the conditions and hours of children working in factories and mines because children could not control their own lives. • They also passed laws to improve public health, that is, improve conditions in towns to stop epidemics of diseases like cholera which killed many thousands of people.
What did people say? Source A Nothing should be done or attempted by government for the purpose of improving the wealth of the people. ‘Be quiet’ should be the motto of the government. Part of a book written in 1814 by Jeremy Bentham, a writer and thinker The only purpose of government exercising power is to prevent harm to others. Acting for people’s own good is not the purpose of government. Source B From one of Bentham’s followers, John Stuart Mill, who wrote in 1859.
• Between 1850 and 1900 governments gradually passed more laws to improve conditions but they did so when there was a particular problem which was harming people. • Many people in government still believed the government should interfere as little as possible and they still believed poverty was people’s own fault
Question Check • What does laissez-faire mean? • What did Jeremy Bentham think the government should do to help the poor? • When does John Stewart Mill think the government should step in and do something? • Name the two things that the government did to improve conditions before 1900. (clue: they were the exceptions to the idea of laissez-faire in 1850).
Self Help • Self-help was the idea that people could get themselves out of poverty if they only tried hard enough. • In 1859, Samuel Smiles published a best -selling book called ‘Self Help’ which showed how this could be done. **COPY ABOVE**
Source C Heaven helps those who help themselves is a well-known saying. Help from others is often weakening but help from within always invigorates (gives strength). Whatever is done for men or classes to some extent takes away their need to do things for themselves Just exactly how they were meant to do this was shown elsewhere. Smiles was quoted in the Leeds Times, 25 th October 1845 explaining how this could be done
Every working man should make great efforts to raise himself in his social class and become independent. With this in mind, every working man in times of prosperity and good wages should try to save something and gather money in case of bad times Source D
…contd • Many working class people, especially skilled workers who were better paid, did try to save in the Friendly Societies which were like insurance companies. • People put some money into these every week so that they would get some payment if the father was sick, unemployed or died.
…contd • The most common payments were ‘penny policies’ where the payment of 1 d (1 old penny) would pay for a funeral. • Some skilled workers could also afford to belong to trade unions where part of their subscription (weekly payment) was used for welfare benefits like sickness, unemployment or death.
…contd • Jean Faley’s book ‘Up Oor Close’ gives people’s memories of Springburn, Glasgow at the beginning of the century. It tells of how people coped. If you called in the doctor it cost 2 s and 6 d (12. 5 p) for his visit, then you had to buy the medicine. But most people were in societies and they paid the bills. Source E
…contd • Therefore, it may have been possible for skilled workers to cope but there were people who did not earn enough to save in this way. • They could not help themselves and people did not think it was the governments job.
Task • In your jotters, write heading Self Help Questions • Using Source C, give two reasons why Samuel Smiles believed in self help. • How, according to Source D does he suggest they should help themselves? • Describe the ways skilled workers did try to help themselves.