Key question 1: To what extent was there a need and demand for social and political reform in the period 1902 –1914?

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KlitebulbEY QUESTION 1:
To what extent was there a need and demand for social and political reform in the period 1902 –1914?

Why was there a NEED for social reform?
There was an obvious need for social reform (change) during this period because working people, who made up the vast majority of the population, worked and lived in very poor conditions:

Low Wages,

Long Hours

No Social




The Workhouse

The Working Classes

Low Safety


No Job


Poor Diet


Why was there a DEMAND for social reform?
Up until this period many wealthy people had tended to believe that poverty was the poor person’s own fault as they must be too stupid or lazy to work.

However, this attitude began to change in the 1900s for two main reasons:

The work of
Rowntree & Booth

The Boer War

When men were called up to fight in the Boer War it was found that 40% of them were unfit to fight because they lived in such poor conditions , ate poor diets, and had very little medical care. This made people realise that if something was not done about poverty then the whole country could be in danger.

Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree both conducted studies into the standard of living of working people. When they read these studies middle and upper class people were shocked to discover the dreadful conditions in which the poor lived. They began to realise that some people could not help being poor as their wages were just not enough to live on. As a result of these studies a ‘Poverty Line’ of £1 a week was set. Families with an income of less than this were officially recognised as poor.

The Liberal Social Reforms:

At the 1906 General Election the

Liberal Party won an overwhelming victory. This was mainly due to the fact that they promised the voters Social Reform whilst the Conservatives had been pre occupied by Foreign Affairs and the Free Trade debate.

Once in power the Liberals started an ambitious programme of reforms led by the Chancellor David Lloyd George. These reforms are known as the LIBERAL SOCIAL REFORMS and you MUST know them.

Who did it help?

How did it help them?


  • The 1906 Education Act provided free school meals for the poorest children

  • The Schools’ Medical Inspection Service was set up to ensure that all children were seen by a nurse or doctor at least once a year

  • The 1907 Education Act set up Grammar Schools where free places were available to bright children from poor families


  • The 1906 Workmen’s Compensation Act forced employers to compensate any worker who suffered an injury at work

  • The 1906 Trades Disputes Act gave Unions back the legal right to strike

  • The 1909 Trade Boards Act put in place teams of inspectors to check up on the pay and conditions in ‘Sweated Industries’

  • The 1909 Labour Exchange Act set up Labour Exchanges like Job Centres all around the country


  • The 1908 Old Age Pensions Act gave

pensions to old people over the age of

  1. It was ‘Means Tested’ and only

Those with an annual income of less than £21 were eligible. They received just 25p a week but it meant that people too old to work any more no longer had to live in poverty or rely on their already overstretched families for support.


  • In 1911 the National Health Insurance Act (Part I) offered people free medical treatment, sick pay and disability pensions in exchange for a weekly contribution of 4d from their wages.

In 1911the National Health Insurance Act (Part II) set up a

system of unemployment insurance which meant that
people who lost their jobs were entitled to ‘Dole’ payments.

Reactions to Social Reform:

  • Lloyd George’s reforms were welcomed by the poor who benefited from them

  • Some wealthy people objected to the reforms because they would have to pay for them through increased taxes.

  • Some people said that Lloyd George didn’t really care about poor people and that his reforms were just about wining votes and punishing rich people.

Why was there a NEED for political reform?

The non-elected House of Lords had the power to block legislation(laws). This made the system less Democratic.

Women did not have the right to vote in elections of any kind.

There was no political party to represent the interests of working people. The Conservatives served the wealthy landowners whilst the Liberals appealed to middle class voters.

Why was there a DEMAND for political reform?

Reform of the House of Lords:

The demand for changes to the powers of the House of Lords came mainly from the Liberal Party. This was because the Conservative Party had a huge majority in the House of Lords which made it impossible for the Liberal government to pass any laws which the Conservative Party did not like. The issue came to a head during the 1909 Budget and Constitutional Crisis (see next page) when the House of Lords refused to pass Lloyd George’s budget in which he raised taxes in order to pay for his social reforms.

A Political Party for the Working Class:

The demand for a political party which would represent the interests of ordinary working people came mainly from working class people themselves and, especially, from the various Trade Unions. Working people had tended to support the Liberal Party and some Trade Unionists had been elected to Parliament as ‘Lib-Lab’ MPs. However, by the 1900s many no longer thought that this was enough and so a separate Labour Party began to emerge from out of the Trade Union Movement.

Votes for Women:

The demand for votes for women came mainly from women themselves. There were 2 main groups campaigning for women’s rights. They were the non-violent NUWSS and the violent WSPU led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. (For more details on the actions of these groups see next page.) Despite their campaigns however, British women were not given the right to vote until after WWI in 1918.



How was Political Reform achieved?

The 1909 Budget & Constitutional Crisis:

In his 1909 Budget Lloyd George tried to increase taxes in order to pay for his Social Reforms. The House of Lords refused to pass the Budget because the new taxes would hit wealthier people like them. The Liberal Prime Minister, Asquith decided to call an election. If people voted for the Liberals this would prove that people supported Lloyd George’s budget. The Liberals won but the Lords still refused to pass the budget. Eventually King George was forced to intervene. He told the Lords that unless they gave in then he would create lots of new Liberal Lords who would be able to out vote them. Asquith then took the opportunity to limit the Lords’ power permanently by passing a law which took away their power to block new laws. This law was called the PARLIAMENT ACT. It made Britain more DEMOCRATIC because only elected MPs now had the power to make laws.

The Suffragette Movement:









Hunger Strikes

Window Smashing


Chaining to railings

Interrupting meetings

Acid on Golf Courses

here were two main groups which campaigned for votes for women: The militant WSPU (Women’s Social & Political Union) and the non-militant NUWSS (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies).They used very different tactics.

The women who founded the Suffrage Movement

believed that it was unfair that intelligent, responsible
women were denied the vote when all men could
vote no matter how uneducated or lazy they were.

How successful were the Suffragettes?

Some historians think that the violent tactics used by the WSPU led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters turned some people against the idea of votes for women.

So… did the Suffragettes do more harm than good?



  • Some people did not like the violent tactics used by the WSPU

  • To some people their use of violence proved that women were too emotional and unstable to use the vote responsibly

  • The WSPU gained huge publicity for the cause and kept it in the public eye

  • Hunger Strikes and forced feeding gained some public sympathy for the suffragettes

Despite the suffrage campaigns women did not gain the right to vote until 1918 when the Representation of the People Act allowed women over 30 to vote. This was mainly as a reward for women’s work during WWI.

Welsh Suffragettes on a protest march

Trade Unions & Socialist Societies grow throughout the 19th Century.
1884 – Trade Unionists begin to enter Parliament as ‘Lib-Lab’ MPs
1893 – Independent Labour Party (ILP) formed by Kier Hardie
1900 – Labour Representation Committee set up to ensure fair representation for working men

1906 – Name ‘Labour Party’ adopted
- 29 Labour MPs elected
1908 – The Osborne Judgement tried to separate the Labour Party from the Trade Unions
1918 – 59 Labour MPs in Parliament

KlitebulbEY QUESTION 2:

Was the period 1902 – 1918 a ‘Golden Age’ for

Heavy Industry in Wales?

Wales was a centre for several different Heavy Industries:

Focus on Coal:

  • Based in the S. Wales Valleys and Denbighshire

  • Produced 56.8 million tonnes in 1913

  • 1/3 of global coal exports came out of Wales

  • Employed more than ¼ million men










The period was certainly a ‘Golden Age’ for the Mine & Factory owners who made their fortunes in Wales. For example…………….


Background: Born Aberdare in 1856, the son of a Merthyr Tydfil Grocer.
Died in 1918.

Industrial Career: Established the Cambrian Coal Combine, one of the biggest coal companies in Wales, making him one of the richest industrialists in Wales.

Political Career: Elected Liberal MP for Merthyr in 1888, Switched to Cardiff in 1909. 1915 became ambassador for British Industry in America, 1916, joined the cabinet as President of the Local Government Board. 1917, appointed Government Controller of Food.

High Point: Made Baron Rhondda in 1916.

Low Point: Conflict with workers, especially The Tonypandy riots.

It was also a ‘Golden Age’ for the City of Cardiff which grew rich as a result of the success of Welsh Industry and particularly the Welsh Coal Industry.

  • By 1900 Cardiff was the largest port in the world in terms of tonnage handled

  • In 1905 Cardiff was granted city status

  • By the 1911 Census Cardiff’s population had reached 182,000

  • A new City Hall & other Civic Buildings were built at Cathays

Was the period 1902 – 1918 a ‘Golden Age’ for
Heavy Industry in Wales?

Poor Working

  • Workers earned low wages and had very little job security.

  • Miners particularly resented the ‘Sliding Scale’ which linked wages to the price of coal.

  • Safety conditions were often poor and there were several serious accidents eg. The Senghennydd Disaster, 1913.

  • Many accused owners of putting profit before safety.

Industrial Unrest:

  • Welsh Industries did not have a good record in this area with frequent clashes between bosses and workers -
    Eg. Tonypandy Riots

Penrhyn Lockout

Llanelli Railway


(To find out more about these events see below)

  • Strikes like these obviously disrupted business and lost customers.

Lack of Efficiency:

  • Welsh industry esp. Coal, were not investing in new equipment.

  • Instead of buying new machines they just employed more men.

  • This made Welsh coal more expensive than foreign competitors.

Industrial Unrest in Wales

Where & When





The Penrhyn Lockout

North Wales Slate Quarries

October 1900 – Autumn 1903.

Lord Penrhyn refused to negotiate with the Trade Union about changes to working practices.

26 workers were sacked and the rest went on strike in sympathy. Lord Penrhyn closed the Quarry.

‘Blackleg’ Labour was used and the workers were forced back to work by poverty and hardship.

The North Wales Slate Industry had lost important customers who went elsewhere during the strike. It never recovered.

The Tonypandy Riots

Rhondda Valley November 1910

Falling wages & a rising cost of living. 80 miners sacked at Ely Colliery. 30 000 miners of the Cambrian Combine Strike.

Violent clashes between strikers and police. Riots & looting in Tonypandy. Soldiers sent to the area.

Miners forced back to work by poverty in September 1911.

Some miners lost faith in the Miners Union (SWMF). They turned to the more militant ideas of Syndicalism (Workers controlling their own industries)

The Lanelli strike

Llanelli railway-

men went on strike in support of the miners in 1910-11

Support for the Rhondda valleys miners

Trains were stopped. 600 Troops sent in. 2 people shot dead by soldiers. 4 killed in the riot which followed.

Workers went back to work with the miners.

KlitebulbEY QUESTION 3:

What were the effects of the First World War on the people?

When war broke out in 1914 the majority of British people were supportive of the action taken by the Government. There were several reasons for this:

  • The British army & navy had been very successful in the past

  • People thought a war might help the economy

  • People thought the war would be ‘over by Christmas’

  • People were happy to fight for King, Country & Empire

  • People thought it was Britain’s duty to protect ‘gallant little Belgium’ from the German bully.

Because of these beliefs British men were initially very keen to go to war and hundreds of thousands of men flocked to the Recruitment Centres each month. However, as news of what the war was really like reached Britain far less people wanted to join up and the government had to launch Recruitment Campaigns using posters like the ones opposite. This was not enough though and in 1916 the government was forced to pass The Military Service Act which introduced Conscription (compulsory military service) for all men between 18 and 41. Some men refused to fight for political, religious or moral reasons. These people believed violence and killing was wrong. They were called Conscientious Objectors and sometimes they were treated very badly, bullied or even imprisoned.

KlitebulbEY QUESTION 4:

How and why did people’s attitudes and values change

in the period 1902-19?

How did the war affect the people back home?

The Welsh Language:

During this period the Welsh language and culture began go into decline.

There were several reasons for this:

English was seen as the language of progress

The Trade Unions & labour Party favoured English

People switched to English newspapers to get the news during WWI

Why was the Welsh language in decline?

Schools discouraged the use of Welsh.

Bosses encouraged workers to speak English

Migration from England

English was used in Churches

During WWI the army discouraged the use of Welsh


At this time Welsh people were more religious than they are today and most people attended some kind of Chapel or Church. The Nonconformist Chapels were most popular because they offered more than just Sunday services:

  • Services often in Welsh

  • Organised trips and Eisteddfods

  • Choirs and bands

  • Sunday Schools and study groups

  • Newspapers

There were several Religious Revivals during this period. These were times when more people started attending Church or Chapel, usually because they were inspired by a particular preacher. For example in 1904 thousands of people went to hear the sermons of Robert Evans.


Educational opportunities were expanded during this period:

  • The Situation in 1900: Primary school education was compulsory and free for all

  • 1902 Education Act: Local Education Authorities were set up to be in charge of schools

  • 1907 Education Act: Secondary schools required to make ¼ of their places available free of charge to bright pupils from poor families

Welsh Language Education:

The new LEA run Grammar Schools tended to be very English in character. OM Edwards campaigned to increase the teaching of the Welsh language.

He had mixed success:



Welsh language teaching was allowed in some areas

Welsh was recognised as an examination subject

English remained the main language in education

There were no Welsh schools until the 1960s

Entertainment and Sport

Traditional entertainments like the Eisteddfod remained popular in Wales especially in Welsh speaking areas. However, new leisure activities like the Cinema and organised sport were becoming increasingly popular.

Charlie Chaplin was one of the most popular film stars of the time. Rugby was the most popular sport and the Welsh team were very successful. They won the Triple Crown several times and they beat the All Blacks in 1905.


The First World War
The experience of World War One changed people’s attitudes and beliefs in several ways:

  • As the realities of the war became clear some people began to oppose it.

  • A
    Hedd Wyn
    fter the war the work of war poets like
    Wilfred Owen and Hedd Wyn contributed to the feeling that the war had been both horrific and pointless.

  • Some people lost faith in God because of the terrible slaughter of the war.

  • The Labour Party began to replace the Liberal Party as the most powerful party in Wales.

  • People no longer believed that rich people were their ‘betters’ because it was the rich people who had been the incompetent (unsuccessful) leaders during the war.

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