How satisfactory are explanations of the welfare state reforms of 1906-14 which rest upon a 'rediscovery' of poverty coupled with middle- and upper class altruism.
The years of liberal administration between 1906-14 can now be clearly seen as a period of extensive social reform, during which time many items of government legislation were passed and various organisations and institutions concerned with welfare reform were set-up. However, the extent to which these measures have been successful and the reasons behind the implementation of these initiatives have long since been the subject of debate amongst social and economic historians. This argument usually involves questions of both altruism and efficiency on behalf of both the liberal government and the individuals concerned with the legislation. The model of the reforms being a result of a 'rediscovery of poverty' and the altruism of the middle and upper classes is too simplistic and negates many other important factors which had an effect on the implementation and nature of the legislation.
Another important point to make when assessing the liberal welfare reforms is that each of the separate reforms has it's own history and background. Therefore it is important to take note of the point emphasised by the historian Hay, that the reforms should be viewed as "individual solutions to particular social problems, not as part of a wider movement. " It is from this angle that I will examine the liberal reforms, taking each measure in it's own context.
From assessing many of the Liberal measures it seems that national efficiency and political considerations were just as much a factor of the reforms as middle class altruism was. This can be seen particularly in the Liberal government's treatment of children and the young. Many of the measures which on the surface appeared to be...