The Urban Working Classes in England 1880-1914

Historian article

By Eric Hopkins, published 31st May 2002

On reading the title of this article, any reader at all familiar with the social history of late Victorian and Edwardian England is likely to think of the revelations at the time of the extent of urban poverty. Two major enquiries, one into London poverty, and the other into poverty in York, caused considerable stir and much discussion, leading ultimately to the Liberal social reforms of the period 1906 to 1914. Yet at the same time there was a general awareness that times were actually getting better for the bulk of the urban working classes, and their standard of living was rising. How then are these two historical phenomena to be reconciled? What balance can be struck between them? The aim of this essay is to examine the nature of each development, and to assess their relative importance.

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