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In this essay I will show to what extent the Liberal Government of 1906 to 1914 set up a welfare state in Britain why they were so concerned with the health of the nation what reforms they introduced in order to improve the nations health and why this was a period of major reform in Britain A welfare state is a state with social services controlled or financed by the Government These service aim to protect societys weakest members from the cradle to the grave As Beveriage described it a welfare state is the provision of services for the prevention of disease squalor want idleness and ignorance 1 The social reforms seemed to run counter to the laissez-faire individualist ideology of the nineteenth century Liberal party This held to the view that the less state regulation the better In the 1906 general election the Liberal party won a landslide victory on the basis not of a programme of social reform but in defence of free trade This was a traditional Liberal policy which was challenged by the unionists adoption of tariff reform or protection as a response to the rise of foreign competition The Liberals success was due to the identification in the public mind of free trade with cheap food For a variety of reasons it seems likely that whichever party had won the 1906 election a number of social reforms would have been passed There were changing attitudes to poverty Instead of moral judgements which attributed poverty to idleness or drunkenness there was an increasing acceptance of economic and environmental explanations At the beginning of the twentieth century a series of social enquires showed the extent of poverty in Britain In particular the social surveys of Booth and Rowntree helped to change attitudes Charles Booth a wealthy ship owner carried out between 1886 and 1903 an immense investigation published in several volumes of The Life and Labour of the People of London Booths
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