Attitudes to poverty and social reform in Cheltenham 1870-1899

Edlin, Ronald (2003) Attitudes to poverty and social reform in Cheltenham 1870-1899. Masters thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Abstract

Many modem historians argue that for much of the late Victorian period attitudes to social issues were largely determined by a widely held belief in "individualism" and laissez faire government. These beliefs were sustainable because, it is claimed, most people were unaware of the scale and nature of poverty and failed therefore to understand its economic and social causes. The revelation of conditions among London's poor in the subject seem to be based on pragmatic considerations. Although Cheltenham could be regarded as being somewhat unusual it was neither unique nor isolated from the rest of the country. These findings suggest therefore that, apart from London and possibly other large cities, the change in attitudes to social issues during the late nineteenth century was less pm found than is often depicted. 1880s is alleged to have brought about a fundamental change in the way people viewed social conditions and, by the end of the century, a demand for central government intervention in social and economic affairs. This study challenges these arguments by analysing the way the people of Cheltenham viewed social problems during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century against the background of local and national economic and social developments. It is based on a detailed survey of local records including local newspapers, which, in addition to providing factual information, also show the general trend of local opinion on social issues. The survey indicates that in Cheltenham by the early 1870s there was not only a great deal of awareness of the nature and cause of poverty but also an increasing degree of concern about the conditions of the poor. The economic depressions of the late 1870s and the mid-1880s, rather than the exposure of conditions in London, led to a more collectivist approach to local social problems. By the end of the century some people were beginning to accept that major problems were unlikely to be solved by local initiatives but there was still no clear demand for specific government action. Throughout the period there is little evidence that ideology played a significant role in determining attitudes to social problems and most views on the subject seem to be based on pragmatic considerations. Although Cheltenham could be regarded as being somewhat unusual it was neither unique nor isolated from the rest of the country. These findings suggest therefore that, apart from London and possibly other large cities, the change in attitudes to social issues during the late nineteenth century was less profound than is often depicted.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Starr, RebeccaUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Howe, JohnUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Additional Information: Master of Arts by Research
Uncontrolled Keywords: Poverty, Cheltenham, England;
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Liberal and Performance Arts > Religious, Philosophical and Historical Studies
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2015 09:17
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2017 09:46
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/2124

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