An Overview of Britain in the Early 20th Century
During the early 20th century in Britain, lives for everyone changed
dramatically. The population levels increased. From 1901 – 1911 the
population increased from 42 million to 45 million. This meant there
was an increase in birth and a decrease in death rates.
There were very distinct social divisions. At the top were the upper
and upper middle classes. They earned above £700 a year. They were
only 3% of the population yet they earned most the country’s wages.
They usually went to public school when young then went onto
university. Most would then join the army. Many went abroad during
winter and the London house for the ball season in May. They lived in
large houses and got most of their money from rents of land and
property. If they felt they had to do something, they would attend the
army or become a Member of Parliament as they didn’t give wages. They
ate well and kept healthy, usually living much longer than the other
classes as they had the money to take care of themselves. In the house
they would usually have a full set of cooks, servants. The women
usually spent most of their time on their social lives.
Next down the social ladder were the middle class. They earned around
under £400 a year. They were usually doctors, business men or lawyers.
They also lived comfortable lives even though they had to work. They
usually lived in the suburbs in a large house and maybe had one or two
domestic servants. They would spend weekends away with friends or in
cottages shooting fishing etc and their holidays would be within the
continent. The women usually helped charities or kept their social
lives in-tact. The children would attend a grammar school and then
enter the business world if they were male.
The working class would get around £50-100 a year. They lived in very
small terraced houses cramped with lots of people. They worked around
10 hours a day from Monday to Friday and six and a half on Saturday.
They had no holidays and small innutritious meals which meant they
died younger. The children would go to work after school and stay in
the factory most of their life.
The most popular jobs were domestic, agricultural and in the building
trade. The women were the lowest paid of them all and most worked in
the domestic service. The Daily Mail was the cheapest newspaper at ½
In those days, Britain was a parliamentary democracy but the House of
Lords could block decisions made by the House of Commons. The system
was unfair in that only a few people could vote. By 1906, all men with
households could vote but the women couldn’t. There were two main
parties, the liberals and the Conservatives. They were mostly
supported by richer people. The conservatives believed in laissez
faire, where they leave people to their own...