The Main Achievements of Disraeli's Ministry 1874-1880 in the Field of Social Reform
When Disraeli was attempting to get back into government in 1873 and
1874, he made a number of speeches to try to win voters. It is said
that the speeches he made, especially the ones he made in Manchester
and at Crystal Palace, were very influential, and vital for the
Conservatives' recovery, and eventual victory in 1874. The main target
which the Conservative government would be aiming for in the field of
social reform, he said, would be to "elevate the condition of the
people". If this was his real aim, we must look at the reforms his
ministry introduced, and question whether they actually did elevate
the condition of the people, or like Gladstone's administration
before, did they fail to improve the lives of the working classes.
One of the main problems for the working people at the start of
Disraeli's administration in 1874 was the condition of the housing in
which they lived. Many working families were living in houses which
were too small for their large families, or groups of families in some
cases, and the houses were often in slum areas. The houses frequently
had no running water, or even clean water supplies nearby. It was
obvious that to improve the condition of the working people's lives,
the state of housing had to be improved. For these reasons, the
government introduced an extremely important Act in this time of
social reform. The Artisans' Dwellings Act 1875 was one of the biggest
achievements for the Conservative administration as, although it was
permissive legislation, many areas decided to apply the Act anyway.
The overall result of this Act was new areas of larger and higher
quality houses being developed at private expense, where previously
there had only been slums. Overall, this was an Act which was
exceedingly beneficial for the working man, and if applied in his
area, would improve his lifestyle a great deal.
A different problem for the working class at the time, and therefore a
problem for Disraeli when trying to keep their votes, was the long
working hours the working people of England were having to endure.
Although it did not satisfy the demands of the Nine Hours Movement, a
pressure group largely supported in Yorkshire and Lancashire, the
Factory Act of 1874 did reduce the number of maximum working hours in
a day to ten hours allowing a half day on Saturday. The Factories and
Workshops Act of 1878 further reinforced previous factory legislation
and also applied to workshops, where only a dozen or so people worked.
For the Conservatives, this was a good achievement, and it pleased the
working class who literally sung the praise of Cross, the man who had
brought in the Acts. This strongly contributed to keeping the support
of the working class on the Conservatives...