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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The beginning of the Welfare State in Britain


Life was hard for the working class at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1900 surveys showed that between 15% and 20% of the population were living at subsistence (bare survival) level. Worse between 8% and 10% of the population were living below subsistence level.

In 1906 a Liberal government was elected and they introduced a number of reforms. From 1906 local councils were allowed to provide free school meals. In 1907 school medical inspections began.

In 1908 an act limited miners to working an 8 hour day.

In 1909 the Trade Boards Act set up trade boards who fixed minimum wages in certain very low paid trades. Also in 1909 an Act set up labour exchanges to help the unemployed find work.

In 1908 an Old Age Pensions Act gave small pensions to people over 70. The pensions were hardly generous but they were a start. From 1925 pensions were paid to men over 65 and women over 60. Widows were also given pensions. www.localhistories.org/welfare 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Coventry


Coventry began as a Saxon village. It was called Coffantree, which means the tree belonging to Coffa. Trees were often used as meeting places. In this case a settlement grew up around the tree and it eventually became called Coventry.

Lady Godiva certainly existed (she is mentioned in documents of the time) but whether her famous naked ride through Coventry took place it is impossible to say. According to the story her husband Leofric was taxing the people of Coventry heavily and Godiva begged him to remove the tax. He jokingly said he would lift the tax if she rode through the town naked. Godiva did so! The story was first written down by Roger of Wendover (died 1236) and it may be true. However Peeping Tom is a much later addition to the story of Lady Godiva. He was not mentioned until the 17th century. www.localhistories.org/coventry 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Olympic Games


In Ancient Greece athletic competitions were held during religious festivals in every Greek city. However the Olympic Games began in Olympia in 776 BC in honour of Zeus, the chief god and people came from all over Greece and the Greek colonies to take part in them. Wars stopped to allow everyone to take part.

Athletes competed in boxing, wrestling, running, horse racing, chariot racing and the pentathlon (five athletic events). Winners were not given medals. Instead they were given a crown of leaves.

Women were not allowed to take part in the games. However they had their own games called the Herean Games www.localhistories.org/sport  

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Famous Sydneysiders

I wrote a list of famous people from Sydney. Its remarkable how many of them there are. www.localhistories.org/sydneyfam  

Monday, 14 November 2011

Manchester


Manchester began when a wooden fort was built by the Roman army on a plateau about 1 mile south of the present cathedral about 80 AD. The Romans called it Mamuciam (breast shaped hill) probably because the plateau resembled a breast. The fort was rebuilt in stone about 200 AD. Soon a civilian settlement grew up around the fort. 

However in 407 AD the Roman army left Britain and the civilian settlement disappeared. The stone fort at Manchester fell into ruins. www.localhistories.org/manchester

In 7th century the Saxons created a new village at Manchester but it was tiny. The Saxons called any Roman town or fort a ceaster. They called the old fort at Manchester Mamm ceaster. The village nearby took its name from the fort. www.localhistories.org/manchester 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Child labour in the 19th century


The industrial revolution created a huge demand for female and child labour. Children had always done some work but at least before the 19th century they worked in their own homes with their parents or on land nearby. Children's work was largely seasonal so they did have some time to play. When children worked in textile factories they often worked for more than 12 hours a day.

In the early 19th century parliament passed laws to curtail child labour. However they all proved to be unenforceable. The first effective law was passed in 1833. It was effective because for the first time factory inspectors were appointed to make sure the law was being obeyed. The new law banned children under 9 from working in textile factories. It said that children aged 9 to 13 must not work for more than 12 hours a day or 48 hours a week. Children aged 13 to 18 must not work for more than 69 hours a week. Furthermore nobody under 18 was allowed to work at night (from 8.30 pm to 5.30 am). Children aged 9 to 13 were to be given 2 hours education a day. www.localhistories.org/work