British Socialism, 1850–1914

  • Leslie J. Macfarlane


The 30 years from the late 1840s to the late 1870s were seen as the Golden Age of British prosperity, if one chose to ignore, as most mainlanders did, the wretched condition of Ireland. The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Paxton’s Crystal Palace, itself one of the marvels of the new industrial age, gave public expression to Britain’s standing as ‘the workshop of the world’. Though the main beneficiaries of the rising prosperity were the middle classes in industry, trade and commerce, the condition of the workers also improved, although they suffered badly in the slumps of 1857 and 1866. It was a period in which the skilled workers came to the fore, building up effective trade unions and friendly societies1 to protect their interests and improve their position in society; a time to seek piecemeal reform rather than revolutionary changes in the social order.


Trade Union Social Reform Labour Party Individual Liberty Liberal Party 
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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Leslie J. Macfarlane 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie J. Macfarlane
    • 1
  1. 1.St John’s CollegeOxfordUK

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