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2.9 Humanitarianism

Humanitarian revolution: the propagation particularly in the 1800s and after of humanitarianism – in which common humanity, human rights [see Human rights] and the need for compassion are recognised – has been one of the greatest British contributions to global progress; Victorian voluntary societies were social inventions in their own right and forerunners of modern NGOs (non-governmental organisations, also known as social movements); the unofficial patron saints of humanitarism are the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce (1759-1833) and Lord Shaftesbury (1801-85); British humanitarianism in the 1800s encompassed reforms in the workplace (Lord Shaftesbury), hospitals (Florence Nightingale) and prisons (John Howard & Elizabeth Fry), in regard to safety at sea (Samuel Plimsoll, RNLI) and in many other spheres; British humanitarian social inventions into modern times have included the hospice movement (Cecily Saunders), the Samaritans (Chad Varah), Amnesty International (Peter Benenson), Band Aid, Live Aid and Comic Relief

Abolition of torture:

'…from a very early date, not later than the fifteenth century, the common law of England (the law made and administered by the judges, case by case, in the ordinary courts) adamantly set its face against the use of torture and admission of evidence procured by torture.' (Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law, 2010)

Torture continued to be used, however, in offences against the state, for example in connection with the Gunpowder Plot of Guy Fawkes in 1605, who was racked in the Tower of London and died of his wounds on the steps of the gallows – but they hanged him anyway; 'Guy' has entered the international English lexicon as a man and has been used latterly for groups of men and women, as in "You guys"; Magna Carta in 1215 [see Constitutions] had in fact outlawed torture, except by royal torture warrant; 81 such warrants are known to have been issued, one in regard to Guy Fawkes himself, that one by James I

'…one of the very first acts of the Long Parliament of 1640 was to abolish the Court of Star Chamber, in which evidence obtained by torture was received, and since then no torture warrant has been issued in England; by one of the first enactments of the Westminster Parliament following the Act of Union in 1707, Scotland followed suit. But in continental Europe the practice continued for many years… In France, torture was abolished in 1789; in different parts of Italy, between 1786 (Tuscany) and 1859 (Naples); in Prussia, torture was effectively abolished in 1740, but not formally until 1805; in Baden it continued until 1831; in the Netherlands it was abolished between 1787 and 1798; in Sweden it was forbidden in 1734; Denmark abolished the practice in 1771; Russia abolished torture in 1801, but it was used on occasion until 1847. In the United States, torture was proscribed, from 1791 onwards, by the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.' (Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law, 2010)

Note that the Long Parliament of 1640 affirmed the accused's right to silence; Tom Bingham goes on to point out that the phrase ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ had occurred first in the English Bill of Rights of 1689, before the Americans adopted the phrase in their own Bill of Rights a century later; in the present era Amnesty International campaigns internationally against the use of torture [see Amnesty International]

Abolition of slaveryQueen Bathild fought against the slave trade; in the AD mid-600s she was the British queen of Clovis II, having risen herself from being a slave in Gaul, modern-day France; slavery was abolished in England in 1102 at the insistence of St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury; African slaves first went on sale in Europe in 1441 in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal; the Christian Portuguese were to declare that they were saving the souls of the West Africans they had purchased, as they had been in bondage to heathen deities and unclean habits; there was in fact a strong Christian flavour to much of the Atlantic slave trade, which was to see more than 10m souls shipped forceably from Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean; the modern-day abolitionist campaign is especially associated with William Wilberforce (1759-1833), history’s greatest campaigner for the emancipation of black slaves; his was a forty-year campaign; in Britain itself slavery had been abolished by legal judgements (England, 1772, Scotland, 1776) and a law in 1775 which was intended to end “a state of slavery and bondage”; curiously this law coincided with the start of the American Revolution (1775-83; see American Revolution); with tragic irony this was to delay by decades the release of slaves in the southern part of what had been British America, until after the bloody American Civil War of 1861-65, fought in part on the issue of slavery; slavery was also a key feature in Britain’s colonies in the West Indes; the anti-slavery movement in Britain got underway in 1783, with the Quakers to the fore and nobly remaining there throughout the campaign; William Wilberforce, a member of the philanthropic ‘Clapham Sect’, put his own shoulder to the wheel from 1787, with the formation of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade; Josiah Wedgewood (1730-95), the King of the Potteries and the first great artist-industrialist, produced the most potent image of the early British anti-slavery campaign, a jasperware medallion of 1787; it depicted a black slave in chains; the motto asked ‘AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?; this was probably the first campaign badge or medal ever [see Josiah Wedgewood]; William Wilberforce died in 1833, the year slave owning was finally abolished throughout the British Empire; slave trading had previously been abolished in the British Empire in 1807 – at at time when Napoleon was brutally reviving it in French Carribean possessions – and, at Britain’s suggestion, at the Congress of Vienna in 1815; this was achieved

'...in the face of Spanish and Portuguese protests. The efficient mobilization of British public opinion by the Anti-Slavery Society made it impossible for Caskereagh to draw up a treaty determining the shape of post-war Europe without registering a protest at the continued reliance of European economies on slave labour. By 1817, in return for £70,000, Portugal and Spain had both abolished their slave trade.' (Rebecca Fraser, The Story of Britain, 2003)

Uniquely among slaving nations Britain did not merely abolish the evil trade of slavery in her own empire but strove to close it down everywhere, out of a genuine sense of humanity and at great cost to herself, including damage to her sugar industry in the West Indes, with slave owners compensated, souring of relations with America and France, Brazil threatened with war (slavery there was only abolished in 1888), gun battles with Arab middlemen, the awkward necessity of suppressing African chiefs complicit in the trade and 5,000 troops’ lives lost; between 1808 and 1860 the Royal Navy seized some 1,600 slave ships, freeing 150,000 Africans

'In South Africa the British were a growing presence. The original European settlers of Cape Colony, the Boers were antagonized by the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834, because they depended on slavery for their farming, and the following year most of them began the Great Trek northwards out of the Cape Colony...' (Rebecca Fraser, The Story of Britain, 2003)

Britons were still countering slavery late in the 1800s, with David Livingstone and others penetrating to the heart of Africa to stifle the trade at its source [see David Livingstone, Gordon of Khartoum]; in the modern era Anti-Slavery International, a London-based organisation founded in 1839, continues to campaign to eliminate slavery; it is the world’s oldest human-rights group; in the US there is a university named after William Wilberforce

White slavery: from the 1500s a million people from Europe and Britain were stolen and made into slaves by North African pirates called the Barbary Corsairs; this vile activity ended in the early 1800s after the Royal Navy bombarded the cities of Algiers and Tunis; ‘…the seizure [in 1716] of these men was neither unique nor unusual; for more than a century, the trade in white slaves from across Europe and colonial North America had been destroying families and wrecking innocent lives.’ (Giles Milton, White Gold: the Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa’s One Million European Slaves, Hodder & Stoughton, 2004); ‘…the infamous coast of Barbery which made our ancestors tremble with fear whenever they had to sail past it on their way from northern Europe to the ports of Italy and the Levant. For it was the land of the terrible Barbary pirates, and capture by them meant years of slavery until the family at home had borrowed enough money to set their poor cousin free.’ (Hendrik Willem van Loon, The Home of Mankind, 1933)

Other humanitarian campaigns

Prison reform: John Howard (1726-90) & Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845); the prison reform movement started with John Howard's The State of the Prisons in England and Wales of 1777, which depicted prisons as ghastly sumps of insanitary and tormenting misery, operating within a harsh penal code; Elizabeth Fry’s extensive travels on the Continent led to prison improvements there too

'Jeremy Bentham published a prison design which he called the 'panopticon', in which prisoners in separate cells on different landings could all be watched from a central point. Modified versions of this idea were put into practice in many Victorian prisons, starting with London's Pentonville in 1842.' (Bamber Gascoigne, Encyclopedia of Britain, 1993)

Custodial sentences were first introduced in 983 in Britain under King Alfred for breaking a pledge; prisoners were fed by relatives unless there were none [Source: Robertson/Shell; see Alfred the Great]

Education: the Sunday School movement was started by Robert Raikes in 1781, teaching children from pin factories in Gloucester to read and write on their day off; it eventually provided the template for Britain’s compulsory state education system; the Sunday School movement spread internationally

Working & living conditions: Lord Shaftesbury (1801-85) helped bring in the Factory Acts of 1847 and 1853; he was particularly concerned to improve the lot of poor children, in which capacity he became known as the Prince of Philanthropists; he helped abolish the use of children in coal mining and the practice of sending small boys up chimneys to clean them; by these and other measures Lord Shaftesbury did more for children than any statesman of his or any age

'Lord Shaftesbury's indignant revelations were the beginning of what became an ineluctable belief that it was morally wrong to wear out children in factories; by the end of the century compulsory elementary education at last brought child labour to a close.' (Rebecca Fraser, The Story of Britain, 2003)

By removing children from the workplace and making education compulsory, it can be said that the Victorians invented childhood

'He [Lord Shaftesbury] was the prince of do-gooders... Tall, pale and cold-looking, he had a heart which bled for those of lesser fortune than himself, which included practically everyone, but particularly for the most lowly and oppressed of his fellow creatures. He went where no English gentleman had been before him, to the worst slums and foulest factories, down mines and into prisons and lunatic asylums, noting every class of misery, cruelty and injustice, ascertaining their causes, and then proceeding with cool determination to have them remedied... he entered the House of Commons in 1826 and started his life's work of reforming and humanizing the nation. His enormous influence behind the scenes and close friendship with the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, who was his stepfather-in-law, contributed to his spectacular success in cleaning up early modern Britain. He promoted most of the reformist legislation of his time, including the acts which regulated conditions in factories, mines and collieries, the treatment of lunatics and criminals and the standard of working people's dwellings. Children were his special concern. Having delivered them from industrial slavery he set about educating them, founding schools for the poor, institutions for their training, young men's Christian associations and the like. From the abolition of slavery to the prevention of cruelty to animals most of the good causes he adopted had some success, and he became widely loved and trusted.' (John Michell, Eccentric Lives and Peculiar Notions, 1984)

Working and living conditions were also a great concern of Robert Owen (1771-1858), industrialist, reformer, utopian socialist and founder of the cooperative movement; he opened the country's first infant school in 1816, at the model community he establised at New Lanark on the Clyde; other important social reformers were Henry Mayhew (1812-87), who campaigned to help the poor, & Octavia Hill (1838-1912), renowned for her work on social housing [see also National Trust]

Poor Law reform & improvements in sanitary conditions & public health: Edwin Chadwick (1800-90)

'In 1848 under the Public Health Act backed by Lord Shaftesbury, Sir Edwin Chadwick set up the Board of Health, which had powers to overrule local authorities. Towns thrust up by the industrial revolution were forced to put in proper buried sewerage systems, replacing the shallow troughs which had run down streets since the middle ages. Life expectancy in such towns, which had been up to 50 per cent less than in the countryside, rose dramatically as a result.' (Rebecca Fraser, The Story of Britain, 2003)

Medical care of soldiers & others: see Hospitals & Nursing; Thomas Wakley (1795-1862) founded The Lancet in 1823, to 'let in light' on medical practice; it remains one of the world's premier medical journals

Family planning: Marie Stopes (1880-1958); Marie Stopes International operates in 38 countries around the world

Children: it has been said that by taking children out of oppressive working and living conditions Lord Shaftesbury did more for children than any statesman of his or any age [see Working conditions]; Thomas John Barnardo (1845-1905) founded homes for poor children; the first 'Dr Barnardo's Home' was set up in London in 1870

'The philanthropist Thomas Coram (c.1668-1751) established the London Foundling Hospital in Lamb's Conduit Street in Bloomsbury. It was the world's first incorporated charity - and a precursor of the homes for destitute children opened in London by the Dublin-born son of a Jewish immigrant from Prussia, Thomas Barnardo (1845-1905) in 1870.' [Source: Sykes]

Famine relief

- Band Aid, 1984; charitable fundraising via sales of the song Do They Know It’s Christmas?

- Live Aid, 1985; multi-venue charity rock concert

- Comic Relief, 1985; runs an annual Red Nose Day; 3.8m plastic clown noses were distributed in aid of Comic Relief on the first-ever Red Nose Day, which was on 5 November 1988 [Source: Robertson/Shell]; red noses are now sold in a number of countries each year to raise money for the starving and others in need

Innovative organisations

Royal Society for the Preservation of Animals: the RSPCA was founded in 1824, one of many innovative organisations founded in that century; the RSPCA is the world’s oldest and largest animal-welfare group; among the RSPCA’s founders was William Wilberforce, famous for campaigning for the abolition of slavery; Britain enacted the world’s first animal-welfare legislation in 1822

Police force: the Metropolitan Police was the world's first modern police force; it was set up in London in 1829 by Home Secretary Robert Peel, who is thus the founder of modern policing; this was a recognition of the need to protect in an organised way the law-abiding citizenry of burgeoning industrial conurbations from anonymous miscreants; the key to effective policing, Peel said, was that “the police are the people and the people are the police”; Peel was the son of a textile mill owner and knew working people well and did not fear their revolutionary tendencies; by around 1840 each county in Britain had established its own police force; public order in medieval times had been the responsibility of the high sheriff of each county, with parish constables at local level bringing offenders before the justice of the peace, sometimes after a general pursuit involving a 'hue and cry'

'By not arming the police, Peel silenced the old objections to a professional police force becoming the instruments of tyranny they were held to be abroad... The new constables became so popular that they got the nickname they retained until very recently of Peelers and Bobbies, after their creator Robert Peel.' (Rebecca Fraser, The Story of Britain, 2003)

'It was London's "Met" on which the earlier police departments of the United States were modeled...' [Source: Robertson]

YMCA: George Williams, 1844; now has 124 national federations worldwide

Salvation Army: founded in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth, to promote the Christian message and give succour to the poor and needy; it now operates in 118 countries; the Salvation Army originated with a revival meeting held by William Booth at Whitechapel Burial Ground, London

Mothers’ Union: founded by Mary Sumner in 1876; works to strengthen marriage and the family; the Mothers’ Union is now a worldwide Anglican movement, across 78 countries; Mary Sumner’s personal prayer asks that “All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for thee…”

St John Ambulance: this first aid organisation was founded in Britain in 1877;  there are now 39 national organisation around the world, with some 250,000 members; the headquarters are in London

Boys' Brigade: Christian youth organisation founded by William Alexander Smith in 1883; operates in scores of countries, having hundreds of thousands of members

Scout Movement: founded in 1908 by Robert Baden-Powell, hero of the Siege of Mafeking, 1899-1900, during the Boer War; his Scouting for Boys of 1908 is an all-time bestseller; Baden-Powell’s younger sister Agnes founded the Girl Guides in 1909 and they celebrated their centenary in 2009; Baden-Powell it was though who founded the Brownies, for younger girls, having set up the Cub Scouts for younger boys; older girls can become Ranger Guides, while older boys can become Rover Scouts; in 2007 there were 38 million members in 216 countries; in Britain nearly half the female population has been involved with the Brownies and Guides at some time during their lives

Save the Children: founded by Eglantyne Jebb in 1919, in the aftermath of the First World War; her thinking was the ultimate inspiration behind the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Mountain rescue: in the UK this grew from the mountaineering clubs, which started to form in the latter half of the 1800s, with any officially organised, coordinated rescue service only emerging in the late 1920s, when the increase in accidents prompted the eventual formation in 1936 of the Mountain Rescue Committee (http://www.mountain.rescue.org.uk/history); a pragmatic admonition from English Mountain Rescue is 'Be prepared to turn back if conditions turn against you'

Cheshire Homes: founded in 1948 by Leonard Cheshire as residential homes for ex-servicemen; by the 1990s there were 270 homes in 49 countries; the charity is now styled Leonard Cheshire Disability

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament: 1957; the organised rejection of nuclear weapons started in Britain; the circular CND symbol, with an upward vertical radius and three downwardly pointing radii, became an international peace symbol: it is based on the semaphore symbols for N and D, as in ‘Nuclear Disarmament’; it was designed by Gerald Holtum in 1958

Samaritans: founded in 1953 by Chad Varah (1911-2007): this the world’s largest national suicide-prevention service and is based on helplines; it has an increasingly internationa outreach

Hospice Movement: Cicily Saunders (1918-2005) instigated this contribution to global TLC, laying down the principles in the 1950s; in 1967 she opened St Christopher’s Hospice, the world’s first purpose-built hospice; hospices give palliative care and compassionate support to the terminally ill; they have been established all round the world; Cicely Saunders died in 2005 of cancer at the age of 87; her last days were spent in the hospice she herself had founded; according to The Economist of 17 July 2010, of 40 countries surveyed Britain was rated the best place in which to die, partly because of the availability of hospice care

Amnesty International: founded in 1961 by Peter Benenson (1921-2005); Amnesty is a human rights, freedom and justice organisation with a particular focus on political prisoners; it harries errant governments, especially those resorting to torture, usually with letter-writing campaigns

World Wide Fund for Nature: founded in 1961 by Julian Huxley and Max Nicolson to promote conservation globally; the WWF logo was based on Chi Chi, a panda at London Zoo; it was drawn by environmentalist and artist Peter Scott

Compassion in World Farming: Peter Roberts, 1967; campaigns against factory farming; has branches around the world

Chiswick Family Refuge: this was the world’s first refuge from domestic violence; the first shelter was established by Erin Pizzey in 1971

Cochrane Collaboration: founded by Ian Chalmers in 1993 and inspired by Archie Cochrane; evidence-based medicine; over 10,000 volunteers in 90 countries systematically review the results of randomized clinical trials to determine the best treatments

One Young World is a London-based charity founded in 2009 by David Jones & Kate Robertson to bring young people of the world together, to foster positive change; the inaugural annual summit took place in London in 2010

For those in peril on the sea
Britain's record of pioneering in maritime life-saving is second to none; the context for this are thousands of miles of coastline, around which are strewn an estimated quarter of a million wrecks, a maritime history going back 4,000 years and probably far longer and the English Channel, which is the world's busiest sea lane [see Coastline & English Channel]

The Marine Society: this was the world’s first seafarers’ charity, founded in 1756 by Jonas Hanway (1712-86), to help young men prepare for a life at sea; it still operates today

Lifeboat: Original of South Shields was the first purpose-built lifeboat, 1790; this 28 foot rowing boat with a crew of 12 and cork for additional buoyancy had been built by Henry Gateshead; it was first tested on the Tyne; an inspiring model of heroic fortitude is offered by men prepared to row out into heavy seas, often in foul weather, sometimes at night, to pluck endangered souls to safety; Original was the most important development ever in sea rescue; self-righting and self-baling lifeboats followed in the mid-1800s, as further examples of British pioneering

RNLI: the Royal National Lifeboat Institution was founded in 1824, as the world’s first national lifeboat service; it operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; about 140,000 lives have been saved so far; Winston Churchill said that “Its spirit drives on with a mercy that does not quail in the presence of death.”

Part of The National CV Group's database:
an old tea towel, showing the RNLI's history
to 1999, its first 175 years

Grace Darling: herione of history’s most famous lifeboat rescue, 1838; Grace Darling (1815-42) and her father rowed out in mountainous seas through a violent storm to save seven seafarers from certain drowning

“Women and children first!”: this was first shouted on the sinking HMS Birkenhead, 1852, amidst heroic scenes of manly self-restraint; this gallant protocol has been adopted worldwide

Lifejacket: invention credited to Captain Ward of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, 1854, for a cork buoyancy vest

Plimsoll line: ship maximum loading line, 1876, as advocated by Samuel Plimsoll (1825-98); this is still marked on every cargo ship worldwide to this day; some ship owners previously were careless of mariner’s lives because of insurance if the vessel was lost; the item of footwear was also named after Plimsoll

Lifeboat Saturday: Manchester, 1891, 8 October; this is believed to have been the world’s first street charity collection; behind it was Charles Macara

Use of radio: the first radio distress signal was sent in March 1899 by the East Goodwin Lightship, on behalf of the merchant vessel Elbe, which had run aground; the next month the East Goodwin Lightship became the first vessel to radio a distress signal on its own account when it was rammed by SS R.F.Matthews [Source: Robertson]

"Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!": this internationally recognised vocal signal used over the radio by yachts and aircraft in distress was originated in 1923 by Frederick Mockford, who worked at Croydon Aerodrome near London

'...Mockford proposed "Mayday" as a transliteration of the French m'aidez or "help me". In neither language does this phrase carry a sense of extreme urgency, though repeated three times, as is customary, and usually in tones of strangulated terror, it does.' [Source: Robertson]

International Maritime Organisation: part of the United Nations, the IMO, founded in 1959, is based in London

Chronology of sea rescue firsts & other milestones: [Main source: Robertson/Shell]

1756 – The Marine Society, world’s first seafarers’ charity [see above]

1776 – The first lifeboat station in the modern era was established at Formby, Lancashire, by William Hutchinson

1785 – Lifeboat patented by London coachbuilder Lionel Lukin; his ideas – cork in water-tight chambers for buoyancy, cast-iron keel to keep the vessel upright – were applied to a converted coble at Bamburgh, Northumberland; a lifeboat station was established there by John Sharp, in 1786, with a Lukin lifeboat

1790 – Original; world's first purpose-built lifeboat [see above]

1808 – Breeches buoy: invented by Admiral Kisby; first used to rescue 7 seamen from Plymouth brig Elizabeth wrecked off Great Yarmouth

1824 – RNLI founded [see above]

1824 – Lifejacket, inflatable rubber: ordered from Charles Macinstosh of Glasgow, by John Franklin; a lifejacket in the form of a cork buoyancy vest was developed in 1854 by Captain Ward of the RNLI; cork jackets may have been worn on Original [see above]

1838 – Grace Darling’s heroism [see above]

1848 – Lifebelt (circular cork); invented by Mr Carte, Ordnance storekeeper at Hull, Yorks

1851 – Self-righting [SR] lifeboat; built by James Beeching of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk; stationed at Ramsgate, Kent

1852 – “Women and children first!” [see above]

1876 – Plimsoll line [see above]

1890 – Power lifeboat; steam-driven Duke of Northumberland, stationed Harwich, Essex

1891 – Lifeboat Saturday [see above]


1899 – First radio distress signal [see above]

1909 – Motor lifeboat (purpose-built); SR Lifeboat No. 561, stationed Stromness, Orkney

1923 – Mayday signal [see above]

1932 – Diesel lifeboat; Yarmouth, Isle of Wight

1959 – International Maritime Organisation [see above]

1987 – Underwater lifeboat; totally enclosed craft designed to rescue up to 18 divers at a time; able to operate at depths of 1,450 feet; the vessel was manufactured by Offshore Marine, Aldridge, Staffs


Rescued from the flames [Source: Robertson/Shell]

Fire engine with continuous jet of water: early fire engines in Britain and overseas comprised a lever-operated squirt mounted on a wheeled carriage; the breakthrough came in Britain

'The first fire-engine to incorporate an air vessel (i.e. capable of discharging a continuous jet of water) was patented by Nicholas Mandell and John  Grey of London in 1712. An advertisement in the Post Boy in 1715 asserted: ‘This engine throws up water in a continuous stream, which by a leather pipe may be directed to any room or part of a
house.’ ' [Source: Robertson/Shell]

Fire extinguisher: this practical modern life saver was invented by George Manby in 1816


Respirator: John Roberts awarded silver medal and 50 guineas by Society of Arts for 'apparatus to enable persons to breathe in thick smoke, or in air loaded with suffocating vapours'.

Steam-operated fire engine: 1830; designed by John Braithwaite; first used at Argyle Rooms fire, Charles Street, London in the same year

First full-time fire brigade: London 1833

Fire-hydrant (ball-valve): introduced in Warrington, Lancashire, 1848


Sprinkler system (fire prevention): the first was installed at the Edinburgh Rubber Works in 1881

Fire appliance, turntable ladder: built by John Morris & Sons for Manchester Fire Brigade,1904

Other humanitarian matters

Jane Austen: her novels depict an early 1800s English society based on a unique combination of the pursuit of pleasure and politeness to all, which amounted to an inspiring social invention in its own right

Humphry Davy: in 1816 he invented the Davy safety lamp, which was designed to alert miners to the presence of dangerous fumes; manufactured by John Newman of London, the safety lamp was tested successfully in a coal mine, Hebburn Colliery [Source: Robertson/Shell]; the lives of miners are always hard; the Davy lamp made these lives less lethal 

Friendly societies: ‘In the 19th century two men planted the seeds of the Friendly Society, an astonishing phenomenon in Britain, America and Canada. Thousands of local Friendly Societies served in insurance and safety nets for millions of people in case of illness, unemployment or death.’ (Catherine Glass & David Abott, Share the Inheritance, 2010)

Luddites: fearing for their jobs as textile workers, the Luddites of the early 1800s, led by Ned Ludd, smashed mechanical looms; Ludd, sometimes described as a village idiot, though more likely a fictional ‘front’ character concocted to hide the identities of the real agitators, is the patron saint of technophobes worldwide

Trade unions: this is the concept of workers banding together for mutual protection; the first recognised trade union was founded in 1667 by journeymen hatters in London; this group also established the first recorded strike fund in 1696 and became the first recorded national trade union in 1771, calling itself the Journeymen Hatters’ Trade Union [Source: Robertson/Shell]; trade unionism had also been pioneered in Newcastle in the 1690s; unions were legally recognised in Britain in 1824, which was earlier than in any other country; the world’s first national gathering of trades unions was the Trades Union Congress in Manchester of 1868 [Source: Robertson/Shell]

Professional civil service: the entrance examination system of reforming civil servant Charles Trevelyan (1807-86) ended 'jobs for the boys'; he is regarded as the founder of the modern British civil service, with its reputation for political impartiality and incorruptibility

Municipal socialism: this late-1800s phenomenon was especially associated with Birmingham businessman and later national politician Joe Chamberlain (1836-1914); of an earlier vintage in the Birmingham of the 1840s was George Dawson (1821-76), who urged high ethical standards and said "Remember, reform delayed is revolution begun"

Welfare state: William Beveridge (1879-1963) provided the basis in 1940s Britain for the modern welfare state, speaking of slaying ‘the evil giant of Want’; the population would be looked after from 'the cradle to the grave': the first pension scheme recorded in Britain was that established in 1375 by the Guild of St James: 

'If any brotherhood falls into such mischief that he hath naught for his old age…every week after he shall have of this common box 13 pence for the term of his life.' [Source: Robertson/Shell]

The first coherent step towards a social security system was the Poor Law Act of 1601, whereby each parish became responsible for its own poor; the first state pension was introduced by Prussia in 1889; Britain followed suit in 1908, with Lloyd George gaining five shillings a week for men who had reached 70; the National Insurance Act followed in 1911

'They were the greatest innovations of the Liberal government and they were driven through the Commons and the Lords by the energy and conviction of of Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.' (Rebecca Fraser, The Story of Britain, 2003)

The National Health Service (NHS) came into being in 1946, offering free medical treatment for all; the first national health system in the world had been introduced in 1818 in the Duchy of Nassau [Source: Robertson/Shell]; the chief architect of Britain’s NHS was Aneurin Bevan, minister of health 1945-51

British amateur: justly famed for doggedness and meticulous rigour, as well as humanitarian ardour:

'Almost the entire socal order of the country arose from private initiatives. Schools, colleges and universities; municipalities, hospitals, theatres; festivals and even the army regiments, all tell the same story: some public-spirited amateur, raising funds, setting out principles, acquiring premises, and then bequeathing his [or her] achievement to trustees or to the Crown… Their attitude to officialdom reflected their conviction that, if something needs doing, then the person to do it is you.' (Roger Scruton, England, An Elegy, 2000)

© The National CV Group 2013
All Rights Reserved



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