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Social Investigators of the 19th and 20th Centuries

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How effective were the social investigators of the 19th and 20th Centuries?

The purpose of the Social Investigators of the 19th and 20th centuries was to establish the true nature of poverty amongst the poor, hence reinforcing a change in society's perception of poverty. Even though the like of Charles Booth and Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree were the driving forces behind this pioneering research into social attitudes, it has to be said that other significant individuals were those who applied directly to the public, the novelist and artists. Charles Dickens had embarked in something revolutionary, using his work to expose the unjust of the poor, novels like 'Hard Time and 'Oliver Twist' showed the middle class and upper class audiences the life of those in workhouses.

The Social Investigators were desperate to discover the cause of poverty that had erupted within the British society during the early 19th century. The Social Investigators adopted various methods in order to collect the data required to identify the types of people driven into poverty and the conditions they have been forced to embark in, in order to survive daily. Many had been forced into poverty as result of unfortunate circumstances such as the Napoleonic wars, which saw trading between Britain and other European countries to cease, resulting in the inflation of food prices. Through researching into events like this the Social Investigators were able to assist in channelling a new perceptive into the narrow- minded middle and upper class society. The importance of this was, that by changing the attitudes of those most powerful in society they could influence change in the administration of the government, in how they were ensuring help for the poor.

Individuals like of Charles Booth appealed very effectively to changing the views of society, about poverty. Booth was a wealthy entrepreneur, whose social conscience drove him to investigate the nature of poverty. As other Social Investigators Charles Booth dismissed the ideology of the Charity Organisation Society (COS) that poverty was the fault of the poor themselves. Booth concentrated largely on the London area as the focal point of his investigation, into the nature of poverty. A key factor of his investigation was not simply to describe the conditions in which the poor lived; he wanted to explore the idea that there might be structural explanations for poverty, not just moral ones. Charles Booth's sincerity for the poor was not widely received, because like upper society, he had never truly witnessed poverty of it true nature and therefore was unable to fully identify with sitatuations felt by many.

Booth was very careful in how he presented his argument about the dynamics of poverty amongst much of Britain; he knew that by blaming the capitalist system itself for creating poverty was not a risk he could take upon himself. Charles Booths investigation took a staggering seventeen years to complete, in contrast to its intended three years. Within his investigation Booth ensured that his findings were regularly published, his team changed over the course of the investigation. Charles Booth was the driving force behind the investigation, his team included university educated individuals who understood the London area well. The purpose of this was that it allowed his investigation to have a wide-range of interpretations on the life of the capitals poorest. Booth and his team divided the population into classes in order to fundamentally understand the causes of poverty within certain sections of society. Through creating sub-classes within those already established, Booth and his team found that some 30.7 per cent of the population of London lived in poverty. In addition, it also exposed that cause of poverty amongst the poor was as result of insufiencent employment opportunities. The effectiveness of this research was that it gave

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