Identify and discuss the most important changes in the class structure of British society, and in the relationship between social classes, during the period covered by the course. Show how these social changes—for example, the emergence of new classes, the decline of older ones--were related to the profound changes in the British economy during this period, paying particular attention to such factors as agricultural improvement, industrialization, population growth, technological innovation and urbanization.
he social structure of the United Kingdom has historically been highly influenced by the concept of social class, with the concept still affecting British society today.
British society, like its European neighbours and most societies in world history, was traditionally (before the Industrial Revolution) divided hierarchically within a system that involved the hereditary transmission of occupation, social status and political influence. Since the advent of industrialisation, this system has been in a constant state of revision, and new factors other than birth (for example, education) are now a greater part of creating identity in Britain.
Although definitions of social class in the United Kingdom vary and are highly controversial, most are influenced by factors of wealth, occupation and education. Until recently the Parliament of the United Kingdom was organised on a class basis, with the House of Lords representing the hereditary upper-class and the House of Commons representing everybody else. The British monarch is usually viewed as being at the top of the social class structure.
British society has experienced significant change since the Second World War, including an expansion of higher education and home ownership, a shift towards a service-dominated economy, mass immigration, a changing role for women and a more individualistic culture, and these changes have had a considerable impact on the social landscape.However, claims that the UK has become a classless society have frequently been met with scepticism.Research has shown that social status in the United Kingdom is influenced by, although separate from, social class.
World War I cartoon by Bruce Bairnsfather "The Growth of Democracy: Colonel Sir Valtravers Plantagenet gladly accepts a light, during a slight lull in a barrage, from a private in the Benin Rifles"
The biggest current study of social class in the United Kingdom is the Great British Class Survey.
Origin of the English Class System and its Development
In the medieval period a feudal system based on military organisation and landownership existed. Many historians argue that the English class system grew out of the feudal system. e denition of a class is a division or order of society according to status and economic power. Higher and lower orders were formerly used,and the phrasessuch as upper,middle andworking classeswhich are commonly used nowadays appear to be of quite modern introduction. Edward Royle argues that the actual language of ?class? began to be applied to social structures in the second half of the 18th century.The term ?middle class? has been dated from 1766. the expression ?working class? is dated at the earliest from 1789. 3 Until the 18th century, the social structure was more based on ?ranks? and ?orders?. Unlike the aristocracy, middle-class people were a numerically important sector of society, and during the Victorian period they became progressively infuential in power. they usually tried to distance themselves from working class life. On the other hand, new industrialists tended to aspire to be landowners in their manner of dress, eating and drinking habits. Marriages were often arranged to gain titles. Social class became a major issue in the 19th century and this lasted well into the 20th century.
EARLY MODERN :
The ranks ranged from baron to duke. The rules of succession were elaborate--usually the eldest son inherited the title and the wealth. When the male line expired, so too did the title (but the family kept the land). The peers were generally large land holders, often with a house in London. They sat in the House of Lords and often played a role in court, which was a very expensive undertaking subsidized by payoffs and corruption.Ireland and Scotland had entirely separate aristocracies; their nobles sat in their own parliaments but not in the English House of Lords.
EMERGENCE OF CLASSES :
1. Working class : Traditionally, these people would work as manual labourers. They would typically have left school as soon as legally permissible and not have been able to take part in higher education.[Many would go on to work semi-skilled and unskilled jobs on the assembly lines and machine shops of Britain's major car factories, steel mills, coal mines, foundriesand textile mills in the highly industrialised cities in the West Midlands, North of England, South Wales and the Scottish Lowlands.
2. Middle class :
A suburban street in Mill Hill, London, typical of middle-class housing
Lower middle class
The British lower middle-class primarily consists of office workers and their families living in less affluent suburbs. They are typically employed in relatively unskilled service industry jobs such as: retail sales, travel agents, factory and other industrial building owners and low level civil service jobs in local and regional government. Prior to the expansion in higher education from the 1960s onwards, members of this class generally did not have a university education.
3. Upper class:
The British "upper class" is statistically very small and consists of the peerage, gentry and hereditary landowners, among others. Those in possession of a hereditary peerage (but not a life peerage; for example, a dukedom, a marquessate, an earldom, a viscounty, or a barony/Scottish lord of parliament) are typically members of the upper class.
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION :
In a period loosely dated from the 1770s to the 1820s, Britain experienced an accelerated process of economic change that transformed a largely agrarian economy into the world's first industrial economy. This phenomenon is known as the "industrial revolution", since the changes were far-reaching and permanent throughout many areas of Britain, especially in the developing cities.
Economic, institutional, and social changes were fundamental to the emergence of the industrial revolution. Whereas absolutism remained the normal form of governance through most parts of Europe, in the UK a fundamental power balance was created after the revolutions of 1640 and 1688. The new institutional setup ensured property rights and political safety and thereby supported the emergence of an economically prosperous middle class. Another factor is the change in marriage patterns through this period. Marrying later allowed young people to acquire more education, thereby building up more human capital in the population. These changes enhanced the already relatively developed labour and financial markets, paving the way for the industrial revolution starting in the mid-18th century.
Great Britain provided the legal and cultural foundations that enabled entrepreneurs to pioneer the industrial revolution. Starting in the later part of the 18th century, there began a transition in parts of Great Britain's previously manual labour and draft-animal–based economy towards machine-based manufacturing. It started with the mechanisation of the textile industries, the development of iron-making techniques and the increased use of refined coal. Trade expansion was enabled by the introduction of canals, improved roads and railways. Factories pulled thousands from low productivity work in agriculture to high productivity urban jobs.
The introduction of steam power fuelled primarily by coal, wider utilisation of water wheels and powered machinery (mainly in textile manufacturing) underpinned the dramatic increases in production capacity. The development of all-metal machine tools in the first two decades of the 19th century facilitated the manufacture of more production machines for manufacturing in other industries. The effects spread throughout Western Europe and North America during the 19th century, eventually affecting most of the world, a process that continues as industrialisation.
FACTORS WHICH BENIFITED THE BRITISH ECONOMY WERE:-
1. Free trade
3. Foreign Trade
4. export of capital
21ST CENTURY :
n the Labour Party's second term in office, beginning in 2001, when it achieved another landslide victory, the party increased taxes and borrowing. The government wanted the money to increase spending on public services, notably the National Health Service, which they claimed was suffering from chronic under-funding. The economy shifted from manufacturing, which had been declining since the 1960s and grew on the back of the services and finance sectors, while the public sector continued to expand. The country was also at war with first Afghanistan, invading in 2001 and then Iraq, in 2003 - which proved controversial with the British public. Spending on both reached several billion pounds a year and the government's popularity began to slide, although it did manage to win a third general election under Blair in 2005 with a reduced majority. Blair stepped down two years later after a decade as prime minister to be succeeded by the former chancellor Gordon Brown, the change of leader coming at a time when Labour was starting to lag behind the Conservatives (led by David Cameron) in the opinion polls.
Conclusion In this article I have tried to analyse how the idea of class has changed over the years in England and has afected people?s lives. Although some sociologists argue that the class system no longer exists in England, almost all of my interviewees and respondents in my questionnaire stated that the class system is still very much alive, and on the whole they had a clear idea of which class they thought they belonged to. However, almost all of them felt that the barriers between classes, especially the gap between the middle and the working classes, are getting narrower, and also that the inuence of class is diminishing.