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Welfare State

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


A state in which the government provides social services, such as education, health, housing and insurance for sickness, unemployment and old age. Bismarck in the 1880s was an unlikely progenitor of the Welfare State with his State Socialism. In the first decade of the twentieth century his lead was followed by other countries such as New Zealand, when Richard Seddon was Prime Minister, and Uruguay, which Batlle y Ordóñez made into the first Welfare State in Latin America. In Britain some welfare services were provided in the nineteenth century by the state (compulsory elementary education from 1880) and others by local authorities (gas, water, electricity, sewerage, transport) but it was the Liberal governments of Campbell‐Bannerman (1905–8) and Asquith (1908–16) which first made a sustained effort to provide a range of social services which laid the basis of the Welfare State. The causes of poverty were attacked by setting up trade boards to deal with low pay in certain industries, by providing old age pensions, by labour exchanges, by unemployment and health insurance, to be paid for largely by graduated taxation. The New Liberalism rejected Gladstone's view of a minimalist state and sought more state intervention, as did the labour party , but up to 1939 welfare was largely restricted to the poor. During the Second World War an enlarged role for the state in providing welfare ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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