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Kate Meehan
Sex, Drugs and Cabaret
December 5, 2011

CASE STUDIES OF THE URBAN POOR:
SCIENTIFIC RACISM AND THE STUDY OF PAUPERISM
IN LATE VICTORIAN ENGLAND


There is no doubt that the London of the 19
th
century was bitterly divided along
class lines. As in many urban cities, Londons poor congregated in small areas near their
workplaces, and the creation of the St. Katharine Docks in 1827 and the Central London
Railway Termini in 1875 encroached into what little space the poor were allotted,
increasing density and exacerbating sanitation problems in the poorer districts on the
citys East End. A series of riots in the late 1860s, lead primarily by the unemployed
poor and inspired by socialists, nurtured resentment among some of the upper class. One
Parliamentary member went so far as to say it was bad taste [for] people to parade their
insolent starvation in the face of the rich and trading portions of the town. They should
have starved in their garrets.
1
Despite the best efforts of various humanitarians and their
societies, this sentiment lingered into the 20
th
century, and was supported by questionable
developments in evolutionary science. For the next forty years, the language used in
discussing the poor underscored the perception that their economic hardships were linked
to deficiencies in genetics and moral character, and efforts to the contrary only managed
to support the theory. Using contemporary documentation of the time period, this paper
seeks to analyze the impact of scientific racism on the language choices made when
discussing the mounting sanitary, moral and labor issues surrounding the lower class
districts in British metropolises, with an emphasis on London.

1
Walkowitz, Judith R. City of Dreadful Delight. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, pp. 29
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Upper class distaste for the poor was certainly not unique to Victorian London,
but with the help of burgeoning sciences, namely Anthropology and Ethnology, the
British upper class was granted methods to scientifically categorize the poors inferiority.
The Ethnological Society of London was founded in 1843 as a splinter of the Aborigines
Protection Society, organized by Quakers
2
. By 1863, the organizations resolute rejection
of scientific racism caused a number of individuals to depart the organization to form The
Anthropological Society of London, created expressly to demonstrate that certain races
were biologically inferior to others, and wrote scientific letters of support for continued
enslavement of African Americans on behalf of the Confederate Army during the
American Civil War. In his introductory address, organizational president James Hunt
3

said: We should always remember, that by whatever means the Negro, for instance,
acquired his present physical, mental and moral nature which the races of Africa have not
got. The difference between the European and African is not so great physically as it
is mentally and morally.
4

5

Giving credence to the position of hereditary inferiority and exemplifying the
scientific schism was the work of Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin and noted
polymath,
6
whose Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into its Laws and Consequences (1869)
attempted to scientifically quantify the notion of hereditary intellectual superiority. His

2
Based on meeting notes, the organization was generally liberal, and supported the work of Charles Darwin. They also
rejected the notion of cultural superiority, and worked to end slavery.
3
Hunts 1863 paper, On the Negros Place in Nature, provides a number of pseudo-scientific reasons for which the
African American must remain enslaved to prevent their barbarism. When the paper was read to the British Academy
for Advancement of Science, he was booed by his peers.
4
Anthropological Society of London. The Anthropological Review. London: Trubner and Co., 1863, P. 3.
5
A series of incidents contributed to the decline of the Anthropological Society. In 1868, Hunt was accused of fiscal
impropriety, causing him to temporarily step down from his office. His accuser was removed from the organization,
and a number of individuals left in protest. The individuals remaining were primarily Hunt loyalists, and more of them
left after Hunts death in 1869. The remaining members were absorbed by the Ethnological Society of London in 1871,
and the groups name was changed to the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, which was changed to
the Royal Anthropological Institute in 1906, which is still around today.
6
Galton made significant contributions to the fields of statistics, psychology, and biology, along with the introduction
of fingerprints as a criminology method and the production of the first weather maps.
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fulfillment of a number of offices in the British Association for the Advancement of
Science (including the posts of General Secretary and president of the Geographical and
Anthropological sections), and contributions to other fields gave him an excellent
reputation as a scientist. The fact that he was related to Darwin lent credibility to his leap
in reasoning, despite Darwins efforts to distance himself from scientific racism and work
as an abolitionist. In 1883, he coined the term Eugenics for methods of improving the
genetic quality of races, either by compelling those of good genetic quality to breed, or
eliminating the ability of those of bad genetic quality to do so. The qualifiers for good
genetics included the propensity for a culture to produce a large number of scientists,
artists and statesmen (arguably all fields which naturally exclude a population with
limited educational and financial resources), and noted that the English upper classes
were, by this definition, exemplary. He recognized the increasing size of poor families in
contrast with the decreasing size of English upper class households, and determined that
intellect and infertility were closely linked. Using this logic, it was posited that those
who produce large families are genetically inferior, and were inundating the populace
with intellectually inferior genes. His writings influenced the theory and practice of
eugenics in Great Britain as a class-based, rather than race-based
7
, issue.
While this scientific debate was unfolding, the attention of the literate masses was
captured by books, journals and articles relating to the great African expeditions of
Livingstone (and later, Stanley) which seemed in regular circulation for much of the latter
half of the century. Livingstone in particular became a symbol of upper class British
patriotism and masculinity, his face sculpted into umbrella handles and gracing

7
In the United States, Eugenics was typically framed racially.
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matchbook covers, cheap engravings and various other curios.
8
Livingstones book,
Missionary Travels, sold 70,000 copies upon its publication in 1857. Capitalizing on the
romanticized ideal of the British Explorer (fueled, no doubt, by the earnest colonization
of Africa by European powers at the same time), the Royal Geographical Society
coordinated with the Anthropological Institute to develop a new anthropological
questionnaire in 1872 that was sent with the explorers and afterwards revised and
circulated in earnest among scientists of all disciplines, travelers, and individuals living in
newly colonized areas, and both societies, along with the BAAS, held open seminars for
gentlemen wishing to be trained in the collection of anthropological data.
9

Clearly not all of the enthusiastic amateur anthropologists had the resources to
match the desire of becoming intrepid explorers to rival Livingstone. While the upper
classes brought their questionnaires to exotic locations, the middle class had to look
closer to home to find such adventure. By the early 1860s, individuals of various
backgrounds began forays into the underbelly of urban Britain in an effort to study its
poor and vagrant population. This trend continued through the end of the century. While
the term sociology was in use, it was not formally organized as a science until 1895.
Prior to this date, social analysis was the domain of the philosophers and economists.
Regardless of the political ends of the studies conducted of the urban poor (primarily by
upper middle class individuals using anthropological or statistical methodology), each
one produced more fuel for the fears of British degeneration and supported (inadvertently
or not) theories of scientific racism.

8
Pettitt, Clare. Dr Livingstone, I presume?: missionaries, journalists, explorers and empire. London: Profile Books
LTD, 2007, pp. 36.
9
Urry, James. "Notes and Queries on Anthropology and the Development of Field Methods in British Anthropology,
1870-1920." Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 1972: pp. 45-57, P 46.
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The poor, in addition to being conveniently proximal, had been a source of
polarized debate since the Industrial Revolution began. For many conservatives, the
matter of the poor had been settled with the passage of the Poor Law, passed in 1834,
which provided means to assist the poor who were unable to work and workhouses for
those who were unable to fend for themselves in the urban wild. The common
conservative assumption was that the root cause of urban destitution was laziness and
alcoholism, and without careful screening, the poor would take advantage of the
generosity of the upper classes. In contrast, many of the liberal middle class sought to
expose the selfish nature of capitalism, and used the conditions of urban slums and
workplace practices to push for reform.
Regardless of position, both sides had ample political reason to expose the
lifestyle of the urban pauper, and the methodology presented by anthropology lent
scientific weight to their publications. By framing any narrative as explorative or
scientific, authors of either political ideology were able to piggy-back on the popularity
of natural history to bolster readership. However, across all socio-political motives, the
language of scientific racism is embedded in their reports. For example, a number of
documents otherwise regarding the poor as unfortunate products of circumstance
compare the treatment of the poor to the treatment of animals (typically dogs or horses),
without drawing any real distinction between the two.
The very study of people and cultures, particularly between 1860 and 1930, when
social and medical sciences were applying the theory of evolution with a liberal hand,
had a natural tendency towards scientific racism. The act of studying another culture or
people, whether at home or abroad, implies a recognition of the subject as other, if not
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setting the observer in a position of superiority. Like the flneurs of Paris, the act of
observation placed all power in the eyes of the observer. As the middle and upper classes
conducted their studies, deviation from their notably decadent creature comforts was
frequently evidence of primitive behavior. It was common for these differences to be
attributed to an inferiority of culture or race.
One of the earliest journalists to investigate the urban poor was Henry Mayhew,
co-founder of Punch, a popular conservative satirical magazine. His major work, London
Labour and the London Poor, was published in three volumes in 1861, and went into
such detail about the habits of the urban poor it could easily be misinterpreted as an
anthropological study, rather than a journalistic expose of the urban underground. In his
preface, he stated that the collected works would be considered curios [sic] as being the
first attempt to publish the history of a people, from the lips of the people themselves
giving a literal description of their labour, their earnings, their trials, and their sufferings,
in their own unvarnished language.
10
The document, which goes into painstaking
detail on the habits of every sort of industry in which London paupers might be engaged
(including estimates on the number of oysters purchased from street vendors and
estimating the volume of shells discarded as rubbish on London streets), served as a tool
for many upper class fiction writers including paupers in their works of fiction.
The first chapter of the first volume, titled The Street Folk, begins with a
description of three types of people: the hunters and savage inhabitants of forests,
characterized by their prolongation or extension forward of the jaws; nomadic
herdsman, with broad lozenge-shaped faces; and the civilized races, whose heads are

10
Mayhew, Henry. London Labor and the London Poor; a Cyclopaedia of the Condition and Earnings of
Those that WILL Work, Those that CANNOT Work, and Those that WILL NOT work. London: Griffin,
Bohn and Company: 1861, pp xvii.
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termed oval or elliptical. In addition to their various head shapes, nomads and savages
are said to have more ample expansion of the organs subservient to sensation and the
animal facilities, whereas more civilized cultures demonstrated greater relative
development of the bones of the skull indicating a greater expansion of the brain,
and consequently of the intellectual faculties.
11
Further discussion involving reports
from African explorers concluded that attached to each civilized tribe there is generally
a wandering horde attached, and that this wandering horde frequently had a different
language adopted with the intent of concealing their designs and exploits from them.
12

The conclusion, then, was that the urban poor were just such a wandering horde,
attached to the civilized English tribe. Mayhew was then able to assign the following to
this newly-discovered wandering horde residing in London:
The nomad then is distinguished from the civilized man by his
repugnance to regular and continuous labor - his inability to perceive
consequences ever so slightly removed from immediate apprehension -
by his passion for stupefying herbs and roots, and, when possible, for
intoxicating fermented liquors by his extraordinary powers of enduring
privation by his comparative insensibility to pain by an immoderate
love of gaming - by his love of libidinous dances by the pleasure he
experiences in witnessing the suffering of sentient creatures by his
delight in warfare and all perilous sports by his desire for vengeance
by the looseness of his notions as to property by the absence of
chastity among his women, and his disregard of female honour and
lastly, by his vague sense of religion.
13


Among these nomads and vagabonds were included people who travel from
city to city as well as people who traveled during their labors. Pickpockets, street
salesmen, street performers, and coachmen were all included in this race of people,
moving from place to place preying upon the earnings of the more industrious portion of

11
Ibid, pp xix.
12
Ibid, pp xx.
13
Ibid, pp xx.
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the community.
14
Mayhew pointed out that these individuals all bore the characteristics
previously mentioned of the nomad race, but Whether it be that in the mere act of
wandering, there is a greater determination of blood to the surface of the body, and
consequently a less quantity sent to the brain, the muscles being thus nourished at the
expense of the mind, I leave the physiologists to say.
15

The intent of the document is clear: the lower classes are represented as a
parasitic other, with no discussion on class mobility. The broadness with which this
separate race is categorized lumps any individual participating in physical labor or street-
selling as part of this inferior tribe. No solutions are provided for their poverty or lack of
education: both are presented as a part of the natural habits of the people studied.
By 1883, the process of categorizing the urban poor as a separate race had
solidified, and the notion of domestic exploration was clearly still in vogue. In George
Robert Sims
16
How the Poor Live, he introduces the document as a book of travel.
An author and an artist have gone hand in hand into many a far-off
region of the earth, and the result has been a volume eagerly studied by
the stay-at home public, anxious to know something of the world in
which they live. In these pages I propose to record the results of a
journey with pen and pencil into a region which lies at our own doors
into a dark continent that is within easy walking distance of the General
Post Office. This continent will, I hope, be found as interesting as any
of those newly-explored lands which engage the attention of the Royal
Geographical Society the wild races who inhabit it will, I trust, gain
public sympathy as easily as those savage tribes for whose benefit the
Missionary Societies never cease to appeal for funds.
17



14
Ibid, pp xx.
15
Ibid, pp xx.
16
Sims was editor of Punchs rival magazine, Fun. Sold for a penny, Fun was not as politically conservative as Punch,
but also not necessarily liberal.
17
Sims, George Robert. How the Poor Live. London: Chatto & Windus, 1883, pp. 5.

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His document provides a unique look at the London paupers, following a truancy
officer to homes with children who have missed school. His report of these visits, along
with reports of various cases presented to the Board requesting assistance or leniency,
provided an account of several families enduring various hardships alongside other
individuals with ulterior motives. The description of dwellings and the language used
throughout the document sheds the vocabulary of the objective and scientific, and
repeatedly appeals to British citizens to assist in the improvement of the lives of the
lower class. This mighty mob of famished, diseased and filthy helots is getting
dangerous, physically, morally, politically dangerous, he writes.
The barriers that have kept it back are rotten and giving way, and it may
do the State a mischief if it be not looked to in time. Its fevers and its
filth may spread to the homes of the wealthy; its lawless armies may
sally forth and give us a taste of the lesson the mob has tried to teach
now and again in Paris, when long years of neglect have done their
work.
18


By its end, the document urges a series of laws, including child labor laws,
building inspections and codes, and an increase in charity for children and women. The
overall tone of the document, despite its initial comparison to documentation of scientific
expeditions, reads more like agitative propaganda
19
in the guise of parlor novels.
Mayhews London Labor and Sims How the Poor Live, written by noted
journalists from the conservative and liberal ideologies, both demonstrate that the
depiction of the poor as other was not unique to either end of the political spectrum.
Both categorized the poor as filthy, amoral and dangerous, and the language used in each

18
Ibid, pp. 28-29.
19
The term agitative propaganda (typically shortened to agitprop) is specific to the arts, and references any
performed or printed material designed to incite the audience to act in desired ways. The method was most famously
employed by the Soviets after the Bolshevic Revolution, but the tactics had been in place for centuries. Many state-
sponsored art programs can qualify as agitative propaganda, and many fringe performances (including the Victorian
Punch and Judy shows and the productions of the San Francisco Mime Troupe in the 1920s) have an agitative slant.
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presented the lower classes as a separate race of people. Notable in London Labor is the
authors attempts to scientifically prove this notion through the use of scientific
observation clearly drawn from the circulated questionnaires of the anthropologists, and
complete lack of suggested reforms.
In contrast, How the Poor Live makes almost no use of the scientific methodology
in use, despite drawing overt parallels between Sims expedition to poorer districts and
the sensationalized adventures of explorers in Africa. His document relies more on
journalistic documentation, presenting stories of the lower class in the loose guise of case
study. Despite the lack of any scientific methodology, How the Poor Live makes a
number of recommendations to alleviate poverty. His document, alongside illustrations,
was sensational enough to inspire the Daily News (founded by Charles Dickens) to create
two ongoing columns Homes of the London Poor and Evenings with the Poor.
20

Even these columns, designed to bring greater awareness to the plight of the poor,
advocated that the poor lacked discipline and frequently commented on whether or not
tenants were behaving well.
21
The parallels to language used when discussing unruly
children are clear.
The introduction of Eugenics (coined the same year as How the Poor Lives
publication) presented a new solution to the problem of overcrowding in urban slums by
limiting the offspring of the urban poor.
22
The result would be three fold; alleviate the
overcrowding and resulting unsanitary conditions of the urban slums, limit the number of
individuals dependent on government assistance, and shift the balance of population back

20
Henson, Louise, Culture and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Media. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing
Company, 2004, pp. 227
21
Hill, Octavia. Homes of the London Poor: Four Years Management of a London Court, MacMillan
Magazine, 1883.
22
Ibid, pp. 227.
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to the valuable members of British society, who were supposedly more likely to
produce worthy citizens that contributed to the global prestige of the nation. While
How the Poor Live does not present this as an option, the frequency with which Sims
mentioned the size of families in small quarters did little to dampen the zeal with which
Eugenics was embraced.
The renewed focus on urban poor prompted a string of urban exposs (and
subsequent responses from learned men) filling the penny press, most of which were
written by charity workers urging donations or reform and journalists looking to boost
circulation with sensational stories. Of note in this category are The Bitter Cry of Outcast
London, written by Andrew Mearns, secretary of an internationally affiliated religious
organization, the London Congressional Union, in 1883; The Maiden Tribute of Modern
Babylon, written by journalist William Thomas Stead in 1885, which covered sexual
slavery among lower classes; and In Darkest England and the Way Out, by William
Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. It should be noted that, in the midst of these
publications, the Jack the Ripper murders took place, beginning in April of 1888, which
focused all eyes on the London slum of Whitechapel.
The late 1880s and 1890s saw major upheavals in industrial labor. A number of
large-scale strikes, including the London Match Girls Strike in 1888 and London Dock
Strike in 1889, focused the attention of the popular press on labor conditions. In
response, a new type of poor analysis was introduced, conducted by well-intentioned
employers concerned for the well-being of their employees. One of the most influential
of these was Charles Booths Life and Labour of the People in London. Charles
(unrelated to previously mentioned William Booth of the Salvation Army) was born to an
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upper middle class family based in Liverpool, and joined his brother in a prosperous hide
import-export business with American partners .
23
Throughout his early career, he made
it a point to investigate every element of the business, and in doing so spent a lot of time
with the tanners and dockworkers in his employ. He became very interested in the
welfare of his employees, and encouraged other businessmen to provide for the health
and wellbeing of their employees and their families.
Having always had acumen for numbers and statistics, it should be no surprise
that his report on the London poor consists of a thorough statistical analysis of their
living conditions. The report details each district in London, and quantifies density,
poverty, birth and death rates. It also created a classification system, based on income
and family size, to categorize levels of poverty. While previous studies had recognized
that some poor were better off than others, this study made an effort to both qualify and
quantify the poor.
His findings indicated that the poverty-stricken tended to have more children,
likely contributing to their financial stress:
Marriage is early for social or industrial reasons, and not, as a rule, on
account of recklessness, while the number of births follows almost
inevitably from physical causes, partly the vigour of youth and partly
the influence on physique. Mental characteristics and customary
habits tend in the same direction, and no reasonably possible exercise
of prudence can be expected to stand against the stream.
24


Interesting statistics in the report include the various necessities of the poorer
classes in foregoing marriage: Marriage lines are valued by some of the less
independent poor, for the sake of the charitable relief which the respectability thus

23
Stone, Richard. Some British Empiricists in the Social Sciences, 1650-1900. Cambridge: The Cambridge
University Press, 1997, pp 340.
24
Booth, Charles. Life and Labour of the People in London: Final Volume, Notes on Social Influences and
Conclusion. London: MacMillan and Co, Ltd, 1902, pp. 20.
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vouched for helps them secure. Additionally, he points out that in many cases, too, a
legal union is impossible, owing to a prior marriage of one or both parties. Wife
desertion is described as common, and it follows naturally that men and women pair off
again.
25

Much of the document deals with a general reduction in social vices among the
lower class, which had long been used to discredit any attempt to paint the lower classes
as victims of misfortune. Instead, Booth noted lack of skill training as one of the root
causes of poverty. The majority of those dealt with were quite willing to work, but were
hopeless, many of them demoralized by years of casual employment at the docks, the
reorganization of which may, perhaps, have been the cause of their being finally thrown
entirely out of work.
26

In relation to the previous studies, it is admirable that the study is based primarily
on statistics gathered from various government entities, unreliable as they may be, and
the use of individuals who work directly with the poor as a research tool is likely more
beneficial than the methodology used by previous urban explorers, as the longevity with
the population gave them better insight into long-term trends. Unfortunately, the act of
quantifying poverty alongside enormous families did little to dissuade proponents of
Eugenics that poverty and enormous families went hand in hand.
Building upon the blocks set forth in Booths Life and Labor of the People in
London, Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, the son of a Quaker chocolatier whose parents
were noted philanthropists, devised a similar report for his home city of York. Educated
as a chemist, he began a two year investigation into the urban poor, but capitalized on the

25
Ibid, pp. 42.
26
Ibid, pp. 84.
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smaller population to ensure a more accurate study. An active supporter of the Liberal
Party, Rowntree later advocated for a minimum wage and family allowances. His own
business practices reflected these ideals, as he firmly believed that healthy and well-fed
workers were the most efficient. The result of his study was Poverty, A Study in Town
Life, published in 1901.
27

His methodology for data collection included door to door surveys of lower
middle class and poor districts, alongside detailed ledgers of household expenditures
from a sample of homes. As a continuation of Booths work, Poverty allowed greater
insight into the ways in which the poor spent their meager earnings, and demonstrated
that the conditions described in London were not isolated to the metropolis. Of particular
note is the fact that this study utilized the cost of feeding individuals at the workhouses as
a base comparison for minimal nutritional requirements, and found that, in most cases,
most of the poor were malnourished even by those low standards.
These documents, Life and Labor and Poverty, were written with the goal of
improving the health and living conditions of the working class using a purely statistical
bent. Unfortunately, the continued reiteration of large families relating to poor standards
of living and overcrowding reinforced the notion that the race of the poor was
expanding unchecked. Life and Labor included discussions on mental capabilities,
customs and morality in relation to high numbers of births, serving to support Galtons
theory that the intellectually inferior were exceptionally fertile, and injecting their
communities with an abundance of deficient Englishmen. In Booths categorization of
the poor, those on the lowest tier (A) are described as savages, and those in the second-

27
Seebohm Rowntree. <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/RErowntreeS.htm> (accessed November 5, 2011).
Meehan / 15

lowest tier (B) are described as a deposit of those who from mental, moral and physical
reasons are incapable of better work. Even in a document whose aim is the betterment
of the poor, it is not until tier D that the poor are granted any notion of respectability,
essentially classifying 20% of the surveyed population as lazy semi-criminals.
Throughout the document, notations are made on a street by street basis of the character
of the inhabitants, and in the poorest districts, entire blocks are categorized as nearly
worthless, and the offspring of the denizens predicted wholesale as the next generation of
thieves. In 1901, Francis Galton presented a lecture in which he organized British classes
by social and genetic value. Categorized as undesirable were criminals and paupers,
and he advocated for limiting procreation among these individuals.
28
It is unsurprising
that the release of this recommendation coincided with the publication of the entirety of
Life and Labor (previously released serially), which offered precise numbers of
individuals living on the edge of starvation.
While support for scientific racism remained high until the 1940s (diminished
only as the revelation of the Holocaust made the notion of racial cleansing socially
distasteful), its language diminished in these urban reports towards the end of the 19
th

century, in part due to the organization of the Labor Party in 1892
29
and the crusades of
various Christian and womens charities to bring awareness of poverty to the upper
classes (whose efforts focused primarily on women and children).

28
This speech was given to the Smithsonian Institution, where Galton was speaking on behalf of the
Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. The speech was titled The Possible Improvement
of the Human Breed Under the Existing Conditions of Law and Sentiment. Subtitles included
Comparison of the Normal Classes with those of Mr. Booth, relating to the writings of Charles Booth
analyzed here, and Worth of Children, which quantified the value of a pauper child at 5.
29
A correlation may be made between the ascendency of the Labor Party and the fact that the legal practice
of Eugenics was not put into effect in Great Britain. While there is documentation of involuntary and
voluntary sterilization occurring in some mental institutions, all legal measures regarding Eugenics-based
sterilization were unable to pass Parliament, unlike the United States, where 33 states had Eugenics-based
sterilization laws on the books by 1933.
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In 1892, the Royal Commission on Labor held hearings attended by trade unions
who openly testified to the inadequacies of a number of Parliamentary measures to assist
the working poor, namely the Trades Union Acts of 1871 and 1876, the Factory and
Workshop Acts of 1878 and 1891, the Employers Liability Act of 1880, and the Shop
Hours Act of 1886.
30
In 1906, a sweated industrial exhibition was held, which caused
enough of an outcry to urge the Trade Boards to set minimum wages for affected
industries. In 1886, the Chamberlain Circular encouraged Local Governing Boards to
create work for the unemployed during times of economic crises to alleviate the pressure
on workhouses, a practice made national law in 1905 with the passage of the
Unemployed Workmens Act.
While it would be some years before a minimum wage was established, an
increasingly liberal government enacted a series of social services, including old age
pensions (1908) and national health and unemployment insurance (1911), that helped
alleviate the pressure on the Workhouses. These measures, alongside a number of other
laws and policies enacted between 1890 and 1920, virtually eliminated the festering
slums and desperate poverty associated with them. In the time that has passed since
scientific racism and Eugenics were common bastions in social commentary, recent
dialogue among the House of Lords relating to welfare funding and the current Occupy
Movement along with the recent nationwide strike of 30 trade unions make it
questionable whether or not the underlying beliefs of genetically inherited intellectual
superiority is truly gone.


30
Reid, J.H. Stewart. The Origins of the British Labour Party. Minneapolis: The Jones Press, Inc, 1955, pp. 71.
Meehan / 17

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