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Missing Paragraphs - (C2) Certificate of Proficiency in English

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The people who changed English Society

In the last decades of the 18th century, the losers seriously outnumbered the winners. Those who were fortunate enough to occupy the upper levels of society, celebrated their good fortune by living a hedonistic life of gambling, parties and alcohol. It was their moral right, they felt, to exploit the weak and the poor. Few of them thought their lives should change, even fewer believed it could.
But the decisive turning point for moral reform was the French revolution. John Bowlder, a popular moralist of the time, blamed the destruction of French society on a moral crisis. Edmund Burke, a Whig statesman agreed. 'When your fountain is choked up and polluted,' he wrote, 'the stream will not run long or clear.' If the English society did not reform, ruin would surely follow.
Englishmen were deeply afraid that the immorality of France would invade England. Taking advantage of this, Burke was able to gain considerable support by insisting that the French did not have the moral qualifications to be a civilised nation. He pronounced 'Better this island should be sunk to the bottom of the sea that then... it should not be a country of religion and morals.'
Sobering though these messages were, the aristocracy of the time was open to such reforms, not least due to fear. France's attempt to destroy their nobility did much to encourage the upper classes to examine and re-evaluate their own behaviour. Added to this was the arrival of French noble émigrés to British shores. As these people were dependent on the charity of the British aristocracy, it became paramount to amend morals and suppress all vices in order to uphold the state.
Whether the vices of the rich and titled stopped or were merely cloaked is open to question. But it is clear that by the turn of the century, a more circumspect society had emerged. Styles of dress became more moderate, and the former adornments of swords, buckles and powdered hair were no longer seen. There was a profusion of moral didactic literature available. Public hangings ceased and riots became much rarer.
One such person was Thomas Wackley who in 1823 founded a medical journal called 'the Lancet'. At this time, Medicine was still a profession reserved for the rich, and access to knowledge was impossible for the common man. The Lancet shone a bright light on the questionable practices undertaken in medicine and particularly in surgery, and finally led to improved standards of care.
How though did changes at the top affect the people at the bottom of the societal hierarchy? Not all reformers concerned themselves which changes at the authoritative and governmental levels. Others concentrated on improving the lives and morals of the poor. In the midst of the industrial revolution, the poorest in society were in dire straits. Many lived in slums and sanitation was poor. No-one wanted the responsibility of improvement.
Could local authorities impose such measures today? Probably not. Even so, the legacy of the moral reform of the late 1800s and 1900s lives on today. Because of it, the British have come to expect a system which is competent, fair to all and free from corruption. Nowadays everyone has a right to a home, access to education, and protection at work and in hospital. This is all down to the men and women who did not just observe society's ills from a distance, but who dared to take steps to change it.

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