The Edwardian period has been named after King Edward VII who succeeded Queen Victoria in the year 1901. With the accession of King Edward on the throne, the glorious Victorian age of England came to a sharp end. Victorian age was a period of immense conservatism and mostly gender biases.
Typical of the Victorian age, Thomas Hardy‘s famous novel The Mayor of Casterbridge talks in detail about these biases. It talks about how women always assumed a subordinate position in the society. The class system and the division between the Elites and the working class was not less than a gulf.
Class system in Edwardian period society
The Edwardians continued on the rigidly placed class system but there was an air of change. King Edward was a king with modern perspective, very social contrary to Queen Victoria; he did initiate many changes in the stringent British society. There were many economic and social changed occurring in the last part of Victorian Age which created immense social mobility. Due to the influence of growing socialist ideas, problems of workers were given much importance to.
Suddenly their status in society elevated and they were treated as humans and not some machines. The underprivileged and the poor classes received benefits from the Government. The lower classes that were always segregated from the mainstream population, the mercantile classes were kept away from the royal and the elite classes.
The class division which used to be more stringent before eased out to a great extent.
Under Queen Victoria, these segments of the society were completely overlooked. The Feminist Movement in the UK picked up momentum in this Era. There were several issues regarding the status of women in the society came up.
There were talks of granting women an equal status vis–vis men and grant them the right to vote. Women’s suffrage would, in turn, result in the empowerment of women in the society. Women in the later years were demanding independence from the shackles of the male dominated set.
These were the minor changes that were taking place in those days. This was a very politically volatile period. Soon after the Edwardian age ended started the World War I in the fateful eventful year of 1914, till then the world had never witnessed such destruction. The Edwardian era is often stretched beyond the rule of King Edward. 1912 was a significant year in which the famous ship Titanic submerged mid sea. Contrary to the darkness of the Victorian age there was an air of cheerfulness and optimism in this era.
How was the daily life of Edwardian working class?
The Edwardian era is often associated with prosperity and the elite. The high-class centric history often makes us forget an essential element of this era, that of the working class. The existence of this class is often overlapped by the high life of the Edwardian elites. However, there very much existed a working class society in the Edwardian era, something which many of us are not quite aware of.
The period between 1900 and 1910 which is also referred to as the Edwardian times saw the reign of an open minded monarch Edward VII who brought about many significant effects in the Edwardian era. The first decade of the 20th century saw England divided by strict lines of upper, middle and working classes.
Much has been said about the developments of the upper and middle-class society in this decade however the same does not apply to the working class people belonging to this generation. The grinding poverty of the working class met with negligible development during this era. Their situation as it appears worsened with the hour.
Income of the working class people could hardly manage them a square meal. The Colemans who were associated with the upper middle class made a whopping 750-1500 annually whereas the annual pay for a working class cook was around 30. A maids income was even worse with a mere 16-22 annually. Thus there was the huge difference in the financial standing of Edwardian working class and the middle-class people in this decade.
The upper middle-class professionals included a merchant, solicitor, banker, surgeon, physician or manufacturer where as the lower middle-class people included shop keepers, office workers, traveling salesmen, teachers and factory foremen. These people were the ones that developed the maximum in this decade.
On one hand, the upper middle class adopted the Edwardian fashion wholeheartedly, on the other, the lower middle class clung to the Victorian fashion. Speaking of the working class people you might be reminded of the saying beggars cant be choosers. The working class was so busy in the daily battle of arranging a square meal that Victorian or Edwardian, no fashion, no lifestyle meant anything to them.
The upper classes and the elites paid little or no attention towards the uplift of this needy working class. It was only with the advent of the industrial revolution that the situation of this ignored class started showing a bit of improvement.