This is a study of one of the central themes of pre-1914 British history - the move towards social reform and the accompanying growth of collectivism and bureaucracy. It focuses on the conditions under which Britain was willing to borrow political devices from imperial Germany and the problems inherent in borrowing from a different political culture. Compulsory social insurance had been pioneered by Germany in the 1880s to deal with the consequences of industrial injury, sickness, infirmity and old age for the working class. What interest did policy-makers in Britain take in this German innovation? Why did they initially consider it irrelevant? Why and to what extent did attitudes change? How could a German institution be adapted to British circumstances? These are the questions with which Dr Hennock is concerned in his study of British social reform. He examines British policy on compensation for industrial accidents, old age pensions and national insurance, and in a wide-ranging introduction compares this with developments in such other spheres as technical education and town planning in which German precedents had also challenged accepted ways.
British Social Reform and German Precedents deliberately raises questions about innovation and resistance to innovation from abroad which are still relevant as Britain seeks to adapt to membership of the European Economic Community.