Throughout the turmoil of political upheaval and social change, certain names have emerged as shining lights of hope and promise to their fellow countrymen.
In conjunction with our course looking at Social and Political History in the UK, we’ve picked out five of the biggest names to have emerged in the period between the Industrial Revolution and the Labour victory of the mid-90s. Though not a comprehensive list, it gives you a brief look at some of the most important people and actions to happen in the 19th and 20th century.
As the first politician to command a Labour majority in Parliament, Clement Attlee came to power with a landslide victory after World War II on the belief that maintenance of full employment could allow an enlarged system of social services to be created. On the back of this policy, Attlee nationalised public utilities and major industries and presided over the creation of the National Health Service, heralding Britain’s post-war recovery and uplifting society.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
A mechanical and civil engineer, Brunel is considered one of the most ingenious and prolific engineers in history. Masterminding the building of dockyards, the Great Western Railway, steamships, and various bridges and tunnels, Brunel’s designs revolutionised transport and engineering during the Industrial Revolution and many remain in use to this day.
Regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders in history, Churchill is remembered for his attitude, refusal to surrender, and inspirational speeches. All of these helped inspire the British people to never give up and ensured that we got through the darkest days of the war with grit and integrity – attitudes that remain ingrained in the country to this day.
Through the popularity and power of his literature, Charles Dickens used his position to raise awareness of many of the social plights suffered by the lower class in Victorian England. As one of the most important and influential social commentators of the time, Dickens used fiction to criticise abuses of the lower class, giving birth to the term ‘Dickensian’ in modern parlance to describe poor social conditions.
As leader of the Suffragette movement, Pankhurst was a political activist whose unflinching beliefs helped British women gain the right to vote. From arrests and hunger strikes to breaking windows and night-time arson, Pankhurst’s Suffragette movement employed a variety of militant tactics to raise awareness to their beliefs and had a dramatic mobilisation effect for the movement.