The 1830s and 1840s were a time of great industrial progress and growth in Britain and France, but not everyone in the population shared in the new wealth.

In 1834, British Parliament made a concession to the workers, passing a Poor Law that was aimed to protect workers from starvation in time of unemployment. Poor houses represented the beginnings of a welfare society, since they provided places for workers to go if they ran out of money and work. However, British lawmakers were concerned that the workers would stop working and flock to the poor houses, so they made the poor houses depressing and wretched. Instead of encouraging workers to find work, the wretchedness of the poor houses only further enraged workers against the "bourgeoisie" government. Though still illegal, workers formed labor unions to negotiate for better wages and conditions. Some started to seriously advocate the overthrow of the wage-labor system, in order to replace it with Socialism.

In France, Socialism was spreading rapidly, and the working public became more and more interested in the memory of highly radical leaders like Robespierre. Writers like Louis Blanc began to glorify the act of Revolution.

In Britain, where Revolutions were far more rare than France, the workers sought reforms within the system, forming the Chartist Movement. A reform bill was drafted in 1838, called the Charter. The Charter demanded six reforms:

1. Annual elections to the House of Commons

2. Universal suffrage for adult males

Popular pages: Europe (1815-1848)