Condition of England question

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Not to be confused with English question. ‹See Tfd›

The "Condition of England Question" was a phrase coined by Thomas Carlyle in 1839 to describe the conditions of the English working-class during the Industrial Revolution.[1]

The division of society and the poverty of the majority began to dominate the minds of the most intelligent and imaginative people outside of politics following the 1832 Reform Act. They called this the "Condition of England Question." This was closely linked to a growing sense of anger at the culture of amateurism in official circles which produced this misery. The question preoccupied both Whigs and Tories. The historian John Prest has written that the early 1840s witnessed "the middle of structural changes in the economy, which led many to question whether the country had taken a wrong turning. Would manufacturing towns ever be loyal? Was poverty eating up capital? Was it safe to depend upon imports for food and raw materials? Could the fleet keep the seas open? Or should government encourage emigration and require those who remained behind to support themselves by spade husbandry? These were the ‘condition of England’ questions".[2]


  1. ^ Thomas Carlyle's The Condition of England
  2. ^ John Prest, ‘Peel, Sir Robert, second baronet (1788–1850)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009, accessed 30 Dec 2013.