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The EU became a scapegoat for economic and social ills that have deep roots in the political and economic history of Britain. Leavers denounce it as an undemocratic Leviathan while Remainers praise it as a bastion of moderation and good sense. Yet its real impact has always been more limited than voters — often influenced by decades-long demonisation of Brussels by the dominant, right-leaning section of the British press — have appreciated.

Shops, always meagre in size and now closed, line the depressing main streets of former mining towns like Tonypandy. The entrances to the pits have been grassed over or maintain a ghostly existence as heritage centres. There have been a few improvements such as the removal or landscaping of enormous spoil tips.

People living in rural west Wales are at one with the families of former miners and steel plant workers in believing that the EU has never done much to help them. Michael Douglas, 22, and now a student at Birmingham University, comes from a countryside village with a population of where he says that little ever happens.

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Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Have we always eaten them?

He used to take an hour-and-a-quarter bus ride twice a day to get to college. Hostility to the EU is fuelled by resentment against its perceived authoritarian and undemocratic ways. Douglas is unhappy that people in member countries do not have a voice in deciding its leadership. One continually hears the argument from Brexit supporters in the Valleys that the EU needs Britain more than Britain needs the EU and, whatever the threat of a no-deal Brexit, the Germans and French will always want to sell their cars and cheese in Britain.

There seems to be no understanding that Britain might be in the weaker bargaining position when dealing with an organisation of 27 countries and million people. Failure to negotiate a better departure deal is blamed on the incompetence of Theresa May, who is suspected of being a covert Remainer, or treachery on the part of establishment officials.

In truth, the EU has been over-sold as a force for good and evil by both its enemies and friends. Paradoxically, the EU might be more popular if it had been the hands-on economic regulator that its critics accused it of being. Though a Leaver, Simmonds says that if Britain had been signed up to the EU Social Chapter then it might have been more difficult for the owners of the Ebbw Vale steel plant to close it down in preference to shutting down a similar plant in the Netherlands.

As it was, they shut it in with the loss of jobs in the plant and 1, among contractors. EU officials would no doubt argue that there was nothing much they could have done to keep heavy industry going in the Valleys or anywhere else in Britain. But local perceptions are dominated by the catastrophic episodes of de-industrialisation and, if the EU could do nothing about them, then it was inevitably seen as peripheral or irrelevant. For almost a century its politics have been dominated by the Labour Party , which has tended to treat its Welsh constituencies as if they were rotten boroughs.

He recalls that it was Labour indifference to the interests of its voters that brought him into politics twenty years ago. Outraged by this, Simmonds spoke to somebody he had played football with, who arranged an interview with a senior council official, who in turn agreed that a mistake had been made and would be put right.


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Simmonds believes that education is crucial if there is to be any salvation for people in the Valleys. Even if well-paying jobs never return to the Valleys, education would provide an escape route to other places where there are jobs. Yeah, they have a job. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.

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  • The rising demand for manufactured goods meant that average people could make their fortunes in cities as factory employees and as employees of businesses that supported the factories, which paid better wages than farm-related positions. Their greater buying power and importance in society led to changes in laws that were updated to better handle the demands of an industrialized society.

    As industrialization progressed, more and more rural folk flocked to the cities in search of better pay in the factories. Factory owners divided their workers into different groups, each group focusing on a specific task. Some groups secured and transported to the factories raw materials namely iron , coal , and steel used in mass production of goods, while other groups operated different machines. Some groups of workers fixed machines when they broke down, while others were charged with making improvements to them and overall factory operation.

    As the factories grew and workers became more specialized, additional teachers and trainers were needed to pass on specialized skills. In addition, the housing, transportation, and recreational needs of factory workers resulted in the rapid expansion of cities and towns. Governmental bureaucracies grew to support these, and new specialized departments were created to handle traffic, sanitation, taxation, and other services.

    The Great Divergence debate

    Other businesses within the towns also became more specialized as more builders, physicians, lawyers, and other workers were added to handle the various needs of the new residents. The promise of better wages attracted migrants to cities and industrial towns that were ill-prepared to handle them. Although initial housing shortages in many areas eventually gave way to construction booms and the development of modern buildings, cramped shantytowns made up of shacks and other forms of poor-quality housing appeared first. Local sewerage and sanitation systems were overwhelmed by the sudden influx of people, and drinking water was often contaminated.

    Sachsische Maschinenfabrik Unknown Author/Scanned by Norbert Kaiser Date of Origin 1867-1868, PD-US

    People living in such close proximity, fatigued by poor working conditions, and drinking unsafe water presented ideal conditions for outbreaks of typhus , cholera , smallpox , tuberculosis , and other infectious diseases. The need to treat these and other diseases in urban areas spurred medical advances and the development of modern building codes, health laws, and urban planning in many industrialized cities. To fuel the factories and to sustain the output of each and every type of manufactured good, natural resources water, trees, soil, rocks and minerals, wild and domesticated animals, etc.

    The global challenges of widespread water and air pollution , reductions in biodiversity , destruction of wildlife habitat, and even global warming can be traced back to this moment in human history. Later, in , co-operators in Rochdale established a practical form of co-operative retailing but also maintained an interest in education, holding meetings for discussion, operating a free library and, from to running a school at a charge of 2d about 1p a month Lawson and Silver In the British Association for Promoting Co-operative Knowledge was founded, with William Lovett , a self-educated radical, as secretary.

    Why the Industrial Revolution Started in England

    At its second congress, in , it urged all societies to found schools, and many did so. By this time Owen had become identified with the working-class movement, with socialism and atheism, and the wealthy had long since washed their hands of his schemes Simon So in , Owenite Halls of Science began to be established in many towns, particularly in the north, as 'centres of political and secularist discussion, education and recreation' Lawson and Silver and, in the same year, the Liverpool Rational School Society was founded in response to the failure of the government to create a non-sectarian training college: Seeing therefore that the State cannot, and that the Church and the priesthood will not, educate the people, nothing now remains for them but either to remain for ever in a state of ignorance and superstition, or to unite to burst their bonds asunder, and to educate themselves quoted in Simon While Owenism 'constituted the most deeply rooted popular education movement of the century' Lawson and Silver , other thinkers also influenced the working class.

    These included Richard Carlile and William Thompson In his pamphlet Address to Men of Science , written while he was serving six years' imprisonment in Dorchester gaol for publishing Paine's Age of Reason , Carlile argued that a completely new type of education was needed. Half a boy's time in school was spent in religious indoctrination and, while this made no impression, 'constant repetitions stupefy the will and blunt the mind' quoted in Simon Instead, education should consist of reading, writing and the use of figures, plus 'the elements of astronomy, of geography, of natural history and of chemistry', so that the children may 'at an early period of life form correct notions of organised and inert matter, instead of torturing their minds with metaphysical and incomprehensible dogmas about religion quoted in Simon Science was 'the key both to knowledge and freedom, freedom to form one's own morality and reject imposed beliefs' Simon For the Irish economist William Thompson, education was central to his scheme for transforming society through co-operation.