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THE nineteenth century was a great era of social, political and economic reform - and that was mainly because there was so much that needed reforming in the early days of the Industrial Revolution.

People invariably suffer when their world is turned upside down. When the big fish are scrambling for profits and the Government is run by and for the aristocracy, with its base far from the center of the action, it is the little people who inevitably suffer most.

Nineteenth-century reform encompassed many subjects, from working conditions and housing to health, sanitation and parliamentary representation. The men who came forward to fight these battles were many and varied. They ranged from caring employers like David Dale and Robert Owen to firebrands like Richard Carlile and medical experts like James Phillips-Kay.

But they were all imbued with a single, burning desire - to make a harsh life slightly more tolerable for the masses.