And Roberts talks about classes also guarded their privileges, in echoes of the middle class today, and how the system exploited young cheaper workers, then spat them out (ditto).
"Before 1914 apprenticeships of any kind were not generally open to the children of the labouring poor. One had to be "spoke for" and usually tradesmen spoke only for the sons of trademen. Well before they left school most boys of the undermass had been working part-time in shops restrict trade is some short sort… Part-timers in shops lucky enough to be taken on fully after leaving school often enough put in a 74-hour week, which allowed them, late Saturday evening, to bring home five or six shillings grateful parents… In more modern, Americanised factories mass producers had quickly seen the advantages to be gained from the use of juvenile labour. Some shops ran almost entirely on young teenage workers: one notorious sewing machine factory managed to turn out its wares with only four or five skilled adult workers to every hundred adolescents, all of whom were sacked for reaching 20. There were innumerable other jobs besides in foundry, Ironworks and shipyard, all of which led youth nowhere except a dismissal on approaching manhood and a place among the mass of unskilled labourers find the jobs of any sort in the industrial maelstrom."
Comparing these two books, Jane is certainly more personal, Roberts more overtly analytical. Jane has a few anecdotes about politics in the institutional sense; Roberts is carefully analytical about the region from which he came:
"Our district voted solidly Conservative except for once in the famous election of 1906, when a fear that the Tories' reform policy might increase the price of food alarmed to the humble voter. A Conservative victory, it was widely bruited, would mean the 'little loaf', a liberal win, 'the big loaf'. These were politics the poor could understand! They threw out Michael Brewer, the long-established representative, in favour of the Liberal. Men like my father, he revered Lloyd George, free-trade-minded shopkeepers and a few artisans around were delighted - until the next election! The overwhelming majority of unskilled workers remained politically illiterate still. The less they had to conserve, the more conservative in spirit they showed themselves."
But Jane's personal account is hugely telling about the damage change petty bureaucracy and casual slights can do to the poor. Seeking to buy a school uniform for a smart oldest daughter, she's almost pitifully grateful for an education authority grant of £10. But when she takes it to the shop at which must be spent, far posher than her usual haunts, she is treated with contempt and publicly humiliated as the assistant that the discusses the details.
"She took up the phone on the end of the counter, and, having got through to the person she wanted, disgusted the top of the voice, waving my credit note in his free hand.
By this time every I was on the; every year with listing.
I felt awful; but when I looked down at my poor little Margaret her bottom lip was trembling.
I said no more, but quietly had my parcels wrapped up and we left the shop. It took to two choc ices and all my tact, plus a reassurance that I would get her uniform before she went to school, to erase the unpleasantness from her mind."
Of course the poverty in material terms was greater then than many experience now - the absolute basics of food and clothing taking up much effort (and desperate dreaming time). Of course that's far less uncommon in Britain today than many realise, and we're fast heading down the social track of America, where 17 million children live in food-insecure households. Many of the problems evident in the story that I've linked to about the present day were present a century ago.