Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, The

Robert Tressell's 1914 novel is about survival on the underside of the Edwardian Twilight, about exploitative employment when the only safety nets are charity, workhouse, and grave. Following the fortunes of a group of painters and decorators and their families, and the attempts to rouse their political will by the Socialist visionary Frank Owen, the book is both a highly entertaining story and a passionate appeal for a fairer way of life. It asks questions that are still being asked today: why do your wages bear no relation to the value of your work? Why do fat cats get richer when you don't? Tressell's answers are "The Great Money Trick" and the "philanthropy" of an unenlightened workforce, who give away their rights and aspirations to a decent life so freely. Intellectually enlightening, deeply moving and gloriously funny (complete with exploding clergyman), The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a book that changes lives.

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