We've advanced from the days when chattel slavery was considered normal and the absolute rule of monarchs was considered a product of divine creation. Mike Ballard
Sir, Jonathan Sacks... follows a long tradition of seeing only decline and collapsing discipline; Aristotle grumbled that the youth showed no respect... In living memory we have created the welfare state – the greatest act of communal generosity in history. Computers have stimulated a massive growth in the world economy. Not one European country is part of someone else’s empire for the first time ever. Four fifths of the British are literate, 40 per cent go to university and many will live to be a hundred. The nation gives ever more generously to charities… Britain is increasingly tolerant of class, colour, gender, race, religion and sexual preference... Charles Ross, Devizes, Wilts
Not So Cheering
1700s The Bloody Code Sir Samuel Romilly, speaking to the House of Commons on capital punishment in 1810, declared that "...(there is) no country on the face of the earth in which there [have] been so many different offences according to law to be punished with death as in England." Known as the "Bloody Code", at its height the criminal law included some 220 crimes punishable by death, including "being in the company of Gypsies for one month", "strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7–14 years of age" and "blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime". Many of these offences had been introduced to protect the property of the wealthy classes that emerged during the first half of the 18th century, a notable example being the Black Act of 1723, which created 50 capital offences for various acts of theft and poaching. Wikipedia
1780 The Gordon Riots Around 250 people were killed by police in riots over Catholics being given rights.
1876 The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 legalised vivisection, as well as providing total secrecy to the vivisectors and to the laboratories, with no public accountability. The Home Office awarded licences to vivisectors in secret, the locations of laboratories were secret. No access was allowed, for any reason - whether Member of Parliament, media, public, or local authority - all were barred. Wikipedia
1880s American business leaders thought compulsory education un-American.
Early 1990s Councils’ duty to provide sites for travellers “scrapped”
2011 Old people in care suffer neglect and cruelty. Talent show contestants are mocked and pilloried. And in a country of binge drinkers we use alcohol as a way of getting a cheap laugh.
What Took them So Long?
1885 The Medical Relief Disqualification Removal Act meant that people who had accessed medical care funded by the poor rate were no longer disqualified from voting in elections. Wikipedia
1930 As part of the dismantling of the Poor Law tramps were no longer compelled to walk to the next “casual ward” for food and lodging.
1938 America outlaws child labour
1965 End of the Jim Crow laws in the US that progressively restricted the lives of black people since 1876
1980s It became OK for a woman to order drinks at a bar. (Earlier, bar staff would often ignore you.)
1994 Sunday trading restrictions abolished (Previously, it was illegal to sell most things on a Sunday. Vegetables and bibles were two of the exceptions. Sunday markets sprang up, selling all sorts of things – plus a vegetable to make it legal.)
2011 There are about 400 single-sex schools in the UK (boo!) – down from 2,500 (hooray!). (Steve Beach)
More Reasons to Be Cheerful here, here and here.