This article reminded me of the excellent BBC Radio series "A History of Britain in Numbers" from a few years back where it illustrated quite excellently just how far we have come in 150 years. The presenter was the Head of the UK statistics agency and one of his summary statements near the end of the series was so good I had to transcribe it:
"It’s easier to romanticise the past than the present. People know every blemish on the here and now and we dwell on them our daily toils and woes with a foul cry of injustice over the late running of the 8:03. At the same time, familiarity can create the habit of taking the good for granted. It doesn’t make for a balanced judgement of how we are doing [….]
To me the groaners have it the wrong way round. Today we live beyond the dreams of our ancestors. If you doubt that: pull out half your teeth; solve your pension problem by dying early; contract TB; quarter your income; make your home more affordable by stripping out the toilet, hot water, heating, phone line and let it grow damp, dark, cold and overcrowded; cancel all leave bar bank holidays and work, WORK, HARD until you drop. If you are a woman give up all hope of the same freedoms and opportunities as men and have four or five extra kids the mourn the death of a few of them in infancy."