The First World War was the first ‘total war’ – the whole nation had to be mobilised to fight. Men joined the army while women took over their jobs, but was this change lasting or a temporary effect of total war? The population at home – the basics People in Britain were affected by six main ways: 1. Recruitment – there was a huge poster campaign to get people to join up, and the government had to introduce conscription in 1916. Conscientious objectors could be imprisoned. Women were recruited into the armed forces as nurses, drivers, cooks and telephonists. 2.
The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) – this was passed in August 1914. DORA allowed the government to take over the coal mines, railways and shipping. Lloyd George became Minister of Munitions and set up state-run munitions factories. The government worked with the trade unions to prevent strikes. 3. Reduced workforce – there were fewer workers because so many men left to join the army. 4. Rationing – a fixed allowance for sugar, meat, butter, jam and tea was introduced in 1918. British Summer Time was also introduced to give more daylight working hours. 5. Propaganda – newspaper and soldiers’ letters were censored. The Tribunal” (a pacifist newspaper) was shut down, and lies were made up about German atrocities. Posters encouraged morale. The film “The Somme” was a semi-successful attempt at using film for propaganda because the graphic nature of actually seeing the men die upset many viewers. 6. Civilian casualties – 57 zeppelin bombing raids after 1915, and the German navy shelled Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough. Read on to learn more about propaganda and the role women played in the war effort. Propaganda was not just about finding recruits; it was designed to make people believe in certain ideas and viewpoints and to think in certain ways.
The posters shown below are examples of propaganda used by the government to encourage men to join the army. Recruitment – women were recruited as nurses into the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) or First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), and as drivers, cooks and telephonists into the WAAC, WRNS and WRAF. DORA – many women ‘munitionettes’ worked in the government’s munitions factories. Reduced workforce – women took on traditional men’s jobs and became firemen, coalmen and bus conductors. Rationing – the main burden of coping fell on mothers. The Women’s Land Army helped with agricultural production.
After the war, men took back their jobs and most women returned to the family. However, the War did bring about political and social changes: • Political – women over 30 years old got the vote in 1918. Women over 21 years old got the vote in 1928. Women were also allowed to stand for election as MPs, but there were only eight women MPs in 1923. • Social – women became more liberated. Short skirts and short hair became fashionable and many women smoked in public. One government that is often seen as an example of ‘reforming’ by introducing positive changes that really improve peoples’ lives is the Liberal government in Britain of 1906-1914.
Many historians label this period the beginning of the welfare state, but why did the Liberal government introduce its reforms? Important reforms – summary Some governments in history seem to have implemented changes that have particularly improved people’s lives. For instance, Roosevelt’s New Deal in America, or the Labour government in Britain after the First World War. The dynamism and positive achievements of these governments make them look much better than the governments that came before or after them.
A study of poverty in 1901 by Seebohm Rowntree found that in a society where those who didn’t work didn’t eat, there were three times in people’s lives when they were especially vulnerable: • as a young child • when they were old • when they were sick or unemployed After 1906, the Liberal government, with Lloyd George as Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced reforms to help these three groups: Children • In 1906 local authorities were allowed to provide free school meals. • The 1908 Children and Young Persons Act introduced a set of regulations that became known as the Children’s Charter.
This imposed severe punishments for neglecting or treating children cruelly. It was made illegal to sell cigarettes to children or send them out begging. Separate juvenile courts were set up, which sent children convicted of a crime to borstals, instead of prison. Old age • In 1908 pensions were introduced for the over 70s, which gave them 5s a week, or 7s 6d to a married couple. Old people cried as they collected their pensions, and said: ‘God bless Lord George’. Workers • In 1909 labour exchanges were set up to help unemployed people find work. • The 1911 National Insurance Act was passed.
Part 1 of the act gave people the right to free medical treatment, and sick pay of 10s a week for 26 weeks in return for a payment of 4d a week. Part 2 of the Act gave people the right to unemployment pay (dole) of 7s 6d a week for 15 weeks in return for a payment of 2? d a week. • 1906 – the Trades Disputes Act ruled that unions were not liable for damages because of strikes. • 1906 – the Workers Compensation Act granted compensation for injury at work. • 1907 – school medical inspections. • 1908 – eight-hour day for miners. • 1910 – half-day a week off for shop workers. A Merchant Shipping Act improved conditions for sailors. • From 1911, MPs were paid. This gave working men the opportunity to stand for election. Why did the Liberal government introduce these reforms? • Seebohm Rowntree’s study of York in 1901 found that 28 per cent of the population did not have the minimum to live on at some time of their life. • The Boer War – when Britain went to war in 1899, the army found that two-thirds of the men who volunteered for the army were unfit to join up. • Germany – which had a good system of state welfare for workers, was passing Britain as a great industrial power. Strikes, especially in 1910-12, and the growth of trade unionism meant politicians feared that, unless standards of living improved for the workers, they might turn to Communism or rebellion. • The Labour Party was growing stronger and it was attracting working-class voters because of its demands for welfare reform. • In 1910, the Liberal Party did not get a majority of seats in the House of Commons, so it had a coalition with the 42 Labour Party MPs who had been elected. • Many government politicians, especially Lloyd George, genuinely wanted to’wage war’ on poverty.