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What Were the Consequences of the First World War for the British People 1914 - 1924?

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Part B - What were the consequences of the First World War for the British People 1914 - 1924? (50 Marks)

Britain changed significantly between 1900 and 1918, there are many potential reasons for this however World War One is seen as the biggest. The whole world order changed as the old empires of Russia, Austria - Hungary and the Ottoman Empire collapsed, Germany was recreated as the Weimar Republic and France and Britain were significantly weakened. The USA became the most powerful country in fields such as the industrial economy and trade. The internal factors that affected Britain most were the role of state, women, political parties and the class structure. After the First World War Britain remained still with an empire and the largest navy force in the world, however the changes internally in Britain effected people of all statures and classes socially, economically and politically. Changes such as greater government intervention and control, the rise in unemployment by around 1.5 million and the advancement of democratic progress, all effected the British population.

At the beginning of the war in 1914 the British Empire was globally spread (Appendix 1) and was large in comparison to those of Russia, USA and France, this therefore enabled Britain to cover a large surface area in comparison to the other empires. The British Empire included areas of large population and land area such as Canada and Australia, therefore Britain was enabling itself to emerge as one of the worlds superpowers by claiming that "under the rule of English Offices the Empire is becoming greater and stronger" (Daily Mail article, 1897). This materialization of Britain as a superpower had an effect on the British people as due to the fact that the Empire now covered approximately 20 million sq. miles, the British people were no longer contained to Ð''Great Britain' but had expanded across the world and so therefore were seen as a superior race. However the First World War showed how strong other countries were around the world such as the USA. After the war in 1918 Britain's empire was still one of unity and solidarity, still covering around a quarter of the world's land surface the British Empire remained one of the largest in the world. Due to the area covered by the British Empire during the war 2.5 million colonial troops were provided to fight against Germany, therefore in general the British colonies predominance over the rest of the world remained intact.

In Britain, the war caused a minor redistribution of income, mainly due to progressive taxation also due to flat-rate pay increases for manual workers narrowed some pay differences. After 1921 the inequalities widened again, however in families where the wage earner was employed, the incidence of poverty had notably diminished.

Most manual working-class wages kept pace with inflation and in 1919 - 1920 working hours were cut substantially, for those out of work, unemployment insurance was extended to cover two-thirds of the male labour workers in 1920. Unemployment was a major problem after the war due to the large loss of life and wounded soldiers, who were now unable to work due to their extensive injuries or psychological disorders such as shell shock or insomnia. In June 1921 a crisis figure was reached as 2 million people were now unemployed, this now effected the British people dramatically, the pressure on the British people increased with the depression in 1920, resulting in unemployment remaining at 10 percent or more of the workforce for two decades.

Early in the war, Trade Unions were not popular due to the regulations that stopped the workers from leaving their jobs. However when workers began to see the benefits of job security and the influence of the unions workers began to join, resulting in trade-union membership doubling between 1914 and 1920. Trade-union membership collapsed again due to the depression in 1920. Prior to 1914 British state had a very Ð''hands off' (laissez - faire) approach to the economy, however after the war all economic and industrial production was directed towards the war effort and under state direction , such as still maintaining controls on prices, production limits and wages. Britain was the lead producer of the Ð''Old Staple Industries' due to its vast empire and resources, however despite production increasing by 50% during the war, there was an evident decline after the war. Britain's trade of coal, cotton, shipbuilding, iron and steel were decreasing due to their dependence on ageing industrial plant based technology. State control over the pits and railways ended within three years of the armistice, as did price controls and rationing, and the formidable miners' union, the MFGB, was beaten in two long-standing lockouts in 1921-2 and 1926 In office in 1924. Labour did little to help its supporters beyond raising unemployment benefit. Despite the strides made by the working-class movement, its principal achievement was better wages and shorter hours for those in jobs, possibly at the expense of more unemployed.

Labour displaced the Liberals as the largest anti-Conservative party, as a consequence of the Asquith-Lloyd George split (Appendix 2), the widening of the franchise in 1918, and the heightened class recognition of British workers - all factors that could be attributed to the war. Yet in the longer term the shift to the left was less impressive than expected. The First World war speeded up the political development in the cases of votes for both the female and male population of Britain, as in 1918 there were 21 million electors in comparison to that of 7.5 million male electors in 1910. This was predominantly due to Ð''The Representation Of The People Act' 1918, which gave the vote to all men over 21 and women over 30 with ownership of property and land.

The limits of the gains made by the class and labour movements after the First World War, the idea that the working-class participating in the First World War led to 'social levelling' (Adrenski), the war brought about significant changes in Britain's class structure. The working class in 1914 was larger than in the early 1920s, therefore the class divisions were not as evident after the war due to increased government intervention for the working class and increased taxation on the upper class or aristocracy. Differences within the working class became less obvious as a result of the development of skilled workers and the progression of a more consistent pay rate. Also due to the greater achievements taking place which were stimulated through trade union activity and a growth of political awareness within the working class. For the middle and upper classes there was a distinct shift in power

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