WORLD HISTORY OF GREAT BRITAIN (from 1707)

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World War I: 1914-1918

From the assassination in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, to Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on August 4, 1914, the crisis rapidly escalates into World War I. The social and political landscapes of the participating nations are unavoidably altered as a result of Europe’s first experience of total war, which required continuous effort and sacrifice on the part of every citizen.

The primary new reality to which families must adjust is the horrifying nature of trench warfare and its horrifying number of casualties. However, the war introduces numerous other unforeseen innovations.

Interestingly the bombarding of urban communities is a disturbing part of fighting; On June 1, 1915, a German Zeppelin drops small bombs weighing only about 10 pounds overboard, striking London for the first time.

Another new aspect of war for the British is conscription, which was implemented in 1916. So is the proportioning of food, a disagreeable measure deferred until 1918. Thirty percent, or six shillings in the pound, in unprecedented income tax increases are implemented. However, perhaps the most significant change has been the mobilization of women, not only in their traditional roles in textile mills but also in the heavy labor of producing shells and bullets in munitions factories for their absent male counterparts.

Women begin joining the armed forces in 1917 through the newly established Women’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC) and Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), which would be followed a year later by the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF). These progressions make conceivable a simple finish to the long battle of the suffragettes. Before the war ended in 1918, parliament passed laws allowing women to vote and have members of parliament who were female.

Home Rule for Ireland, the other raging issue of the pre-war period, is more difficult to resolve.

In the second month of the conflict, September 1914, Asquith attempts to stop the issue as long as necessary. He gets the royal approval for his Home Rule Act, but he also passes another act that puts Home Rule on hold until the war is over.

It is harder to keep the Fenians in Dublin at bay. In April 1916 they coordinate the Easter Rising, the most emotional of the many tense occasions in the long Irish battle for Home Rule. The disastrous Battle of the Somme on the western front immediately follows this crisis. In these circumstances, Lloyd George becomes prime minister for the remaining two years of the war after a political coup against Asquith.

Asquith and Lloyd George: 1915-1922