World War 1 changed the social and political landscape of nations. On the anniversary of the conflict’s beginning, we take a look back at Britain before battle commenced…
Before World War 1…
- Following Waterloo in 1815, Britain – at home – had experienced a century of relative peace. Conflicts such as the Boer Wars, though serious, did not have the kind of effect on the home front that was felt during World War 1.
- Britain still had her vast empire. London had the largest port in the world, and the Liberal Government’s sweeping reforms promised to wipe out extreme poverty with the creation of a welfare state.
- In 1913, George V had been on the throne for just three years.
- Women’s fashion was rigid, formal and modest. Women did not smoke, drink in pubs, wear long trousers and wore modest full body bathing suits.
- Public displays of affection were considered scandalous.
- Career options were limited. 11-12% of women were in domestic service in 1913.
- Britain’s class system was strict and well-established. Different classes did not mix socially, and the working class people was expected to revere the upper class.
- Many view the years before the war as a age of Edwardian innocence, a carefree time populated by Jeeves and Wooster-esqe scenes. In fact tensions were already high with mass strikes, irate trade unions, severe unrest in Ireland, and the increasingly agitated suffrage movement.