News / On the brink of World War 1… a snapshot of Britain pre-1914

On the brink of World War 1… a snapshot of Britain pre-1914

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…

Subscribe to explore all our historic records

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.

Empire

  • 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.

3179100177_74a20780fd_o

  • Public displays of affection were considered scandalous.
  • Career options were limited. 11-12% of women were in domestic service in 1913.

Maid

  • 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.

Miss Emily Davidson killed 1913