GCSE History OCR - Britain

Liberal Reforms, Vote for Women & Britain in WW1


Section 1 - What was Britain like in 1900s?

1902 Queen Victoria died - huge British empire, clear class differences, aristocracy - lords & ladies --> dukes & earls --> lawyers, doctors etc --> poor working class

Life for many getting better - new department stores, cheaper rail travel

Poor - grim life, no pension/unemployment benefits, seen as their own fault

Charities - gave food/clothes/accommodation; nearly 1000 in London; Dr Barnados - helped 0.5 million children

Poor Law - work places, deliberately grim, payments, goods & services; labelled you a pauper, shameful

Men & women expected to save their low wages; if lost job/had an accident savings would help, virtually every penny went to simple survival; many lived on brink of poverty; dreaded becoming old - no income, hard to survive

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How the Poor came to Government's Attention

Salvation Army - helped very poor; run by William & Catherine Booth; uniforms; helped poor find jobs & avoid crime

Seebolm Rowntree - believed falling into poverty was easy; saw illness/death in a family could push them into poverty; wrote Poverty: A Study of Town Life - read by thousands

Both rich & well known - listened to & publicised poor

1899 Boer War in South Africa - 2/3 men rejected, unfit & undernourished; worried government - how would they fight Germany?

Up to 1900 two main parties - Conservatives & Liberals, no great interest in the poor; 1900 Labour - helped ordinary people, pressured other parties to help poor

How Liberal Reforms helped poor - 1906 came to power, influenced by Rowntree, Salvation Army & Labour; improved sewage systems, clean water & lighting; 1906-12 passed many measures to help childen, old & unemployed

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Liberal Reforms

1906 - Free School Meals - by 1914 160,00 children on them

1907 - School Medical Inspectors - compulsory, treatment not free

1908 - Children's Act - cruelty illegal, U14 banned from pubs; U16 not to be sold cigarettes; juvenile courts & prisons

1908 - Pensions Act - over 70s got weekly payment from government

1909 - Labour Exchanges Act -unemployed could go there to find work

1911 - National Insurance Act - for poor if they got sick & couldn't work, employers & government contributed; Part 2 -benefits for unemployed

1912 - School Clinics - free school treatment

Lloyd George - Budget 1909, taxed rich; House of Lords didn't pass it, held an election so had to pass it; seen as a robber/Robin Hood hero; knew the poor would damage Britain & Labour gain more support

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Did the Reforms work?

  • First time government recognised poor
  • Didn't help all poor - quite limited
  • Only 1/2 mil elderly got pensions - died before 70 
  • National Insurance sickness - only for low incomes, didn't cover dependents
  • Many people thankful for Liberal reforms
  • Debated if this was start of Britain becoming a 'welfare state', looked after you from 'cradle to grave' - 1945 NHS
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Section 2 - Life for women in 1900s

1906 - started to campaign for the vote; seen as wives & mothers; taught housewifery, laundry work, cookery etc

Not meant to continue education, expected to help family income; domestic services etc; end of 19C - new jobs in department stores, typists, nurses etc

Lower wages; independent women wanted to go to uni, couldn't get degrees

Marriage - became property of husband; allowed to beat/**** wife; 1900 allowed to hold prosecutions & divorce, but men still allowed to beat/****, no rights to children; angered women

Arguments against vote - greeted with horror/ridicule; thought women were mentally/biologically incapable; policitics too rough; emotional, should be wives & mothers

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Arguments For Vote & Violent Methods

Arguments for vote - capable of politics - reformed prisons, hospitals, local politics; capable of difficult jobs - doctors; Britain is being an embarrassment; illiterate poor men get vote but not educated women; Britain calls itself a democracy - 1/2 population can't vote; can pressure MPs to change laws, get equal pay & rights in marriage

Violent methods - attacking property - arson, chemicals in letterboxes, art pieces slashed, telegraph wires cut; attacking people - policemen, doctors, heckling MPs; suicide - Emily Davison Derby 1913; Hunger Strikes - 1909 many suffragettes in prison, 'Cat & Mouse Act'

Reaction of newspapers & public opinion - The Times - against them; Daily Mirror - more supportive

Did Violence help the suffragettes?

  • Yes - attention, talked about, harsh treatment would've happened anyway
  • No - excuse to ignore them, turned supporting men against them, too emotional & neurotic
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Arguments Against Vote

  • Husbands vote for them 
  • Brains think of family & not politics
  • Can't fight to defend country so shouldn't vote
  • Britain most powerful country in the world - why change system
  • Only very few women want the vote
  • Good at local affairs - don't need to get involved in national politics

'Separate Spheres' argument - women have sensitve natures - delicate, too trusting, gullibe, emotional

Suffragettes - violence, WSPU, Emmeline Pankhurst

Suffragists - peaceful, Millicent Fawsett, NUWSS

Peaceful methods - propaganda - newspapers, colour schemes etc; Meetings & demonstrations - public halls, unladylike, successful for NUWSS; political & civil disobedience - MPs targeted, refused to pay taxes & answer 2011 census

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Women in War

Supported war effort - demande conscription, gave out white feather to service age men not in army, couldn't selfishly campaign, proved invaluable to the war effort

Transformed role of women in society - tram drivers, munitions workers, plumbers etc

Worked mostly in metal based industries & munitions

Did these jobs alongside being mothers - set up national kitchens selling cheap, pre-cooked meals

Developed greater independence - went to pubs, smoked, shorter skirts, fear of sexually transmitted diseases; if a soldier got STD the women was imprisoned

Why women got vote in 1918 - NUWSS & WSPU brought issues to attention; changed views of women; feared violent suffragettes would start again; all parties agreed to it

Over 30 could vote - more responsible; still 5 millions women without vote

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Section 3 - Recruitment for WW1

Total war - affected everyone

Recruitment - 250,000 in army 1914, needed 1 mil more; recruitment offices set up; posters; patriotic speeches; Pals Battalions; 1916 over 2.5 mil in 'Kitchener's Army'

Conscription - Jan 16th compulsory for single men 18-41, extended to married, applied to all classes, exempted vital workers like coal miners 

Conscientious Objectors - objected military services for religious, political & humanitarian grounds; tribunal agree/disagree; if agree, sent to front to be cooks etc; disagree sent to front, if refused orders could be court martialled & shot

Why were so many men eager to join? - Pals regiment, unemployment, live in bad conditions in Britain, adventure, want to beat the Hun

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Attacks on Civilians & DORA

First war civilians at risk, new technology - attack from air, civilians considered a legitimate target, battleships on east coast - 119 civilians killed; zeppelins - Woolwich Arsenal Munitions Factory - 2,000 killed/injured; bomber planes - killed/injured 3,000

Needed whole country to pull together - keep economy going, government needed more power


  • improving & increasing munitions output
  • railways taken over by government
  • Ministry of Shipping - convoy system
  • Ministry of Food - compulsory rationing
  • diluted beer & restricted open hours of pubs - stop faulty munitions
  • binoculars, church bells, feeding bread to horses etc banned
  • any land/business considered useful taken over
  • mining vital - government made fixed salaries, exempt from conscription
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Way of getting people to do what government wanted - control of information, censorship to stop damage of morale

Newspapers - most people got news this way, needed controlling, encouraged to write in a herioic way e.g. loss of soldiers - 'bastism of fire'; soldiers letters censored

Posters, postcards & cartoons - visual stimuli; early posters aimed at recruitment; later posters aimed at morale & hatred on enemy

Women & propaganda - encouraged men to join up, emotions of duty, chivalry, honour & desire to protect the family; government believed it would be hard for men to resist these appeals

How effective? - government considered it vital for recruitment & morale; historians believe war was won by other factors e.g. unemployment, adventure, pals regiments, rationing

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Photos, Paintings & Film

Photographers given officer status, but must carefully censor photos, not allowed to show dead or dying

Official war artists assigned in 1916, carefully controlled

Offical films - powerful propaganda; Battle of the Some - most people saw it, mix of real scene & staged scenes, designed to raise morale but caused shock; showed deaths; eventually withdrawn

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