How did the First World War change life in Bitain?

AQA GCSE Modern World History revision notes based on the syllabus


Changing attitudes at home

  • 1914 - 'It'll be over by Christmas.'
  • Government propaganda gave a rosy picture of the the war, and showed the enemies to be cruel barbarians.
  • Government censorship prevented people from getting the real news from the Western Front.
  • 1918 - 'The war to end all wars.'
  • The British felt general hatred for the Germans and had a massive change of heart from the beginning of the war.
  • Public opinion changed because: German zeppelins and planes had bombed civilians in Britain, casualties were mounting, the Army commanders seemed to be incompetent, there was a food shortage, war-poets were writing about the reality of the conditions in the trenches, taxes went up because the war was costing £7 million a day and a large number of troops were coming back injured.
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Censorship and Propaganda

  • Censorship was brought about because of DORA (the Defence of the Realm Act).
  • Until the Somme, people in Britain had no idea of the conditions in the trenches or the appalling loss of life.
  • Letters from soldiers were censored.
  • Reporters were not allowed to see battles often.
  • No photography could be taken which showed dead soldiers.
  • Casualty figures weren't available from the government.
  • Often parliament wasn't told how the war was going.
  • Newspapers and films were often censored and gave out propaganda information.
  • Government propaganda gave a rosy picture of the the war, and showed the enemies to be cruel barbarians.
  • There was 'good news only' - the British people were only told of great British victories or heroic resistance.
  • There was propaganda for children - toys, patriotic books and comics.
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The Changing Role of Women

  • At the beginning of the war the work forces had been reorganised: Lloyd George made a deal with trade unions to allow unskilled workers and women to take the jobs of absent men during the war.
  • These women were vital to the munitions industries.
  • When production increased, the women took on other jobs - e.g. on railways.
  • After the war there was still a massive shortage of men, and the efforts of women were recognised by the government who gave them the vote in 1918.
  • Women over 30 who owned a house, or were married to a homeowner, were given the right to vote.
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  • The first troops in 1914 were volunteers - they believed that it would be an exciting adventure and recruiting posters made people feel that it was their duty to join.
  • The numbers of volunteers slowed down as the war dragged on to 1915 with the number of casualties on the Western Front very high.
  • Conscription was introduced by DORA in May 1916.
  • The law stated that all single men between the ages of 18 and 41 had to fight.
  • Then all married men between 18 and 41 also had to fight.
  • There were many conscientious objectors - people who didn't believe in fighting, who were branded as criminal and put in prison. Some were shot as traitors for refusing to fight.
  • Conscription led to a shortage of workers in vital industries.
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Rationing and the effects of Submarine Warfare

  • By 1917 there was a food supply crisis because the U-Boats were sinking 25% of all merchant shipping coming to the UK.
  • In 1916, Lloyd George decided to take several steps. Firstly, he introduced the convoy system - merchant ships travelled in groups with a Navy escort. This meant that U-Boats could not attack without the risk of being sunk. Thereafter, only 1% of shipping was sunk. Secondly, food rationing was introduced in 1918. This was voluntary at first, but it was soon made compulsory for everyone. Lastly, he increased food production by encouraging farmers to use more land.
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