Unit 3A: War and the transformation of British Society c1903 - 1928


A woman's place in the 1900s

  • At the beginning of the twentieth century women did not have the right to vote (suffrage) in British general elections
  • They had to rely on an all-male parliament to represent their interests as well as decide on matters of national and international importance
  • Most men, and many women, believed that a woman's rightful place was in the home, looking after the children and supporting her husband
  • Some people even believed that women were not intelligent enough, or were too emotional, to be involved in such important matters as politics or business
  • A single girl might have a job working as a maid, but married women were not expected to work
  • in 1911, only 10% of married women were in employment
  • However, more girls' schools were opening at the beginning of the twentieth century and women were beginning to go to university with some women even becoming doctors
  • Women could also vote in local elections since they were about local matters which might affect the home
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The National Union of Women's Suffragee Societies

  • At the end of the ninteeth century woman in the street did not have the time or the education to organise political campaigns to win the vote
  • So the women campaigners were usually midle or upper class
  • One of these was Millicent Fawcett, who had married Henry Fawcett, a Liberal MP in 1867
  • In 1897 she brought the campaigning groups together into the NUWSS
  • This organisation of suffragists was determined to win the vote by peaceful, legal means
  • The organisation encouraged men to join to help win the support of MPs for their cause
  • These women believed that men were wrong to oppose votes for women and would realise this was so if women put their arguments across in a peaceful and sensible manner
  • So the NUWSS trained women to speak at public meetings, produced pamphlets and newspapers and supported candidates in elections who were in favour of women's suffrage
  • In the 1906 general election, male members of the NUWSS stood against MPs who opposed the vote for women
  • The suffragists' campaign was successful in publicising their cause, but some women were angered by the time it was taking to win the argument
  • They wanted to take more dramatic action to speed things up
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The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU)

  • In 1903 Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst, a leading member of the Manchester branch of the NUWSS, decided that the time had come to take more extreme action
  • Together with her daughters Sylvia and Christabel, she founded the WSPU
  • This organisation believed in 'Deeds not Words' and was determined to do anything necessary to publicise the cause
  • At first the WSPU was supported by the NUWSS, but the militant actions of some of the WSPU members led the NUWSS to withdraw its support
  • It thought that militant action might put men off, rather than encourage them to support votes for women
  • It thoroughly disapproved when Sylvia Pankhurst spat at and struck a policeman at a Liberal Part meeting in 1905
  • The magistrate disapproved too and Sylvia was sent to prison
  • The Daily Mail nicknamed this new militant organisation the 'suffragettes' and the name stuck
  • So from 1903 the women's cause was being fought by the peaceful and law-abiding suffragists and also the more militant suffragettes - prepared to do anything which brought publicity for the cause
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Militancy and protest (1)

  • It was not only women who thought that stronger action was needed to publicise their cause
  • The Liberal prime minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, was a supporter of votes for women and he encouraged them 'not to show the virtue of patience, but to go on pestering'
  • First, the suffragettes' campaign consisted of demonstrations and minor acts of public disorder
  • Sometimes, for example, they would chain themselves to railings outside 10 Downing Street or Buckingham Palace
  • They hired boats and sailed past the House of Commons disrupting debate by loud hailers
  • They also attended political meetings to heckle anti-suffrage politicians
  • In 1908 parliament considered passing a law to give women the vote, but did not do so
  • In 1911, Prime Minister Asquith decided not to introduce the measure
  • Instead, he was considering extending the vote to all men (only a minority could vote in 1911) and possibly to women later on
  • Both suffragettes and suffragists were horrified
  • The suffragists organised a peaceful pilgrimage from Carlisle to London to show their disapproval
  • Thousands of supporters joined the march
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Militancy and protest (2)

  • The suffragettes reacted in a very different way
  • They stepped up their campaign, adopting even more aggressive methods
  • Early in 1912 they started a massive stone throwing operation in London
  • At 4pm on 1 March, suffragettes broke hundreds of windows
  • Police arrested 219 suffragettes, many of whom were sent to prison
  • They didn't object to being imprisoned
  • Their court hearings just brought more publicity
  • Suffragettes began to slash valuable paintings, dig up golf courses and cricket pitches, set fire to post boxes and cut telegraph wires
  • More seriously, they put bombs in warehouses and disused churches, and assaulted leading politicians and carried out arson attacks on their homes
  • MPs were advised to be careful if suspicious parcels arrived at their homes
  • They might be letter bombs from suffragettes
  • In 1913 another attempt in parliament to give women the vote failed
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The Suffragette Derby' 1913

  • In June 1913 Emily Davison left her home near Morpeth in Northumberland and travelled to watch the famous horse race the Derby at Epsom, near London
  • She stood at the rails at a part of the track called Tattenham Corner
  • As the horses thundered by she ran onto the course and tried to catch hold of one of the horses
  • She was thrown to the ground and died in hospital from a fractured skull four days later
  • Most historians believe that Emily Davison's death was the result of a protest that 'went wrong'
  • She was probably trying to disrupt the race (it was the king's horse that hit her) and misjudged the speed at which the horses were travelling
  • The suffragettes, however, immediately seized on the events as an example of the commitment of their members to the cause
  • Here was a martyr prepared to commit suicide to publicise the injustices faced by women
  • Her funeral attracted huge crowds and was turned into a suffragette celebration of the life of a martyr
  • On her headston in Morpeth churchyard was written 'Deeds not Words'
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Reactions to suffragettes

  • While there was a great deal of sympathy for the women's aim to win the vote, there was also a great deal of opposition
  • Organisations such as the Men's League for Opposing Women's Suffrage and the National League for Opposing Women's Suffrage were formed to oppose what the suffragists and suffragettes were trying to do
  • The opposition came not just from men
  • Some women believed that the campaign, for suffrage was in some ways contrary to natural order of things, where men led and women followed
  • Such women might join organisations like the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League
  • Much of the press, too, opposed women's suffrage
  • Newspapers published 'humorous' cartoons and 'witty' letters calling for 'Fair Play for Babies! Infants demand the right to be heard!'
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Hunger strikes (1)

  • For women, the campaign for suffrage was not humorous; nor was it to the authorities trying to stop the violence
  • the suffragettes' tactics led to many of them being sent to prison
  • Once they were in prison, the suffragettes wanted to continue their protest
  • Many of them chose to go on hunger strike
  • They knew that this would cause the government difficulties
  • If the women were allowed to continue with their hunger strikes, it would lead to death
  • Many of the suffragettes were from respectable and influential families (Emmeline Pankhurst, for example, was the daughter of a successful businessan and had previously been appointed as a Poor Law Guardian) and their deaths would create serious embarassment for the government
  • It could not allow suffragettes to starve themselves to death
  • Instead it ordered the prisons to force feed them
  • This involved pushing a tube up the nostril of a hunger striker and down into her stomach
  • Then liquid food was poured down the tube
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Hunger strikes (2)

  • This method was barbaric and not surprisingly, caused uproar
  • So in 1913 the government tried another method
  • Parliament passed the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act
  • This said that hunger strikers could be released when they became weak
  • As soon as they regained their strength they were rearrested to finish their sentence
  • Soon the act became known as the Cat and Mouse Act
  • This was because the treatment of the suffragettes reminded people of how a mouse is treated by a cat
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Suffragettes and the war

  • By 1914, opinion was sharply divided about the issue of women's suffrage
  • Some people thought it was only morally right that women should have the vote
  • Others said that the suffragettes were just showing that women were irresponsible and the government should not give in to violence
  • When war broke out the suffragettes called off their campaign and the government released those suffragettes in prison
  • Instead they campaigned for 'women's right to serve' in voluntary work, factories, agriculture and transport, or even as nurses or ambulance drivers at the front
  • Such was the effort that women made during the war the Prime Minister Asquith, who had opposed women's suffrage, said in 1917, 'I find it impossible to withhold from wome the power and right of making their voices heard.'
  • In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave women aged over 30 the right to vote
  • They could also become MPs
  • In 1928 women were given the same voting rights as men (i.e. all women aged 21 or over could vote)
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The state of the nation, 1906

  • In the general election of 1906, the Liberal Party won a landslide victory
  • The government was determined to make changes which would help bring about improvements in the living and working conditions of the people
  • At the beginning of the twentieth century Britain was one of the wealthiest countries in the world
  • Many people had a high standard of living, with comfortable accommodation and good food
  • More than a millin people had an income of at least £750 a year (a very high figure in 1900)
  • But the majority were not so lucky
  • There was no welfare state and their lives were far from comfortable
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The poor

  • Recent surveys had shown that much of Britain's population lived in appalling conditions
  • Seebohm Rowntree found that 43% of York's population lived below the poverty line, which he set at an income of around £1 a week for a family of five (the average family size at the time)
  • That meant that they did not have enough money to but proper food, shelter and clothing
  • In 1902 Charles Booth published the results of a huge survey carried out across London
  • He discovered that almost a third of Londoners were living below the poverty line and that there was a link between poverty and early death
  • He showed that most people could cope if they were healthy and in work, but once they suffered illness or unemployment they fell into severe poverty - and ended up in workhouses
  • These workhouses were set up around the country to give help to those most in need
  • Conditions were so hard that only the most desparate would want to enter them
  • Food and clothing were very basic, families were split up, and work was long and tedious
  • It wasn't only Rowntree and Booth who provided evidence for poverty
  • When the government had called for volunteers to fight in the Boer War in 1899, 40% of recruits were unfit for military service
  • So the Liberal government decided to help the young, elderly, sick and unemployed
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Helping the young (1)

  • The new Liberal government was particularly keen to ensure that the children of the poor were looked after properly
  • Although a law had made education compulsory for all children in 1880, there were many children who did not attend school, so that they could work and earn a wage for the family - or who were forced to work outside of school hours
  • Children were often poorly fed and clothed
  • Plus their parents could not afford proper medical treatments
  • So the government introduced a series of measures to help children

School meals;

  • Many teachers were shocked that a large number of children were too hungry to learn properly
  • Some local charities were providing free meals for children, but this was not enough
  • In 1906 the School Meals Act told local authorities to provide free meals for their poorest children
  • By 1914, 150000 children were recieving these meals
  • However, only about half of local authorities set up the free meals service
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Helping the young (2)

  • Medicals; In 1907 the government introduced the school medical service
  • It told local authorities that all children were to be inspected by a doctor of nurse at least once a year
  • At first, any treatment needed had to be paid for, but from 1912 it provided for free as well
  • In 1908 a collection of measures was introduced which became known as the 'Children's Charter'
  • It was now illegal to sell alcohol, tobacco or fireworks to children under the age of 16
  • Working hours for children were limited and they were banned from undertaking certain types of unsuitable work
  • The Children and Young Persons Act of 1908 made children 'protected persons' - parents could be prosecuted if they neglected their children and it was no longer legal to insure a child's life
  • Borstals were set up to keep young people in custody rather than send them to adults prisons - young offenders were dealt with in a special juvenile court and a probation system was set up
  • The government also set up child care committees to give support to families where children were suffering from neglect or poverty
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Old Age Pensions

  • In the early twentieth century, how to look after yourself in old age was a real worry for most
  • Few could afford to save or take out private pensions, so when retired they had to rely on charity of the kindness of their family or friends
  • The final resort was the dreaded workhouse
  • Lloyd George said he intended to 'lift the shadow of the workhouse from the homes of the poor'
  • The Old Age Pensions Act (1908) introduced pensions for people on a low income aged 70+
  • Pensions were on a sliding scale depending on a person's income, from a max of five shillings a week to one shiling and married couples had a max of seven shillings a six pence
  • These pensions were paid by the government and did not (at first) involve people making a contribution to fund while they were still in work
  • This was controversial and some objectors claimed the government was going too far
  • To old people it was an enormous relief
  • They no longer had to fear being a burden on their children or being sent to to the workhouse
  • The independence they had during their working life could continue into old age
  • In the first year of the scheme 650000 people collected a weekly pension
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The Labour Exchange Act 1909

  • The government was concerned that many men were employed in casual work and were frequently laid off
  • Then they needed to look for new employment
  • So in 1909 it set up a scheme of labour exchanges across the country where unemployed people could register and employers could find workers
  • This was much more efficient than the old system where workers had to go from employer to employer looking for work
  • By 1914 there were more than 400 labour exchanges around the country and over one million workers registered
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The National Insurance Act 1911

  • The government wanted to help workers who became sick or unemployed
  • This was not a new idea and some workers already contributed to 'friendly societies', which helped them when they fell on hard times
  • What was new was that the government, the employers and the workers would all contribute to a fund to provide help
  • Unemployment benefit was provided for workers in trades such as shipbuilding, engineering and building, where occasional unemployment was common
  • The worker, the employer and the government all contributed and the worker recieved a 'national insurance stamp' on his card
  • If he became unemployed he could claim benefits for up to 15 weeks, the income was small, because the government wanted to help, not just encourage people to avoid looking for work
  • Sick pay was also provided
  • There was a compulsory illness insurance for all workers who earned more than £3 a week
  • Each worker had to pay 4d a week, the employed added 3d and the government 2d
  • So the government was able to say that workers recieved '9d for 4d'
  • For this the worker could recieve up to 10 shillings a week for a maximum of 26 weeks
  • Families also recieved 30 shillings on the birth of a child
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The British Expeditionary Force 1914

  • On 3 August 1914 the rivalries between Britain and Germany over trade, colonies and military power finally resulted in war
  • The British government sent the BEF, led by General French, to try to stop the German invasion of France through neutral Belgium
  • The 70000 strong force first encountered the advancing German army at Mons in soutern Belgium of 22 August
  • The BEF was heavily outnumbered as the Germans numbered 160000 men and had twice as many artillery guns as the British
  • However, the British troops were so efficient at firing their Lee Enfield rifles that their combined speed made the Germans think they were facing machine guns
  • But the BEF could do no more than hold up the German advance and was then ordered to retreat to the River Marne
  • The Kaiser had called the BEF a 'contemptible little army'
  • The German commander at the Battle of Mons later called it an 'incomparable army'
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The Schlieffen Plan

  • The BEF had been sent to stop the German invasion of France
  • That invasion followed a plan laid down by General Alfred von Schlieffen many years earlier
  • The Germans intended to invade France, but not through the heavily fortified Franco-German border, but instead through largely undefended Belgium
  • German forces would sweep thorugh Belgium, round Paris and then cut off the French capital from the main French forces in the east of the country
  • At the same time a German force would fight the main French army on the Franco-German border
  • However, progress through Belgium was slower than expected and the Germans changed their plan and drove east of Paris to meet the French army marching back to protect Paris
  • In the Battle of the Marne (5-11 September) the huge German army (over a million men) fought the Frenh army supported by the BEF, along a front 200 kilometres wide
  • The exhausted German army finally retreated 60 kilometres to the River Aisne
  • The great advance had been stopped
  • The Schlieffen Plan, which relied on defeating the French by capturing Paris before the main French forces could defend it, had failed
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Trenches and the race for the sea (1)

  • After the Battle of Marne, German troops dug trenches with machine gun posts on top to protect themselves from attack
  • The French and British also built trenches to make sure that the enemy could not outflank them (go round the side of their defences)
  • Both sides began extending their trenches sideways
  • There now followed a 'race to the sea' as both sides dashed north in the hop of breaking  through before the enemy had fortified the area
  • Neither side was able to
  • In November 1914, there was a fierce battle at Ypres near the Belgium coast as the Germans tried to smash trhough the French and British defences
  • They failed and suffered over 134000 casualties in the attemps
  • It was a sign of things to come
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Trenches and the race for the sea (2)

  • The failure of the Germans to pierce the Allied defences meant the war quickly became a stalemate
  • Within months a line of heavily fortified German trenches stretched from the Channel coast of Belgium to the mountains in Switzerland
  • Opposite those trenches was a line of Allied trenches equally strong
  • This 600 kilometre line of trenches became known as the Western Front
  • For four years German and Allied forces clashed along this front
  • Neither side really gained an advantage in that time but millions of soldiers lost their lives trying to
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Trench warfare

  • In 1914 it had been thought that the war woud be fought by quick-moving armies and that it 'would be all over by Christmas'
  • But when 1915 came, millions of soldiers were dug into strong positions facing equally strong enemy positions
  • The war had ground to a halt - and the generals didn't really know what to do
  • Britain's secretary of state for war, Lord Kitchener, admitted 'I don't know what is to be done. This isn't war.'
  • Before the First World War, battles had usually been decided by cavalry charges or infantry troops fighting in hand-to-hand combat
  • These methods would no longer work
  • Each side had dug deep trenches protected by sandbags and barbed wire
  • If one side wanted to attack the other, it had to cross the area between the trenches (No Man's Land) and doing so meant exposing soldiers to fire from the enemy trench - and huge casualties
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  • The generals weren't sure what to do, but they believed that the war could be won on the Western Front
  • So they poured huge numbers of troops into the area in an attempt to gain the vital breakthrough
  • But no matter how many soldiers were used, the enemy defences were too strong and the new weapons devised to break those defences not effective enough
  • So no such breakthrough was ever made
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  • Soon, the policy of 'breakthrough' was replaced by one of 'attrition'
  • This involved wearing the enemy down so that its supplies of men and equipment were used up before yours
  • Generals began to calculate whether a battle would bring more losses for the enemy than for their own army
  • If it did, it was considered to be helping to win the war
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  • Nowhere was this policy better illustrated than at Verdun in 1916
  • The German general Falkenhayn knew that the fortress of Verdun was an important symbol of France's military power and that the French would defend it all cost
  • Indeed, the French prime minister told his generals, 'If you lose Verdun, I will sack the lot of you.'
  • Falkenhayn talked of how he would cause such casualties that he would 'bleed the French white'
  • The German attack began in February 1916 and, as expected, Frenh casualties were very high in defending the fortress
  • In mid-July the Germans called off their attack as the British had launched the Somme offensive
  • The French had suffered almost 500000 casualties in that time but the Germans had also lost close to 400000
  • Almost a million casualtiies in a battle which left things much as they were before it had started
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New weapons - machine guns

  • What made attack even more difficult was the development of the machine gun
  • Although the British were slow to accept the value of the machine gun, the Germans had 12000 machine guns in 1914 and over 100000 by the end of the war
  • The British soon realised their mistake and they too built up their numbers
  • Machine guns could fire 400-600 bullets a minute and meant that any attack across No Man's Land would be very expensive
  • What was needed was a way to reduce the effectiveness of the machine gun
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New weapons - gas

  • In April 1915, the Germans launched a new weapon which seemed to solve the problem
  • In the Second Battle of Ypres they launched gas shells into the French trenches and killed hundreds of troops
  • Soon three types of gas were being used
  • Chlorine and phosgene gas caused suffocation
  • Mustard gas ate away the lungs and caused a slow, agonising death
  • But soon both sides wre using gas and also gas masks to limit its impact
  • As the war progressed, attacks became less frequent
  • The horrors of death from gas were recorded by many of the First World War poets
  • Wilfred Owen in his 'Dulce et Decorum Est' talks about 'an ecstacy of fumbling' as the soldiers rush to fit their gas masks
  • But one man fails to do so in time and is described as drowing 'as if under a green sea'
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New weapons - artillery shells

  • At the beginning of the war, generals had though that the most effective weapons would be the artillery gun
  • These guns varied from small field guns to giant howitzers, which could fire shells in the four years of the war
  • An artillery bombardment was supposed to destroy enemy trenches and allow an easy crossing of No Man's Land
  • Usualy what it did was churn up the ground and make No Man's Land harder to cross
  • So instread the British dveloped a system called the 'creeping barrage'
  • It involved artillery fire moving forward in stages just ahead of the the advancing infantry
  • When finally developed, the barrage moved forwards at 50 metres per minute
  • The troops followed behind at the same speed
  • Of course, if troops and barrage were not co-ordinated properly, the artillery would end up killing its own soldiers
  • Another problem was summed up best when a British sergeant called the creeping barrage 'One of the most extraordinary advertisements of "look out, we're coming!" I have witnessed in this war'
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New weapons - tanks

  • Perhaps the most significant development in the wwar was the tank
  • Army leaders at first rejected this new invention as impractical, but when tanks were first used by the British at the Battle of the Somme, in 1916, they terrified the German soldiers
  • However, the tanks could only move at walking pace and were very unreliable
  • Most of the huge machines broke down in the mud
  • But at Cambrai in 1917 British tanks broke through German trenches and pushed them back nearly eight kilometres
  • Although by 1918 the Germans had developed armour-piercing bullets which could kill the tank operators, a new weapon had arrived
  • Tanks were to play a very important part in the Second World War
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The Somme (1)

  • In July 1916, the British launched a major attack on the German lines along the River Somme
  • The British commander-in-chief, General Haig still hoped to make the 'breakthrough' but most of the generals just hoped to 'kill as many Germans as possible'
  • Before the attack, there was a seven-day artillery bombardment during which one and a half million shells were fired onto German trenches
  • Haig said he doubted that 'even a rat' would be alive in the German trenches
  • When the shelling stopped, the British climbed out of their trenches and, following instructions, walked slowly across No Man's Land
  • At first all went well - there was no resistance
  • But the Germans had been sheltering underground in specially prepared deep dugouts
  • When the shelling stopped they rushed back to the trenches and set up their machine guns
  • Had the British hurried they might have captured the German trenches before the enemy was ready to fire
  • As it was, they walked, and the Germans emerged from their dugouts to find the British troops 'advancing at a steady and easy pace as if expecting to find nothing alive in our trenches'
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The Somme (2)

  • The next few hours were among the worst in the history of the British army, with German machine gunners killing 20,000 British troops and wounding almost 40000 others
  • But the Somme was not just a one-day battle
  • Haig now switched his thinking from making the great breakthrough to attrition
  • Although the new tanks had some success in September 1916, at the end of the month the rains fell and the battlefield turned to mud
  • The battle ended in November 1916
  • The Germans had lost 500000 men; the British and the French lost 620000
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The end of the war

  • In April 1917, the USA entered the war with the Allies and the Germans knew that, once large numbers of American troops arrived on the Western Front, defeat was almost inevitable
  • So they decided to gamble everything on one last all-out attempt to win the war
  • Half a milion men were transferred to the Western Front from the Russian campaign and on 21 March 1918 General Ludendorff launched Operation Micheal at Rivers Aisne and Marne
  • Allied troops were pushed back and the people of Paris began to prepare to evacuate the city
  • But Ludendorff's army was short of supplies and lacked reinforcements
  • On 18 July, the Allied supreme commander, Joffre, launched a counter-attack
  • By this time, 250000 American troops were arriving on the Western Front each month
  • By August the lost land had been recovered and the Germans were in retreat
  • Ludendorff told the Kaiser 'We have nearly reached the limit of our powers of resistance. The war must be ended.'
  • The Allies continued to advance, taking German prisoners before the war ended
  • In a railway carriage in the French forest at Compeiegne, the Germans agreed to the Allies' terms for surrender and at 11o'clock on the 11/11 1918, the war ended
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The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA)

  • (DORA was introduced by the British government in August 1914
  • This law gave the government far more power than any other British government had ever held before
  • It was able to censor what people heard or read, imprison people without trial, take over economic resources for the war effort and place numerous restrictions on a citizen's life
  • As the war progressed, DORA was added to and greater restrictions were imposed
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  • The government wanted the people to think that the war was going well
  • It was essential to keep up morale and this could not have been done if people knew about the terrible losses on the Western Front
  • So letters from the Front were censored and it was against the law to talk about naval or military matters in a public place
  • Newspapers were also censored and were told to report only stories of British heroism and German brutality
  • All news had to be approved by the government press office and official pictures were made available for newspapers to use
  • These were often of staged attacks to give the 'correct' impression
  • Free speech also became a victim of DORA
  • Not only was it illegal to discuss military matters in public, but it was also against the law to make any public comments which might damage morale, spread discontent among workers or harm the government's attempt to recruit soldiers
  • In October 1915, John Maclean, a well-known Scottish communist, was arrested and charged with uttering statements calculated to 'prejudice recruiting', he was fined £5 and imprisoned for five days when he refused to pay and was dismissed from his teaching position
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Controlling industry

  • The government was also given the power to force people to stay in jobs which were vital to the war effort
  • Workers were not allowed to transfer to other jobs for better pay if their existing jobs were in key industries, such as munitions
  • This became even more important when there was a munitions crisis in 1915 as soldiers ran out of artillery shells
  • Private companies were unable to produce enough munitions
  • They were struggling to get enough metal, coal, rubber and other materials
  • So the government took control of co-ordinating the supply of materials
  • It also set up its own munitions factories and took over the coalmines
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Personal restrictions

  • DORA gave the government the right to introduce food rationing and also to control alcohol consumption
  • Public house opening times were restricted
  • They were allowed to open only from midday to 2:30pm and 6:30pm to 9:30pm daily
  • Beer was also watered down
  • These measures were to control drunkeness and improve productivity
  • British Summer Time was also introduced to give more daylight hours to work in
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  • At the outbreak of war in 1914 there was a wave of patriotic fervour in Britain
  • Men rushed to the join the army and 'do their bit' for the country
  • Some were worried that if they didn't join up quickly, they would miss 'the fun'
  • One Yorkshire cricket team held its Annual General Meeting in September
  • At the meeting one member proposed that the whole team should sign up for the war
  • The motion was debated, a vote held and next day the village crickt team turned up at the recruiting office
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Pals battalions

  • At the start of the war, Britain's army was tiny compared with that of Germany
  • Lord Kitchener, the secretary of state for war, was put in charge of raising 100000 volunteers
  • By the end of September 1914, 175000 men had volunteered and for the next year over 100000 volunteered each month
  • Often men from the same town or organisation were put together in 'Pals battalions'
  • This clever idea led to towns competing to make sure that they did not look unpatriotic compared with their neighbours
  • Soon there were Pals battalions from Liverpool, Sheffield, Accrington and many others
  • Often trade battalions were formed, such as the Hull Commercials, the Glasgow Tramworkers - and even the Tyneside Irish
  • Men in these battalions trained together and developed close bonds
  • Unfortunately, the first day of the Somme, of the 720 Accrington Pals who participated, 584 were killed, wounded or missing
  • The Leeds Pals lost around 750 of the 900 participants and both the Grimsby Chums and the Sheffield City Battalion lost half of their men
  • So in some towns and cities there was hardly a street which had not suffered losses
  • This showed those at home what war was really like
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The Derby Scheme and The Military Service Acts

The Derby Scheme

  • The heavy losses in the early years of the war and the realisation that war was not 'fun' meant that by the end of 1915 the army badly neede more men
  • The government considered conscription (making military service compulsory) and set up a National Register of men aged 15-65
  • Shortly afterwards it set up the 'Derby Scheme' where men were asked to promise they would sign up if asked
  • They were told that married men would not be called up before all single men had joined and that those with a good reason not to join up would be exempted
  • But when less than half of the men in the country agreed to join the scheme, the government was forced to take more drastic action

The Military Service Acts

  • In January 1916, the government passed the first Military Service Act which said all single men aged 18-41 could be called up, this was follwed by a second act in May 1916 extended the scheme to married men in the same age group
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Conscientious objectors

  • When conscription was introduced in 1916, the government realised that if men in some occupation were called up, it would not be easy to replace them in their jobs
  • This meant the war effort might suffer
  • So miners and engine drivers, for example, were not called up
  • Some men were not exempted, but still refused to join the army
  • A small group of men refused to fight because it went against their conscience or beliefs
  • These 'conscientious objectors' had formed an organisation called the British Neutrality League to oppose the war
  • In 1916 they set up the Non-Conscription Fellowship
  • Conscientious objectors had to attent tribunals where they faced tough questions and were often accused of being 'shrikers', 'slackers', or 'cowards'
  • The tribunals had the power to grant unconditional exemption, but usually they allocated the objectors to non-combatant duties
  • Many conscientious objectors performed with bravery as stretcher-bearers or ambulance drivers
  • Others contributed to the war effort by giving service at home
  • It would be a mistake to think of conscientious objectors as cowards
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  • Most often, tribunals turned down applications completely
  • So the men were liable for call-up as ordinary soldiers
  • If they refused to obey the call-up they would be sent to prisn
  • This is what happened to 1500 of Britain's 16000 conscientious objectors who were absolutists
  • They refused to have anything to do with the war, even in a non-combatant capacity
  • These 'conshies' (the slang term for conscientious objectors) were sent to prison
  • Some were even sentenced to death, though their sentences commuted to extensive periods of hard labour, working in places such as quarries
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  • Although most of the fighting in the First World War took place on the Western Front, the 'war at sea' was also important
  • There were a few sea battles between warships (having built very powerful navies, neither Britain nor Germany wanted to risk their battleships)
  • Instead both countries used their navies to blockade enemy ports to stop supplies getting through
  • As an island, Britain had to rely on its merchant sailors to bring food and supplies from abroad
  • The Germans knew that if their U-boats (submarines) could stop this trade, then Britain could be starved into submission
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The Submarine Threat

  • In February 1915, the Germans announced that all merchant shipping entering or leaving British waters would be sunk
  • This was an optimistic statement as there were 15000 sailings a week to and from British ports and in 1915 the Germans only had 21 U-Boats
  • By 1917, however, the Germans had nearly 200 U-boats and were sinking one in four of the ships bound for British ports
  • By April 1917 Britain had only six weeks' of food supply left and the Secretary of State for War, Lord Derby, admitted that the government was at 'it's wits end as to how to deal with these submarines'
  • Fortunately, the use of depth charges and the introduction of the convoy system (where merchant ships sailed in convoy protected by Royal Naval destroyers) solved the problem
  • Britain remained short of some foodstuffs throughout the war, however
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Restrictions (1)

  • The German submarines reduced the amount of food being brought into Britain
  • As British farmers could not produce enough food for the whole population, there was a shortage and prices went up
  • In some parts of the country people had to queue to buy goods such as margarine or potatoes
  • Generally, however, it was only from late 1916 that food became scarce
  • In 1916 white bread was banned because there was a shortage of grain
  • In 1917, the government asked people to limit their consumption of meat (though the amount allowed was still more than most people could afford)
  • In 1917 the royal family announced that it was cutting its food consumption by a quarter
  • The government hoped that the example people to accept restrictions on what they could buy
  • The government was keen to avoid the cost and administrative burden of introducing compulsory rationing, but by 1918 it was forced to act
  • On 1 January, sugar was rationed and by May margarine, jam, butter and tea had been added
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Restrictions (2)

  • The government instructed that meat shouldn't be served for breakfast and guests for afternoon tea should have no more than 42g of bread, cake or biscuits and bring their own sugar
  • Ration cards were issues
  • When people went shopping they had to take these cards with them
  • Shopkeepers took 'coupons' from customers when rationed goods were sold
  • This prevented people from buying more than the legal amount of such goods
  • Although Britain had come close to running out of food, measures against submarines and the introduction of rationing meant that the threat came to an end
  • In fact, for many less-well-off people, the regular employment provided by the war meant that they could afford a better diet than the one they had before the war
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The role of women in the war - 'Right to Serve'

  • In 1914 women did not have the vote and many men still believed that women should stay at home and bring up their children, not go out to work
  • However, during the war, five million men joined the army and women had to step into their places to keep the country going
  • Women took on jobs such as bus conductors, drivers or workers on the railways
  • But the attitudes take time to change
  • Even the government seemed slow to realise how important women were in helping the country fight the war
  • It took until March 1915 for it to draw up a register of women willing to undertake work
  • Even then, not all those women were given work
  • In frustration, the suffragettes organisedd a demonstration in London in July 1915 demanding the 'Right to Serve'
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  • The suffragettes' demonstration helped raise awareness of the part women could play, but it was more the increasing demands of war that brought women into work
  • Losses at the Front and introduction of conscription meant a shortage of male workers
  • It's estimated that Britain was short of 2 million workers once conscription got under way
  • Employers were very happy to employ women in office jobs, but many of them doubted that women could do a good job in traditional engineering or manufacturing occupations
  • It was the government that led the way in employing women in such jobs
  • There was a need to manufacture supplies for the war, particularly shells for the artillery guns
  • The government employed large numbers of women to work in munitions factories
  • In 1914 only 125 women worked at the Woolwich Arsenal; by 1917 there were over 27000
  • Munitions work was dangerous and the women's skin was sometimes turned yellow by the chemicals in the explosives (so they were nicknamed 'canaries')
  • Some factories blew up, killing workers, but the pay was good and some women earned as much as £4 a week compared to the £2 a month earned in domestic service before the war
  • The example set by the governmet encouraged other employers and women working in munition factories had shown they could do jobs just as well as men and 80000 worked in engineering at the end of the war
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Equality for women

  • WWI allowed women to show men how they could contribute to society
  • However, after 1918 many of the doors which had been opened were closed once more
  • At the beginning of the twentieth century, Britain was governed by men and largely for men
  • The 'perfect woman' was a wife and mother who obeyed her husband and looked after kids
  • A good education was considered to be something necessary only for boys, while wealthy girls were taught how to be 'genteel', but there was no value in educating working-class girls
  • The changes brought about by the First World Wa played a major part in changing some attitudes towards women, but only a minority of men began to see women in a new light and not all women supported the changes that were happening and many of them enjoyed the role of wife and mother
  • It is interesting to note that the Women's Institute which saw the woman as the 'Housekeeper, the Home-keeper or better still, the Home-maker', saw a huge rise in membership after the war
  • In politics, women had made ground and in 1918 women aged 30 and over recieved the vote
  • In 1928 in the Equal Franchise Act the vote got extended to women 21 and over and even though they got the vote they didn't have a major part in politics for years
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  • In 1918 the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Bill was passed allowing women to be MPs
  • At the 1918 general election, out of a total of 1623 candidates, only 17 were women
  • Only one was elected, but she did not take up her seat
  • Countess Constance Markievicz, married to a Polish count, stood for Sinn Fein in Dublin
  • She campaigned from Holloway Prison, where she was being held on suspicion of helping the Germans during the war
  • Even when she was released, like other Sinn Fein members, she refused to take up her seat in protest at Britain's policy in Ireland
  • The first three female MPs were all elected in seats previously held by their husbands
  • Viscountess Astor was elected in a by-election in Plymouth in November 1919 after her husband resigned to become a member of the House of Lords
  • In 1921 Margaret Wintringham won the seat held by her husband in Louth until his death
  • In 1923 Mabel Philipson, a well-known musical comedy acrtress, was elected in Berwick-upon-Tweed after her husband was disqualified because his election agen had spent more than the permitted amount in the previous election
  • It was not until 1924 that a woman (Margaret Bondfield) became a member of the government
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  • Once the war finished, most men expected women to give up their jobs and return to their rightful place in the home
  • So did the government
  • Munitions workers were paid off with two weeks' extra wages and female civil servants were dismissed
  • Withing eighteen months, three-quarters of the women who had taken on war work had left thir jobs
  • Many of them were happy to give up their work; others were resentful of the fact that they were expected to  return to low-paid domestic work and lose the financial independence they had gained during the war
  • For those who stayed in work, old practices continued
  • When women married they were often sacked (nurses had to leave when they got married) and women's wages were well below those of men
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Social attitudes

  • The belief that women should give up their jobs when they married reflected the continuing belief that men were the decision makers and breadwinners in society
  • A woman's main task was motherhood, and employment would not allow proper care of the family
  • Domestic bliss was married life and motherhood
  • Motherhood without marriage was considered a major indiscretion and unmarried mothers were seen as a disgrace to the family
  • In 1918, when Marie Stopes published material advocating birth control, she was condemned by the Church and many of the newspapers
  • In education, too, things were slow to change
  • Most girls left school at the age of 14 and less than 1% were educated beyond the age of 18
  • Oxford University had only 750 places for women and Cambridge did not give degrees to women until 1948
  • There were signs of change
  • From 1923 women could divorce their husbands for adultery (men had always been able to divorce their wives who committed adultery), but equality was still a long way off
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Pre war difficulties

  • The Liberal government eleceted in 196 introduced old age pensions, and sickness and unemployment benefits
  • But it was less successful in industrial relations
  • Between 1910 and 1914, there was a series of strikes in Britain, many of which were caused by a desire among industrial workers to control the industries in which they worked
  • In 1910 there were strikes by miners, cotton workers, boilermakers and railwaymen
  • In 1911 a national rail strike and a dockers' strike in Liverpool were both broken up by government troops
  • Four strikers were killed in the fighting
  • In 1913 three of the most powerful groups of workers in the country, the miners, the railwaymen and the transport workers, joined together to form the Triple Alliance
  • They agreed to help each other oppose any action by the government or employers which hey believed was not in the best interests of their members
  • The wave of industrial unrest which hit Britain in 1910-14 came to an end when war broke out
  • Trade union leaders agreed to 'terminate all existing trade disputes' in order to win the war
  • However, there were unofficial strikes in Brtain and membership in trade unions doubled
  • It was obvious many British workers were unhappy with their wages and working conditions
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Strikes 1910 - 1912

  • July 1910 - Railway strike (Newcastle)
  • September - December 1910 - Boilmakes' strike (Newcastle)
  • November 1910 - Riot during miners' strike, Churchill delays army intervention, no deaths (Tonypandy)
  • August 1911 - Eleven-day strike of 20000 dockers (London)
  • August 1911 - Rioting during National rail strike, two men shot dead by trooops while looting shops and trains (Llanelli)
  • August 1911 - Dockers strik riot quelled by troops, two men killed (Liverpool)
  • May 1912 - Dock strike, government refuses to intervene, strike collapses after a month (London)
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Return to unrest (1)

  • When the war ended, industrial unrest broke out again
  • Some of it came from unexpected quarters
  • In 1918 and 1919, the police held strikes to protest against their low wages
  • During the war the cost of living almost doubled, but policeman recieved only a small increase
  • As one striker in 1918 said 'We policeman see young van boys and slips of girls earning very much more money than we bet - and well, it makes us feel sore.'
  • It was true that, even after an increase in 1918, the police earned less than unskilled labourers
  • As a result of the strikes, the government passed the Police Act of 1919, which made it illegal for the police to strike
  • In the years after the war, strike action became more common and in 1921 more than 85 million working days were lost to strikes
  • By 1920 there were 8 million workers in trade unions
  • Strike action declined after 1921 as the country went into an economic depression and workers were less prepared to take action which might threaten their jobs
  • Unemployment rose steadily in the traditional industries where Britain had led the world, such as textiles, shipbuilding, coalmining and steel
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Return to unrest (2)

  • In the period after the war, there was less emand for these goods and unemployment rose to particularly high levels in the north-west and north-east of England, in South Wales and in Clydeside, Scotland
  • In 1919, Glasgow's engineering unions called a general strike in the city in support of their demands for a 40 hour week
  • The government became alarmed when more than 70000 workers demonstrated in support of the engineering workers
  • The government responded by sending troops and tanks to Glasgow to break up the strike
  • It seemed that relations between the government and the workers were clost to breaking down
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Industrial unrest in the mines

  • The greatest problem for the government were in the mining industry
  • During the First World War, the government had used the powers given it in the Defence of the Realm Act to take direct control of the mines
  • Instead of mines being under the control of a number of different owners, they were run by the government with all mines offering the same wages and conditions of employment
  • The miners hoped that the government would keep control of the mines after the war and a Royal Commission (the Sankey Commission) was set up to consider how the mines should be run
  • It recommended that the mines should be run
  • It recommended that the mines should stay under government control but, despite this, the government returned them to their previous owners in March 1921
  • Unfortuanately for the miners, this coincided with a drop in the price of coal
  • In 1921, prices were less than half of what they had been in 1920
  • The mine owners had to cut miners' wages by up to 50% and tried to lengthen the working day
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Black Friday

  • The Triple Alliance of 1913 had been renewed in 1919 and in the same year had proved effective in stopping the railway companies from cutting the wages of railwaymen
  • So the Miners' Federation asked the railwaymen and transport workers for help against the mine owners
  • It was agreed that there should be a joint strike on 15 April 1921
  • But at the last minute the railwaymen and transport workers pulled out, leaving the miners to strike on their own
  • Miners called this day 'Black Friday'
  • They continued with their strike, but by 1 July they were forced to accept the new terms and return to work
  • In the months that followed, dockers, railwaymen and builders also had to accept pay cuts
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Red Friday

  • In 1925 the price of coal fell once more and again, mine owners announced a wage cut and an increase of one hour on the working day
  • The miners' leader, A J Cook, angrily announced that his men would accept 'not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day!'
  • This time he knew that the railwaymen and transport workers would support the miners
  • The government knew it too, so on 31 July 1925 (Red Friday) the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, announced that the government would provide a subsidy to keep wages at their current level for the next nine months
  • He also set up a commission led by Sir Herbert Samuel to find a solution to the problem in the mines
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The General Strike (1)

  • In March 1926, the Samuel Commission reported
  • It made three recommendations; there should be no increase in the working day, wages should be cut, mine owners should begin a programme of investment to modernise the pits
  • When the government susbisdy ran out on 30 April, the mine owners reduced wages and tried to increase hours
  • The miners refused to aceept the cut or the increased hours
  • The Trades Union Congress (TUC) took on the negotiations on behalf of the miners and threatened to call a strike of all its members - a general strike
  • Talks between the government and the TUC broke down on 3 May when printers refused to print an article for the Daily Mail, which called the proposed strike 'a revolutionary movement intended to inflict suffering upon the great mass of innocent people'
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The General Strike (2)

  • So on 4 May, Britain's only ever general strike began
  • The TUC called out dockers, transport workers, railwaymen, and workers in gas and electricity industries
  • An estimated three million workers came out on strike - a number which surprised even the TUC
  • On 5 May, the government launched an aggressive propaganda campaign against the strike
  • It began publishing its own newspaper, The British Gazette, full of articles about how the strike was not working
  • The TUC used its newspaper, The British Worker, to counter government propaganda
  • At first the strike was successful with good humour shown on both sides
  • The TUC agreed that hospital workers and those who transported food should not be called out
  • There were even storie of strikers and police playing football matches against each other
  • Volunteers began to fill in the gaps left by the striking workers
  • So students and stockbroers drove buses and trains, women volunteered to work on the post and more than 226000 people volunteered as special constables to keep order
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The mood turns sour

  • But after a few days, attitudes began to harden
  • Angry strikers began to clash with volunteers and some buses were set on fire
  • There were clashes between police and strikers in some of Britain's major cities and police made baton-charges on rioting strikers in Glasgow, Hull, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Preston
  • Opposition to the strike began to grow
  • The government said Britain was threatened by revolution and the Catholic Church delcared the strike to be 'a sin'
  • There were also violent clashes between striking workers and those who chose not to go on strike
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The end of the strike (1)

  • There was talk of the TUC extending the strike to cut off power supplies
  • Despite the fact that there was an increase in violence between strikers and volunteers, the miners wanted to see the strike extended
  • They asked the TUC to call out power workers and so cut off power supplies
  • But instead of doing so, on 12 May 1926 the TUC leaders went to 10 Downing Street for further talks with the prime minister
  • When they came out they announced that they had called off the strike
  • This came as an enormous shock to the miners
  •  They believed that they were being treated unfairly and hoped that the support of their fellow wokers would force the government to make the mine owners back down
  • When the TUC called off the strike, the mienrs felt betrayed
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The end of the strike (2)

  • The TUC did have good reasons for its decision;
  • It realised that the government was not prepared to be defeated, during the strike the TUC spent about £4million and was running out of funds, the government spent about £433million, the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies made sure food was distributed and gas and electricity supplies were kept on
  • The TUC was also losing the propaganda war, it saw the strikes as an industrial dispute, but the government cleverly portrayed it as an attack on democracy, the TUC saw itself as representing the interests of the working man, but the government had managed to portray it as a revolutionary organisation, in actual fact, the TUC had deliberately avoided calling out workers in key areas and had worked hard to ensure picketing was peaceful, it was very worried about the clashes between police and strikers and feared they could get worse, it was also concerned about miners' demands that the strike should be extended to cut off power supplies
  • It was also true that the TUC found it hard to see how it could win the strike, the middle classes volunteered in large numbers to do the strikers' work and even seemed to be having fun
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After the strike

  • The General Strike was over and many employers took the oppurtunity to cut wages
  • The miners carried on with their own strike but were forced to return to work in November 1926
  • Wages were cut and hours increased
  • Mine owners took the opportunity to dismiss union leaders
  • In 1927 the government passed the Trades Dispute Act
  • It made it illegal for workers to come out on 'sympathy strikes' in support of other workers
  • It also banned civil servants from joining unions which were members of the TUC
  • The General Strike had failed and the unions had been crushed
  • Workers saw little value in union membership and in the next few years the numbers of workers in trade unions dropped dramatically
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