Britain 1914-29

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Britain and The First World War

British Governments : 

  • Liberals (Asquith) - August 1914 to May 1915
  • War Coalition (Asquith) - May 1915 to December 1916 
  • Liberals (Lloyd George) - December 1916 to 1917
  • Post War Coalition (Lloyd George) - December 1918 to October 1922
  • Conservatives (Bonar Law) - November 1922 to December 1923
  • Labour (Macdonald) - December 1923 to November 1924
  • Conservatives (Baldwin) - October 1924 to May 1929 

Shell shortage in May 1915 forced the government into an extensive process of State intervention in order to produce the necessary amount of munitions for the war.

Asquith formed a War Coalition with the Conservatives and Labour politicians, horrifying the Liberals and their Irish Nationalist allies.  

Liberal party strained (after Lloyd George replaced Asquith as Prime Minister) and finally split during to the Maurice Debate in 1918. 

Labour party almost split in 1914 over whether it should support the war or not - some leaders like Ramsey MacDonald refused to compromise and criticised the militarism in the press.

The war put the issue of Home Rule on hiatus between 1914-18 for the Irish Nationalist Party and they were overshadowed by the extremist Sinn Fein party who had 73/108 Irish seats. The Sinn Fein wanted complete seperation of Ireland from Great Britain - the Irish Republican Army (IRA) fought the British from 1919 onwards.

Lloyd George was very popular with the public at the end of the war, and he promised a post-war coalition government including the Conservatives - those who supported this was given a 'coupon'; essentially a certificate signed by Lloyd George and Bonar Law. The 'coupon election' of December 1918 resulted in:

Lloyd George Liberals: 133 seats

Asquith Liberals: 28 seats (Asquith actually lost his seat)

Labour: 63 seats

Conservatives : 333 seats 

Between 1914-16 voluntarism reached c. 2 million men. Recruitment posters and propaganda were used to encourage young men to sign up. Asquith's government resisted conscription up until January 1916, where it was extended several times.

Military Service Act - single men between ages 12 and 41

                             - married men  

                             - aged up to 50

As Minister of Munitions, Lloyd George made demands on Trade Unions known as diltution agreements in order to maximise the output of war materials. Number of days lost through strikes fell from 10 million in 1913 to under 3 million in 1916. 

Britain had to support a massive increase in the production of weapons of war. Two million shells had been produced by early 1915, by 1918 overall shell production had climbed to 187 million. There were also huge demands to provide transport, to increase and protect the provision of food and to ensure adequate supplies of  fuel (especially coal). Private industry could not cope on its own and the State began to commandeer stocks of vital…

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