Unit 3J: The state and the people:Britain 1918-64

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Spec point :Lloyd George and post-war reconstruction: 'homes fit for heroes' industrial disputes; Ireland; scandals and the decline of the Liberal Party

Liberal party background

  • Liberals had been a dominant political party along with the Conservatives - Liberal PMs of the 19th century include - William Gladstone and Archibald Primrose 
  • The Liberal government of 1906–15 was one of the great reforming administrations of the twentieth century. Led by towering figures such as Asquith, Lloyd George and Churchill, it laid the foundations of the modern welfare state.

Lloyd George

  • Personal and political scandals
  • PM without a party
  • 1911 national insurance act
  • When DLG became PM it was calculated that 85 out of 260 Liberal MPs refused to support his administration

Post war reconstruction

  • In war 1 million died, 1.5 million wounded and 3.5 million widows and orphans

Effects of war:

  • Economic - accelerated economic decline after 1921, over investment in war for example in shipbuilding and war debts to USA
  • Political - increase in government intervention, increase in voters - representation of the people act 1918 - all men over 21, women over 30 could vote. Split the Liberals into the coalitionists and the squires.
  • Social- more liberal attitudes towards poverty, beginning of the break down of classes, better attitudes towards women
  • Coalition part of post-war reconstruction -  a way of maintaining national unity?

Social reform

  • Unemployment insurance act 1921
  • 1918 Education act - school leaving age raised to 14
  • 1919 - sex discrimination removal act

Home fit for heroes

  • As a result of fears that soldiers would come home without anywhere to stay, in 1918 election campaign he pledges to build half a million subsidised houses through local council  - Addisons housing Act
  • Rent Act 1920 - protects working class tenants from high rent
  • However only 176,000 houses built - it had became expensive and ended with government cut backs £76 million 
  • This failure suggests that a much stronger coalition was needed. But it was a success in that it meant housing subsidies were no longer taboo

Industrial disputes

  • DLG decontrols mines in 1921. After this there were fears a general strike was approaching.
  • Fear of socialism - Red Clydeside meant 70 ,000 workers were on strike and a red flag was raised
  • Strikes 1917-18 - workers growing in confidence
  • Union membership rose to 6 million from 4 million
  • Peak in strikes in 1921 - 85 million working days lost to strike - higher than pre war
  • Fear of revolution like in Russia
  • 1920 trade union congress formed - general council to coordinate industrial action


  • 1918-21 - confidence in economy
  • 1920 post war boom ends and bank rates are raised
  • Building of housing increases cost to the exchequer
  • In April 1920 more Conservative economic policies adopted - gov cuts and bank rates raised
  • Geddes Axe
  • Loans to countries such as Russia
  • DLG extended unemployment insurance act which protects workers from seasonal unemployment
  • Overall, the economy certainly suffered in ways

Foreign policy


  • Sent troops to Ireland in 1921 to…


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