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War and the transformation of British society c1903–28

Key Topic 1: The Liberals, votes for women and social reform

The activities of the women’s societies and the reaction of the authorities. Overview

Children’s welfare measures, old age pensions. Overview

Labour Exchanges 1909, the National Insurance Act 1911. Overview

The political position of women in 1903




Reactions of the authorities to militancy and protest

Forced feeding

The ‘Cat and Mouse Act’

Children’s Charter (1906)

The School Meals Act (1906)

Medical Inspection, 1907.

The reasons for and importance of Old Age Pensions Act (1908).

Labour Exchanges (1909)

National Insurance Act 1911.

Key Topic 2: The part played by the British on the Western Front

The BEF and 1914. Overview

Britain’s contribution to the Western Front 1915–17. Overview

The end of the war. Overview

The despatch of the BEF

The part played in the events of 1914

The failure of the Schlieffen Plan

The race for the sea

Setting up of the trench system.

The nature of trench warfare

Haig and the Battle of the Somme

The development and importance of new weapons



The creeping barrage.

Britain’s part in the events of 1918

Ludendorff’s offensives

The drive to victory.

Key Topic 3: The home front and social change

DORA, censorship and propaganda. Overview

Recruitment and rationing. Overview

The part played by women. Overview

The importance of censorship

Examples of propaganda

The various methods of recruitment: 1914–16

The reasons for, and impact of, conscription: 1916–18

Conscientious objectors.


The effects of submarine warfare on Britain

Measures brought in by the Government to alleviate the threat of U-Boats.

Key Topic 4: Economic and social change 1918–28

The changing role of women 1918–28. Overview

Industrial unrest 1918–27. Overview

The General Strike of 1926. Overview

Extension of the franchise

The changes in women’s work and social changes.

Trade union membership

Industrial militancy in the years 1918–20

The long-term and immediate problems of the coal industry

Black Friday (1921)

Red Friday (1925)

The Samuel Commission (March 1926).

Government preparations and measures to deal with the General Strike

The reasons why the TUC called off the General strike

Trades Disputes Act of 1927.

Douglas Haig and the Battle of the Somme

In December 1915, Haig was appointed commander in chief of the BEF. He was put under extreme pressure by the French to produce a diversion from Verdun. The first Battle of the Somme was fought from July to November 1916. In that time Allied forces advanced 12km and suffered 420,000 British and 200,000 French casualties.

In 1918 Haig took charge of the successful British advances on the Western Front which led to an Allied victory later that year. After the war Haig's management of the major campaigns, notably on the Somme in 1916, and at Passchendaele in 1917, was criticised by David Lloyd George, the British prime minister. Some military historians have claimed that Haig tactics were deeply flawed. Others have defended his actions and claimed that his approach was largely determined by French demands for continuous action at that part of the Western Front.


As to whether it were wise or foolish to give battle on the Somme, there can surely be only one opinion. To hve refused to fight then and there would have meant the abandonment of Verdun to its fate and the breakdown of co-operation with the French.
From the biography of Haig, officially aithorised by Haig’s family, by Duff Cooper – ‘Haig’ (1936)

Hundreds of dead…were strung out like wreckage washed up to a high water mark. Quite as many died on the enemy wire as on the ground…they hung there is grotesque postures.
How did the planner imagine that Tommies would get through the German wire? How told them that artillery fire would pound such wire to pieces, making it possible to get through. Any Tommy could have told them that shell fire lifts wire up and drops it down, often in a worse tangle than before.
From ‘With a Machine Gun to Cambrai.’ By George Coppard.

The men are in splendid spirits. Several have said that they have never been so instructed and informed of the nature of the operations before them. The wire has never been so well cut, nor the artillery preparations so thorough
Dairy of Sir Douglas Haig, written 30 June 1916

They knew nothing except by hearsay about the actual fighting of a battle under modern conditions. Haig ordered many bloody battles in this War. He only took part in two. He never even saw the ground on which his greatest battles were fought, either before or during the fight.
David Lloyd George, after the war

Very successful attack this morning… All went like clockwork… The battle is going very well for us and already the Germans are surrendering freely. The enemy is so short of men that he is collecting them from all parts of the line. Our troops are in wonderful spirits and confidence.
Written by Haig on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme

We had heavy looses in men and material. As a result of the Somme we were completely exhausted on the Western Front… Defeat seemed inevitable
Autobiography of the German General Ludendorff, ‘My Wartime Memories 1914-1918’, written in 1919

'Good-morning; good-morning!' the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
'He's a cheery old card,' grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.
Siegfried Sassoon




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