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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.

The Cat and Mouse Act

The increasingly 'shocking' tactics of the Suffragette movement proved to be highly embarrassing for the government. The policy of force feeding suffragettes who were on Hunger Strike had the effect of generating sympathy for the Suffragettes and was politically backfiring. The Government, led by Herbert Asquith, needed to find a way of tackling the Suffragette tactics. The solution came in the form of the Prisoners, Temporary Discharge for Health Act, which is better known as the Cat and Mouse Act.

The Cat and Mouse Act allowed temporary short term release of prisoners. In doing so it took away the need to force feed suffragettes. Instead the authorities now arrested them, locked them up, let them go on hunger strike and when they were weak, released them on license. Once the Suffragette was eating and fit again, they were then rearrested and put back in prison to continue their sentence.

Suffragette Poster

Suffragette Poster criticisng the Cat and Mouse Act

Source Material

External Link - Suffragette poster calling for the repeal of the Cat and Mouse Act.

Source: Chrisabel Pankhurst, Unshackled.

The Home Secretary argued that the alternative to forcible feeding was to ‘let the prisoners die’. He assured the House that women were prepared to die for the cause. ‘It has been said,’ he said, ‘that not many women would die, but I think you would find that thirty, forty or fifty would come up, one after another.’ Finally, he foreshadowed the introduction of a new legislative Act to deal with the matter. This proved to be the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act, as it was quickly named by the critics of the Government… The Government prepared for their fight against Mrs. Pankhurst by introducing this new measure, framed with the purpose of making her serve, in spite of the hunger-strike, every single day of the long sentence that was surely awaiting her.

External Link - leaflet calling for the repeal of the Cat and Mouse Act.


History Learning Site - narrative account of the reasons for the act.

wcml.com - The Cat and Mouse Act




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