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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 Political and Social Status of Women in 1903.

Victorian women had few civil or political rights. A wife had to do as she was told by her husband, who was her protector and adviser. Until 1884 a wife was officially listed as one of her husband’s possessions. In addition, Victorian women were expected to live up to an image of ‘the perfect being’– beautiful, demure and loving. Many women agreed with this attitude. As the 19th century progressed, women were given the right to vote in local elections. But by 1900 they still did not have a Parliamentary vote.

The Womens Freedom League

Womens Freedom League

In 1866 a group of women took a petition, signed by 1,500 women asking for the vote to Parliament. They were ignored. In 1897, the different female campaign groups joined together and became the Suffragists. These ‘Suffragists’ campaigned peacefully for the vote. Although the number of MPs who wanted women to have the vote grew, the Suffragists got nowhere.
In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst formed the ‘Suffragettes’. The Suffragettes, were much more violent. They held mass-meetings, sent campaigners to 10 Downing Street, and shouted from the Ladies Gallery during debates in Parliament. The Suffragists knew that changes were taking place in Great Britain and that it would affect the lifestyles that they had and the homes that they lived in, yet nobody wanted their input or opinion. In fact, some unsuitable men had more of an input into the way Britain was governed than women did.

Source A
A woman should make a man’s home delightful. Their sex should ever teach them to be subordinate. Women are like children; the more they show they need looking after, the more attractive they are.

Mrs John Sandford, Woman in her Social and Domestic Character (1837).

Source B

Women’s Rights in the 19th century

1857: Matrimonial Causes Act – a woman can divorce her husband if he beats her or commits adultery.
1882: Married Woman’s Property Act – married women allowed to own property and to keep their own earnings.


BBC - The Suffrage Campaign to 1903.

National Archives - looks at Human Rights for several groups at this time.




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