The Liberals’ policy towards State Control before the First World War was ‘laissez faire’, a policy of the government having a very limited impact on life in the country. However, the First World War forced them to scrap this policy and increase the restrictions placed on civilians in order to successfully fight the war. They did this in a number of ways, and this answer will include: Conscription, Censorship, restrictions on women and food rationing. It will be argued that the most extensive increase in state control was food rationing.
The most extensive increase in restrictions on civilians was rationing of food. Food had to be rationed due to the fact that German U-Boats were sinking British supply ships. In response to this, Britain had to become self-sufficient and the government had to start rationing food. Also, to ensure that everyone had a fair share of the food both the rich and poor were rationed. From this, it could be argued that the upper classes suffered more than the lower classes as the lower classes had always had little food, but it was a massive blow to the rich who were used to an enormous amount of food in a single day. To organise the rationing fairly, the government set up the Department of Food Production, which also helped organise the Women’s Land Army to gather the food required.
As well as the Women’s Land Army, women entered many areas of work previously closed to them. Millicent Fawcett, a leading feminist and president of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies from 1897 to 1918 said in 1918: 'The war revolutionised the industrial position of women - it found them serfs and left them free.' The war did offer women increased opportunities in the paid labour market. Between 1914 and 1918, an estimated two million women replaced men in employment, resulting in an increase in the proportion of women in total employment from 24 per cent in July 1914 to 37 per cent by November 1918. However, their pay was much less than...
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