How Did the First World War Change British Society?

Topics: Social class, Working class, Suffragette Pages: 5 (1672 words) Published: March 25, 2009
How did the First World War change British society?

The Great War involved most of the adult population either 'head on' or discretely. On average, 6 million men served in Britain's armed forces during the course of the war. Many millions of innocent civilians had their lives affects to the overall changes, both economic and social that the war caused or added to. The impact of the war varied greatly between the different regions of the sommunity. There were many differences and considerations ; these being gender and social class, so it is had to dinstinguish and measure the war's exact impact on people's attitudes, beliefs and values.

Firstly, there was a significant impact on social classes. For the working class, the war gave the chance of full employment for all, and good money was able to be made. Essentials for all people were controlled and these factors all together, along with rationing meant that the percent of people in extreme poverty decreased by the end of the war. The middle and upper class, had reduction in their living standards, and the landed classes were affected by the death rate of the younger members of thearmy, as most of them were from higher class families, and by having to pay more in tax. Also, many landowners had to sell their properties - 25% of land holdings in England were sold between 1917 and 1921.

As well as these factors, the war affected social mobility, causing a significant increase. Class divisions were not broken, but the deaths that occured brought the classes together in events such as memorials and rituals of rememberance.

For the effects of war on adult men, the biggest impact was the military service and the emotional and physical trauma it brought. Out of the 6 million men serving, 750,00 were killed and about 2 million wounded and left traumatised. From 1916 onwards, conscription was introduced, meaning that the war was no longer optional to partake it, it was compulsary, and soldiers and workers faced restrictions, such as social drinking. Men that worked had to face that they would be replaced by women and for some, had to adjust working alongside them. Both working class and middle class men had to pay more tax from their earnings, and the rich found that petrol for cars was rationed.

On the other hand, the war widened men's freedom for the long term. All men over 21 were allowed to vote from 1918 onwards, and trade unions grew in membership. Employment was full and there was a significant highering of the standard of living for the pooer workers. Many of these changes continued after the war, except full employment, as after 1918, workers had to fight to keep their living standards higher and livable.

The beliefs and attitudes of people during the war period were seriously affected too. Education was disrupted because many teachers volunteered or were conscripted and because huge members of lower class children left school early to contribute with the labour in the economy. Many children lost their fathers and brothers and many ended up living in single parent households as a result of the war. Churches were given a more prominent role, as chaplains were needed for the armed forces to cater for the spiritual and religious needs of the vast armies. Religious services and burials were of higher need and churchmen were in demand to conduct those. People's faith was tested throughout the war because of the atrocious amount of deaths, and some found it hard ti justify the slaughter that took place, and reconcile this with faith in God. A small group of people called the 'Quakers' refused to fight in any way and became known as 'conscientious objectors,' and those who were extreme, known as 'pacifists' were sent to prison, while others volunteered for non - combatant work such as stretcher bearers or ambulance drivers. Church attendance rose a little through the war, but declined not long after it ended. Also, the fact that a war had broken out at all, brought...
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