World War one began in 1914 when Great Britain declared war on Germany, this war was different to all previous wars for several reasons; it was the first war, which involved so many nations, and also where people at home were affected very greatly indeed. The war affected everyone, not just the soldiers, for the first civilians were killed or injured by German Zeppelins, which were able to fly over to Britain and actually drop bombs on the country. Propaganda was used greatly to influence the way that British people thought about the enemy and it was this key factor, which kept the British people against the Germans.
Despite all the negative aspects and outcomes of the war, governments knew that to stand a chance of winning the war they had to invest more money into improving technology and the war was responsible for many technological and medical advances, these advances include the mass-production of the wireless and the discovery of penicillin. As a result of the conflict and the majority of men going off to fight, the role of women improved dramatically, from being the typical housewife and being subject and expected of a very domestic lifestyle, they found that during the war they had to take over the men’s roles, which involved them going out to work in factories and producing munitions. Throughout this essay I am going to look at various areas, as to how and what extent the people on the home front were affected by the war.
Section A is very useful as it delivers various sources, secondary and primary and tells in detail the initial impact of the war 1914/1915. Source A1 clearly tells us that WW1 was the first war to affect Britain at home and this is very valid, the source also tells us about the severe increase in political control, the government passing the Defence Of the Realm Act (DORA) in August 1914 which increased the government’s control over the population, to get the most out of the people for the war effort.
There was systematic and indeed, deliberate propaganda to influence people to help in the war effort by broadcasting (in cases) mindless nationalism, and this propaganda utilized children a lot to appeal to the people and showed that the Germans soldiers were not doing their job and they enjoyed killing, this infuriated the public and so almost everyone was up for war against Germany. Along with these large scale impacts were minor and social impacts including the cancellation of Bank Holidays and Bonfire Night. This source is secondary evidence, from a British History textbook; it will be well researched and contains factual information rather than speculation based on opinion.
Source A2 is a very famous recruiting poster, which was issued in 1914, so therefore it is a primary source, and its purpose was to provoke a response – join the army. The key signifier/central image of the poster is an image of Lord Kitchener and in bold letters at the top of the page it says “BRITONS”, this is to display loyalty, nationalism and indeed, patriotism. The content of the source is stern and commanding, which instructs the British people to “do their duty”. At this time it was voluntary, rather than compulsory to join the army, whereas later the government made it compulsory to sign up.
Source A2 (ii) delivers a blunt message towards men who didn’t want to participate in the war effort by going off to fight in the trenches. It blatantly displays a man being questioned by his children, and uses the children to appeal to the conscience of British men to make them feel cowardly and disloyal. The government used this type of psychological propaganda to influence people’s thoughts and minds and this created a large impact on their lives. This source is linked to A3 in terms of content, source A3 is a statement which puts psychological pressure on men from parents, peers and in fact, everyone. It states that the consequences would be more severe if they were to stay at home. It shows the effect of propaganda and its enormous impact on people’s lives.
Source A4 is a photograph taken outside Southwark Town Hall, December 1915. It is linked to propaganda, and indeed, could be a form of propaganda in itself – as it is a photograph, it could also be set up, everyone seems happy, optimistic and enthusiastic, and this could create pressure on the men from a social aspect despite the fact that all the enthusiasm could only be superficial. The different hats in the photograph represent different social background – the flat hats represent working class and the bowling hats represent middle class, the photo shows definite unity between the classes, they are all merged together and creates an idea of confederacy within society itself. However this could again be superficiality.
This section clearly shows that support for the war is very great; the section barely mentions opposition, which is demonstrated in source A6. This shows clearly that there is opposition to the war, although this opposition is a great minority. The source tells of one group of opposition, the “Women’s International League”. As time went on, this group increased in size. Most were upper class and middle class. They provided peaceful demonstrations by publishing pamphlets and leaflets, and held meetings to try to persuade other women to support them. This is secondary evidence, which has been compiled for a history textbook, so it has obviously been researched very thoroughly and is, therefore, going to be very reliable.
Section A shows the initial impacts of the war and shows that the degree of impact was very great especially in the short term and shows that support for the war is very great, however it also tells us that as the war dragged on more and more people began to oppose the war. The section shows a great amount of psychological pressure that was put on the soldiers and the tightening of control over the country that the government had, and how its use of propaganda was able to win over and effectively indoctrinate the minds of the populace.
Section B is very revealing, and it displays key and significant impacts towards Britain featuring propaganda, which influenced the way people felt towards the Germans. This section is very important in terms of the impact of the war on people, for example, food rationing and the great medical and technological exaltations.
Source B1 (i) clearly shows that coal mining was very important, the government set up a railway committee, which controlled and organised all the country’s railways – coal was needed to run the trains and to effectively run the war, therefore, the government ensured that coal miners did not go out to fight the war and they were told that mining coal was as important as fighting.
Source B1 (ii) blatantly demonstrates the effect the U-boat activity had on British citizens – the fact that there was an increase in U-boat activity meant that British supply ships were sunk very often, thus there were great food shortages, which led to food rationing. The people at home had to be fed and the soldiers fighting abroad had to be fed too, this left the government in a bit of a predicament. Food rationing began in 1917 so people had just about enough to eat, this food rationing was brought about by the government to allow them to control the amount of food eaten by the people at home so that if vessels containing food were sunk then it would not have a very great impact on British people at home. The government controlled the price of food such as bread and potatoes. Due to this food rationing, national health was generally not as good.
B1 (iii) is clear and shows how the war led to great medical and technological advances. As doctors and surgeons had to treat thousands of injured men, they had to try out new ideas and techniques; penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming, which solved the problem of infection of deep wounds. Due to the war, technicians developed planes to fly faster, further and higher, and were also equipped with weaponry to fight. By the time the war was over, aircraft were the epitome of the times technology and hundreds of young men were able to fly planes. Chemicals were used greatly during the war for creating poison gas and high explosives; these techniques were then used in peacetime for medicine, photography and various other useful establishments.
Corporations such as Marconi prospered after the war because of during the conflict they had to produce thousands of wirelesses for the forces and after the war there was great demand for the devices. The war led many medical and technological advances, which is quite ironic considering the nature of the conflict, and these advances were positive, i.e. cures for illnesses and new ways to store blood. A very great impact on peacetime Britain and a long-term impact in terms of medicine and most areas. The source is an extract from “Modern World History” textbook; therefore it is reliable, as it has been researched thoroughly, although it only shows positive aspects of the war.
Source B2is an extract from “Modern World History”, a textbook that has been researched thoroughly and is reliable. The source clearly demonstrates the impact of propaganda and how it influenced the minds of the British people and portrayed a negative view of the Germans. Many people believed this government propaganda, and as a result Germans living in Britain faced discrimination. Impact was very great in business sectors and many shopkeepers refused to sell German products, the same ideas were present in cafes and restaurants, and the fact that The Royal Family changed their name from a German name to an English name shows how profound and great the impact of anti-German hysteria was.
Nationalistic mobs attacked and ransacked shops owned by Germans in some of the major cities in Britain; only a few of the rioters were arrested and those that did were very lightly punished, this shows that the authorities turned a blind eye towards this extreme right wing nationalism. Germans living in Britain were taken away and put into camps until the war was over, for their safety, apparently. The second part of B2 is a photograph that clearly shows anti-German feelings. It shows a mass of people attacking a German shop and this photograph alone shows that the government’s propaganda has worked.
Source B3 is secondary evidence written by Robert Roberts, he tells us about better conditions for children as a result of war. He states that by late 1916 children looked better fed, this could be ensued by the fact that there were numerous technological and medical advances during the war. However food shortages were very real and it seems quite hard to comprehend how slum children were becoming better nourished – this could be down to the rationing, giving them a chance to actually have more than they normally have. The source is questionable towards its reliability; the source is secondary, published in 1971.
Source B4 (ii) is a political source and shows that the Labour Party benefited in 1916 when Lloyd George formed his war cabinet – they stressed at the same time that labour had no responsibility for the pre-war diplomacy that had led them to the war. Labour prospered because of the war. The same cannot be said for the Liberal Party – many principles of liberalism had to be abandoned such as free trade and voluntary military service. And the public image was damaged by the split between Lloyd George and his followers and the followers of Asquith, which resulted from Lloyd George’s appointment as Prime Minister. The source is secondary evidence derived from the book “A History Of Wales” 1993 – the source is retrospective, although may not be perfectly accurate and correct.
Overall section B is very revealing as it shows the impact the war had on health and medicine – the discovery of penicillin was a significant aspect which solved many problems, the government’s increase in control, such as propaganda and food rationing which influenced the way British people thought and acted. There were many political changes, such as the appointment of Lloyd George as Prime Minister and there was many technological advances i.e. the advancement of aircraft.
Section C is helpful because it shows the changing roles of women and work and reveals the impact of the war on women in the short term and long term. Source C1 shows the importance of women on the home front; prior to the war women had been campaigning to get the vote. When the war began, they stopped their protests. Women were needed to support the men and keep their spirits up – they handed out white feathers to the men to encourage them to go out and fight. As most men were in France, fighting in trenches, businesses found themselves short of a solid workforce, so the women took over the jobs, which had been left behind by the men.
Some women took over their husband’s jobs, such as grave digging and blacksmiths, whilst others took over jobs directly linked to the war, such as ambulance driving and nursing – many even worked at the front, although far more went to work in banks, offices, and especially, factories where they produced munitions to aid the soldiers and ensure that the troops had a constant supply of weaponry and ammunition. In many cases, women did jobs that had never been done by a women before 1914, this increased women’s confidence and independence significantly.
Source C2 is very important in terms of its contents, it states that women played a decisive role in the war effort, the women have been greatly affected by the war, as they are doing jobs which they had never done before the war started. People were also unsure of the future role of women after the war. The source is part of a speech made by Herbert Asquith in the House of Commons in 1917, when he was Prime Minister; in this speech he is clearly saying that women deserve the vote, whereas before the war he had been against women gaining the vote, a great reversal of opinion. Because the Prime Minister had changed his opinion, women received the vote in 1918; it was the war that was a crucial turning point for women to finally gain political equality.
Source C3 shows social changes in the lives of women. The attitudes and behaviour of women changed significantly, this change was in towns and cities mostly. These changes were inflicted by an increase in confidence and independence; they began to go out to the theatre and they were affected by fashions. There was a great change from the fundamental lifestyle they’d previously been following. The source is from a report in the Daily Mail – primary evidence. It can be linked with source C8 that clearly shows that women faced many social and sexual changes as a result of World War One. There was a kind of revolution in the lifestyles of women, they began smoking in public and going to pubs with other female friends. They also began to buy their own drinks, which had been uncommon before the war. Source C8 is very reliable as it has been thoroughly researched and published by Louise Black – a very renowned historian.
Source C4 is a selection of extracts from various history textbooks and, therefore, is likely to be quite reliable. David Evans tells us that women underwent many social changes and traditional areas of work for women changed. There were also changes in what was expected of women – whereas before the war it was often considered unbecoming for a woman to work, during the war it was considered unpatriotic for them not to. Sarah Davies states that the war was a key point in women gaining independence, which is a valid interpretation and women broke through the barriers, which had confined them to their homes. Dudley Woodget clearly points out that one of the most revolutionary changes of the war was the participation of women in the war effort – upper class women took part in the war effort and did their patriotic duty. These sources are all quite accurate and offer valid interpretations that are reliable.
Source C5 is a poster issued by the government during the war, however no date is given. The source is clearly propaganda trying to encourage women to take part in the war effort, and make munitions. The woman is the central image on the poster and she is wearing a uniform, which indicates she is important, in the background there is a soldier waving approval, this shows that women would gain respect and it would entice them to take part.
Source C7 is clear in its intentions that explain and perhaps even exaggerates the “revolution”. The war revolutionized the industrial position of women – they had to take part in the war effort. The source also shows that men’s attitudes towards women’s abilities changed dramatically, and people were made aware of the intelligence and abilities of women.
Overall, section C is very informative and displays clearly how the attitudes of women and indeed, towards women changed. There were great changes socially and politically. The war gave women the opportunity to use their abilities and be noticed by society, and obtain equality as citizens. In Britain they obtained the vote in 1918 for women over 30, this was however still not equal with men, who were able to vote at 21.
Section D provides a lot of information on the deeper, more profound effects of the war, such as women gaining the vote and the economic impacts of the war.
Source D1 (ii) is primary evidence and is a report from the “Daily Sketch” (December 1917) it is a report about women over 30 gaining the vote, so, therefore, benefiting. This source shows that political and public opinion had changed dramatically. Hypothetically, before the war women would not have gained the vote. The majority, which proved “surprisingly big”, shows this immense change in opinion.
Source D2 shows the long term, deeper, more profound impacts of the war; the death of nearly 750,000 British service men. Most of these deaths were young men aged between 18 and 25. These deaths were tragedies for their families. The long-term effects included children growing up without fathers and widows growing old without husbands. The men who died or were severely injured and left disabled could have grown up to become talented professionals e.g. doctors and mechanics. This generation of men is often referred to as the “lost generation”, which shows how deep the impact really was.
Source D4 shows the economic impact, a general change in the outlook of the economy. Domestic servants were hard to come by – their number had halved during the war.
D5 shows the psychological impact of the war on the next generation. It clearly tells of how the dead would never return and the entire nation, and indeed most of the world would have to live with that. It highlights the feelings of those left behind and how they were affected. The source is remembered by Vera Brittain, who worked as a VAD in France, the source is useful because it shows the feelings of those who stayed behind and lost people they knew.
Source D7 is very useful. It shows, how in the latter stages of the war, people began to realise the actual amount of casualties and the horrifying conditions the soldiers faced. The disillusionment of patriotism and romantic hero-worship of the early years and given way to the reality. The source is from the Scottish Record Office and is a trustworthy and accurate description of the latter stages of the war.
Source D8 shows how newspapers responded to the end of the war – patriotism is shown and the front page is composed entirely of pictures. Flags are present, showing nationalism. This is primary evidence – November 12, 1918.
Overall section D is very useful as it shows the long-term effects and indeed, the psychological effects and lasting impact that the war had on those who lost people they knew and on the next generation.
It is clear to see that the war had a great impact on the lives of the people at home. This impact was spread across several areas. Some of these effects were on women – they gained independence and were the closest they had ever been to political equality with men, as they gained the right to vote. The lives of the British people on the home front were affected greatly by the food rationing and the use of propaganda influenced the way the people acted and thought towards German people, Germans living in Britain became the victims of discrimination and their establishments (such as shops and houses) were ransacked. To say the least, the greatest impact of the war was the loss of thousands of men and this impact not only affected the people on the frontline and the home front but it would effect countless generations afterwards.