Britain and the First World War: not just battles

Historian feature

By Paula Kitching, published 6th February 2024

When the First World War started in the summer of 1914 it began a series of events that would change the world for ever; it also accelerated changes and ideas that were already underway. In some cases, big issues appeared to be put to one side while the immediate needs of war took priority, but the intensity of the war experience also seemed to affect even the small social causes. Events and patterns were sometimes set in motion that left lasting legacies, with some still having an effect today.

Demands for changes in society, along with physical and legal attempts to challenge the existing political and societal order were a common occurrence of the previous decades – the rights of women, the universal franchise, technological changes, imperial politics and national identities were just some of the big themes that were ongoing. It is no surprise that the war years and those immediately after them were some of the most tumultuous... 

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