January has marked the start of television’s WW1 commemorations with Jeremy Paxman’s excellent ‘Britain’s Great War’ and ‘The Cousins’ War’ on BBC2, which gave a fascinating insight into the relationship between the British, Russian and German royal families.
January’s BBC History Magazine is packed full of interesting articles on the First World War.
The Council for British Archaeology is launching an exciting project in partnership with English Heritage and other partner organisations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to work on ‘The Legacy of the First World war and its home front 1914 -1918. The project aims to encourage volunteers to identify sites such as military training camps, practice trenches and building temporarily requisitioned to aid the war effort on the home front. The information gathered as part of this project will be made available online in the form of digital maps. One thing I didn’t appreciate is that Dan Snow is the President of the Council for British Archaeology (personal hero!)
For family history enthusiasts, a new archive which will help people trace the stories of those involved in World War 1 will be available at ‘Who do you think you are? Live’ at Olympia in London from 20th – 22nd February. Another personal hero – John Simpson – is giving a lecture there!
Mark Bostridge’s article about events in Britain leading up to the outbreak of war in 1914 paints a picture of a country so totally distracted by events going on at home that the start of the war pretty much took the public by surprise. So what was going on to cause such distractions?
Levels of industrial unrest were high – almost a thousand strikes would take place up to the end of July 1914. The women’s suffrage movement was taking violent action to bring attention to its cause. Home Rule for Ireland was another particularly thorny issue. As Bostridge rightly says, Britain faced ‘a sex war, class war & civil war’.
Events in Europe were soon to overtake and dwarf Britain’s home grown crises. With war being declared on 4th August 1918, the Home Rule Bill was suspended until the war was over, the suffragettes were instructed to bring a stop to all militant activities through the course of the war and an industrial truce was called (although this did not stop industrial action being taken altogether until the very final stages of the war!)
The climax to Jeremy Paxman’s programme highlighted the impact that World War 1 had on the country as a whole. The deaths of wealthy landowners killed in the conflict and the impact of death duties lead to the breaking up and selling of large estates; conditions were better for the poorest in society, there was pretty much full employment at the end of the war; women had taken a more prominent role in the workplace and certain women now had the right to vote. Britain certainly would never be the same again!
Copies of Jeremy Paxman’s Great Britain’s Great War can be borrowed from Norfolk Library & Information Service
BBC History Magazine is available for reference in the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library.