The British Home Front and World War I

2018 marks the centenary of the end of World War I in November 1918. Most of the volunteers who went off to Belgium and northern France in the summer of 1914 believed that the war would be over by Christmas; after all, there had not been a major European war since 1815. But within a year of the outbreak of war it was clear that this was going to be a very different sort of war from anything that had gone before and would require the total mobilization of all of the resources of the belligerent powers. In this new situation civilians at home were directly affected by the war and a 'home front' soon developed to complement and support the various military fronts around the world.

As the war spread the increasingly urgent need for recruits demanded ever more inventive ways to persuade young men to join up. As those recruits went off to fight their places were increasingly filled by women who drove buses, ambulances and worked in munitions factories. By 1916, with the introduction of conscription, there were few families in the United Kingdom who had not been touched in some way by the war and its successful prosecution dominated British society, from children's literature to the newly significant medium of cinema.

This course will explore aspects of the British home front during World War I. We will explore the impact of the war on such groups as women and young people and the ways in which governments and society responded and adapted to the demands of the first 'total' war. The final session reaches the point when, after November 1918 and with over 1,250,000 British and Empire troops dead, ways had to be found to commemorate the fallen and cope with the trauma of having survived 'the war to end war.'

Dr Andrew Lacey
October 2017

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