The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Changes Brought by the War

Category: 20th century

In Ireland the reaction to the war was somewhat different. While the bourgeois nationalists supported England and turned themselves into recruiting agents, the left wing of the Volunteers opposed the war and prepared for an armed rising. They were ready, if nec­essary, to seek German aid.

The Irish problems drew to the 1916 Easter Re­bellion. The rebel forces were completely disorganized. Even so, and although the rising was almost confined to Dublin, it took 20,000 troops a week to suppress it. The rebellion resulted in several hundred dead. Most of the Irish political leaders were taken prisoner and executed.

The crushing of the Easter Rebellion proved to be the beginning rather than the end of the rebellion in Ireland. During the next two years the Labour and National movements grew steadily. In 1918 an attempt to extend conscription to Ireland was defeated by a general strike.

The new movement developed under the leader­ship of Sinn Fein Party. This Nationalist organization opposed to English rule but had taken no part in the 1916 rebellion. The Sinn Fein leaders were careful to prevent any class or agrarian element from intruding itself into the guerrilla war which lasted from 1919 to 1921. The civil war in Ireland ended with a treaty ne­gotiated by David Lloyd George in 1921. Most of the island became the Irish Free State, independent of British rule in all but name. The six counties of North­ern Ireland continued to be represented in the British Parliament, although they also gained their own pro­vincial parliament.

World War I created more opportunities for wom­en to work outside domestic service. Women workers made munitions in factories. When the war came to a close, women aged 30 and over were granted the vote by the Reform Act of 1918. The same Act granted the vote to all men over the age of 21. In 1928 women were given voting rights that were equal to those of men.

The immediate post-war years were marked by economic boom, rapid demobilization, and much la­bour strife. By 1921, however, the number of peop­le without work had reached one million. It was not so easy to sell British goods to countries which had been fighting an expensive war, and business profits were low.

People expressed their anger by strikes. In 1926 the Trade Union Congress asked all trade unions to stop work in support of a miners’ strike. This General Strike lasted only nine days and changed nothing.

Between 1929 and 1932, the international depres­sion more than doubled an already high rate of unem­ployment. Unemployment rose to more than 2 million in the 1930′s. In the course of several years, both the levels of industrial activity and of prices dipped by a quarter, and industries such as shipbuilding collapsed almost entirely.

Between 1933 and 1937, the economy recovered steadily, with the construction, automobile, and elec­trical industries leading the way. Unemployment re­mained high, however, especially in Wales, Scotland, and northern parts of England.

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