The First World War
Britain declared war on Germany as she had invaded neutral Belgium. The
conflict soon became worldwide and lasted four years.
At the start the British army consisted of volunteers, but two years later men
were forced to join the army. It was the first European war Britain had taken
part in since the Napoleonic wars (except for the Crimean War in 1854-56). The
effects were devastating and disastrous owing to the use of modern weapons.
When the war was over the government assured improvements in living conditions
for young men returning from the war, but hopes for a better future were
At the beginning of the century Britain was no longer the power she had been
during the past. Many were the causes of this slow but gradual decline.
In Europe other countries started to challenge and threaten Britan’s economic
power, such as Gerrnany and France, an
also the United States constituted a growing power in way of expansion.
Moreover British industries underwent a critical period and there was in the
production goods. Science and technology were no longer British economy’s
exclusive privilage. It was extremely expensive to keep up the Empire and its
decline was underway. After the first world war the “Dominions” of South
Africa, Canada. Australia and New Zealand, gained their independence but
remained members of the “British Commonwealth of Nations”. A different fate
however was reserved to non-white colonies. In India the demand for
independence and self-government was growing and the movement for freedom was
organized by Mahatma Gandhi through “civil disobedience” and no violent
methods. India gained full independence after the second world war in 1947. The
social position of women too underwent a radical change after the first world
war. Women had taken men’s places in factories during the war and their social
role could no longer be underrated. In 1918 women over the age of thirty gained
the right to vote, but universal female suffrage was only achieved in 1928. The
liberation of women gradually took place; women could now dress more casually,
have short hair, smoke and drink, and by so doinig, they acquired more social