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It feels appropriate to share my mother-in-law's writings, for they are not personal notes but something which she obviously felt was important and relevant to the world. She was reflecting on the first few decades of the 20th century - not on her own life, but on society as a whole...

Introduction by Chris Crowstaff

February 2012

When sorting the house recently, I came across an unmarked notebook in a plastic carrier bag, with notes written in pencil.

The notebook contained extremely fascinating and in-depth notes, written in pencil over a period of about a year from 1966 to 1967.

The notes were written by someone who was reflecting on the first few decades of the 20th century - not on their own life, but on society as a whole.

A few pages on, I discovered that the notes had been written by my mother-in-law, Cynthia Sampson, for there was also a very short account of her early life, which she had written thirty-five years later, in the same handwriting and also pencil-written.

The Safeworld International Foundation was founded with a bequest from Cynthia who passed away on 17th January 2008, aged 88.

We didn't know that Cynthia had written anything and, indeed, these notes seemed to have been written as much for her own interest as for anyone else's information. But we have always known that Safe World for Women is very much in keeping with Cynthia's views and passions.

It feels appropriate to share Cynthia's writings here, for they are not personal notes but something which she obviously felt was important and relevant to the world. The first few decades of the last century are indeed relevant to a world facing the challenges of uprisings and economic crisis, sanctions, and conflicts, and international treaties. There is a wealth of history we can draw on. Surely there should be something we can learn from it?

I have pretty-much published Cynthia's notes in full, only rearranging them a little into date order. I have added a few notes (which are in italics) just to give a little background information in places, but where possible I have simply added links to relevant articles, for anyone who (like me) wants to read more. I have also added subtitles.

It is typical of Cynthia that she hadn't gone out of her way to show anyone what she'd written, that there was no title, no explanation. But towards the end of her life, sitting in her armchair next to her oxygen-cylinders, she would use as much energy as she could muster - between re-energizing with her oxygen - to share her thoughts on the world.

Cynthia was the inspiration for Safe World for Women. She loved to chat with me about women's participation (or lack of) in important issues, about women's ability to network and cooperate. She was passionate and personally active about community involvement and helping at a grassroots level.

Introduction to Cynthia Sampson, written by herself:

"Born at home in Lancaster on 13th May 1920.

The family moved to Sheffield in 1926. Started at Notre Dame School and made lifelong friends who are still in touch in 2003. After Matriculation I went to Business College for one year.

My father died in 1937, and my sister died on 6th September 1939, just after the outbreak of war, when I was in the WAAF stationed near Harrow, having attended training classes during the year leading up to the outbreak of war. I was given compassionate leave, and attached to the Balloon Barrage in Broomgrove Road, and given consideration for release as my mother was alone and not well. This duly went through and I joined the staff at Cobden Board & Co (accountants) as the first female member, replacing a man called up for service, and I stayed with them until I was married in 1948."

Cynthia Sampson, 2003

War, Pacifism and Socialism from 1914 to 1936

Cynthia Sampson's notes, written 1966 to 1967.

Editorial notes (in italics) and subtitles by Chris Crowstaff..

Optimism in Britain

Womens-Freedom-League-1911The Edwardian era (1901 to 1910) was a period of social progress, & advancing democracy. There was a great wave of patriotism & optimism in Britain.

 By 1914, Britain hadn't been involved in a major war for 99 years - since the Napoleonic war 1815 - and had since been through an industriali revolution.

The wars of 19th century were relatively contained, but the 1914-18 war escalated until the world was involved. The colonies joined in.


The French were very bitter about the annexation by the Germans in 1870 of Alsace-Lorraine and France was anxious to regain control of the region.

Russia was allied to Serbia which  had always been a hotbed of tension. Serbia was attacked by Austria.  Germany declared war on Russia. Luxembourg, such a small state, allowed the Germans passage.

Russia, beaten by the Japanese earlier, had built up their armies again.

Britain's Involvement

Womens-Freedom-LeagueThe British Cabinet was divided on whether Britain should remain neutral (there was a big pacifist section).

The British had no conscription and no British army to be part of the French army, at least at the beginning.

However, secret plans were made between the French and the British military leaders.

The Belgians had neglected their army, having relied on their guarantors.

When Belgium became involved, Britain was bound to support (in 1839, Belgium was independent under King Leopold, who had been married to a daughter of Queen Anne).

(5th August 1914 - The Guardian - 'Great Britain declared war on Germany at 11 o'clock last night.

The Cabinet yesterday delivered an ultimatum to Germany. Announcing the fact to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said: "We have repeated the request made last week to the German Government that they should give us the same assurance in regard to Belgian neutrality that was given to us and Belgium by France last week. We have asked that it should be given before midnight."

Last evening a reply was received from Germany. This being unsatisfactory the King held at once a Council which had been called for midnight. The declaration of war was then signed'.)


In Britain, the Liberals were in power under Asquith at the beginning of war. There was a reorganisation of the Cabinet and Asquith was pressed against his will to makeLord Kitchener Minister of War. He had a great reputation as an Imperial Soldier. Britain had never had a soldier politician since Wellington.

The French Government left Paris for Bordeaux . Civilians were persuaded to stay; and Paris fell.

Kitchener felt that Britain must train a large professional army.

Patriotism and War

Die-Friedens-WarteCover of Die Friedens-Warte, a German journal of the peace movement, issue #11, 1913. There was a great wave of patriotism amongst the intellectuals, and also a great wave of anti-German feeling compared with before the war, when there was more camaraderie with Germany than with France.

Turkey shelled Sebastopol and Odessa, so the Allies declared war on Turkey.

(On November 4, 1914, the Russians, smarting after the German-Turkish ships had shelled Odessa and Sebastopol, declared war on the Ottoman Empire. The following day, the British and French Governments also declared war on Turkey.)

By the end of 1914, Britain could muster about one million men. Allowances were very delayed and very low.


Womens-Peace-PartyMembers of the Women’s Peace Party arriving in the Netherlands from America in April 1915 for the International Congress of Women, a four-day antiwar protest held at The Hague. In May 1915, there was a Cabinet reconstruction and Unionists were brought in.

In 1915, Japan declared war on the side of the Allies.

Early in 1915, the British Government took great powers. D.O.R.A. (Defense of the Realm Act). This heralded the beginnings of women working - in munitions.

Affluence and Drunkenness

People at home in Britain were making much money out of the war - drunkenness & debauchery became a problem and in 1915, Lloyd George led a campaign against drink. King Geoge V gave up drink in March 1915, as an example.

There was a wave of feeling against people in high places.

Herbert-Henry-AsquithHerbert Henry AsquithCoalition Formed

Haldane (Lord Chancellor) had once said his spiritual home was Germany (philosophically). There was a press campaign against him and he was dropped in 1915.

There was reconstruction of the Government and a coalition was formed with the Conservatives.

Conservative leader,  Andrew Bonar Law, demanded a coalition. In this demand he found an ally in David Lloyd George – a Liberal. In May 1915, Asquith agreed to Bonar Law’s demand for a coalition.

The Coalition suggested that Asquith was unsuitable as the leader of the War Cabinet, and was not war-minded.

Lloyd George was determined to inspire people. Asquith had kept the Liberal Government at the beginning of war. Sir John French was not on good terms with Kitchener. By 1915, there was a shell shortage on nearly all fronts. Russia ran out in the Battle of Tannenburg.

Sir John French resigned and Lord Douglas Haig took over; quite ruthless in the use of manpower.

Lord Fisher (1st Sea Lord) resigned as a result of the Dardanelles, and Churchill was in disgrace.

Conscription was introduced for the unmarried - and there was much ill-feeling. Sir John Simon resigned.


Helen-CrawfurdHelen Crawford was one of the best know and most popular members of the Scottish Suffragette Movement. She lost both her husband and her mother in 1914. While taking a leading role in the anti-war movement Helen was very active in the 1915 rent strikes.General Conscription was introduced in January 1916. As 1916 went on, the situation became more and more grave.

In Jutland, Britain lost many more ships and men than the Germans.

Kitchener drowned on the way to Russia.

In Verdun, the French suffered very heavily on the Eastern Front. The Russians were still doing 'well'.

Internal Disputes in the British Government

Lloyd George was very restive and wanted conscription extended.

He succeeded Kitchener as the War Minister and wanted a War Council, without Asquith. Asquith was not prepared to accept it.

Beaverbrook played 'king', as an influential Conservative. He arranged secret meetings with Lloyd George.

There was an anonymous press attack on Asquith, who threatened to disclose all.

Lord Robert Cecil and Austen Chamberlain (Unionists) said they would support Lloyd George rather than Asquith, who consulted George V. The King sent for Bonar Law, who wanted Asquith in the Cabinet.

All the leaders were called and Asquith decided he couldn't serve in an administration (following the press attack); there must be unity. There were personality clashes between himself and Lloyd George.

December 1916 saw the fall of Asquith. Lloyd George became Prime Minister and formed a government.

David-Lloyd-GeorgeDavid Lloyd George, who - according to the New Statesment - 'almost single-handedly launched the welfare state and mustered the drive to defeat Germany'.The Unionists thus brought Lloyd George to power - not the Liberals. So he was a prisoner of the Unionists - which led to complications after the war; he had cut himself off from leading the Liberals.

Lloyd George's Government was larger than usual. Bonar Law was the Chancellor.

More pacts were given to the Unionists and the Conservatives than to the Liberals.

Lloyd George had come to power without the solid support of his party (the Liberals). The main Liberals stayed with Asquith; he and Lloyd George became bitter enemies.

Asquith was to be the sober and responsible leader of the opposition.

Lloyd George was the first 'son of the people' to have supreme power. Apart from Disraeli, he was the first not to have passed through the staff college of the old universities.

He was a virtual dictator from 1916 to 1918. He set up a War Cabinet and tried to set up an Imperial War Cabinet with Dominium representatives, who could attend Cabinet meetings when in Britain.

There was a Cabinet Secretariat with minutes, reports, etc, and private staff housed in huts in St James Park.

He introduced new men and ministries, food shipping and National Service.

1916 was also the Easter Rebellion in Ireland.

The USA - President Wilson

Womens-Peace-PartyOn the 10th January, 1915, over 3,000 women attended a meeting in Washington and formed the Woman's Peace Party.In America, the President was Wilson; a Democrat and an idealist.

Woodrow Wilson had fought the election on being 'against coming into the war'.

In his second term of office in 1916 he was determined to keep the USA out of war. He finalised assistance to the Allies.

Britain, as bankers, financed Europe, and the USA  financed Britain.



1917 was an important year.

March 1917 was the first phase of the Russian Revolution.

The Germans had carried on restricted submarine warfare (against Allies only), but in 1917, there was unrestricted warfare, so many American ships and lives were also lost.

America came into the War in April 1917 although they had little to offer at first.

The contingent came in the Autumn, but went to the 'soft' sector of the western front.

Clemenceau - Prime Minister of France ('The Tiger') - an old man, very cynical, wanted permanent protection for France, Collective Security, self-determination, reduction of arms, mandate system under the League of Nations, and freedom of the seas.


President-WilsonPresident Wilson based his re-election campaign around the slogan, "He kept us out of war", but U.S. neutrality was challenged in early 1917 when the German government began unrestricted submarine warfare despite repeated strong warnings.

President Wilson had 14 demands:

1)  Open covenants openly arrived at

2) Freedom of navigation of the seas

3) Removal of economic barriers & equality of trade conditions

4) Disarmament

5) Free open minded & impartial adjustment of all colonial claims

6, 7, 8, 9. 10, 11, 12 & 13 - Frontier adjustments

14) General association of nations to be formed, i.e. League of Nations

The Germans had thought that they might fare better with the Allies if Wilson approached them on behalf of Germany.

Wilson's 14 points were more or less agreed upon. Germany must withdaw from France and they must surrender.

1916/17 was the German Peace Offensive.

The Stockholm Peace Conference was planned, but never took place.

There was increasing disillusionment and unrest amongst civilians.

The Bolsheviks Lenin had ousted the provisional Government and had put his own party in power, in October 1917.

From Oct 1917 to July 1918 Britain was sending troops to Russia.


Peace-Party-1918"Peace Party," Heath St., Dagenham, UK, November 1918

Milner was in favour of a pact with Germany, who could keep the eastern conquests if they respected French territory. But Germany was confident of victory in the west as well as the east - and no pact was made.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

In Feb 1918 (signed March 3rd), there was a premature peace treaty with Germany.  Russia lost Poland.

The Baltic Provinces, Ukraine, Finaland, Caucasus, Muscovy, were all left to the Bolsheviks.

In March 1918, Germany carried out the Ludendorff final offensive - to penetrate into France.

Wars of Intervention

In August 1918, the British Army took an offensive with tanks and advanced miles in some places.

Britain intervened with America at Vladivostok and in the north. There was a common cause with the 'White Russians' (anti-communist forces) in the west.

There was chaos in Germany amongst civilians. The Kaiser was becoming less and less effective. His son, the Crown Prince, was even less popular.

Prince Max von Baden took power temporarily.

(Prince Maximilian of Baden took charge of a new government as Chancellor of Germany to negotiate with the Allies. Telegraphic negotiations with President Wilson began immediately, in the vain hope that he would offer better terms than the British and French. Instead Wilson demanded the abdication of the Kaiser. There was no resistance when the Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann on 9 November declared Germany to be a republic. Imperial Germany was dead; a new Germany had been born: the Weimar Republic.)

Then a new Socialist leader - Ebert - made terms on Nov 11th 1918.

(When it became clear that the war was lost, a new government was formed by Prince Maximilian of Baden which included Ebert and other members of the SPD in October 1918. Following the outbreak of the German Revolution, Prince Max resigned on 9 November, and handed his office over to Ebert. Prince Max also declared that the Kaiser had abdicated)

UK Elections

SuffragettesWomen were entitle to vote for the first time - so long as they were householders and over 30 years of age.

An early election was considered essential and took place on 14th December - the 'Coupon Election'.

(The United Kingdom general election of 1918 was the first to be held after the Representation of the People Act 1918, which meant it was the first United Kingdom general election in which nearly all adult men and some women could vote. Candidates which had the official support of the coalition were issued a letter of endorsement from Lloyd George and Bonar Law, known as a "coupon")

The electorate was an unknown quanitity. The last elections had been a long time ago, and now there was a new enfranchisement - women over 30 and men over 21 were now entitle to vote. Previously, men over 21 had to be householders in order to vote and some people had two votes, such as university graduates.

By and large, candidates were business men who had done well in the war. Few had been in the Forces. Returning soldiers found themselves quite out of touch with the politicians.

There was dissatisfaction in the conduct of the war and Lloyd George was considered to be the man who should be in power. Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook) and Lord Northcliffe were amongst those who brought him to power.

Thus the Liberal Party split. Lloyd George came into power through Conservative support in a very exposed political situation; he chose to stay with the Conservatives and bring in as many Liberals as he could.

The Labour Party was tinged with pacifism.

There was a very brief campaign and surprisingly only 57% went to the polls.

Lloyd George was the favourite. His promises were vague, but there were four major ones:

  • To demob as soon as possible.
  • Better social conditions - 'Britain for the British'.
  • 'Homes fit for Heroes to live in'.
  • Trial and punishment for the Kaiser for atrocities committed - Germany must pay for the war.


The Daily Mail headlined the war casualties - England must never forget. "Squeeze Germany like a Lemon until the pips squeak."

The Liberals won the UK elections in 1918 with a fairly narrow majority.


Countess-MarkieviczConstance Markievicz: 'The Countess of Irish Freedom.

Home Rule was declared for Ireland.

Irish Nationalists, Sinn Fein, decided not to sit in Westminster and to have their own Parliament. The first woman elected to the British House of Commons was Sinn Fenn's Countess Markievicz.

Was there a victor in 1918 - Who won the war?

Keynes - Economic consequences of the Peace.

(A bestseller throughout the world. The success of the book established Keynes' reputation as a leading economist, especially on the left.)

Three-quarters of a million people were killed in the 1st World War.

Germany and France lost more than Britain did. The heaviest casualties were among junior officers, who would otherwise have emerged as post-war leaders.

South West Africa was an unhappy example of a mandated territory.

£9,000 m was the cost of the war. It was made up of tax and borrowed money. The national debt reached astronomical proportions - 14 times greater than at the beginning of the war. Stanley Baldwin offered one fifth of his income to try and reduce it.

There was much more bitterness in 1918 than in 1815.

The League of Nations was Wilson's real contribution. The British people were also interested in this.

The Great Illusion

Norman Angell - 'The Great Illusion'  Written before the Great War. Ignored but the significance was realised afterwards.

(Angell's 1909 pamphlet, Europe's Optical Illusion, was published the following year - and many years thereafter, as the book, The Great Illusion. The thesis of the book was that the integration of the economies of European countries had grown to such a degree that war between them would be entirely futile, making militarism obsolete).


Peace-Conference-May-1919WWI Peace Conference in Paris, May 27, 1919 (left to right) Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Great Britain, Premier Vittorio Orlando, Italy, French Premier Georges Clemenceau, and President Woodrow Wilson.

The Peace Conference in January 1919 was complete chaos, with no agenda. It wasn't clear who should be represented. The main four were Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Orlando. Wilson was the highest minded idealist. He was a Democrat - the Republicans had won the election.

Clemenceau embodied all that was opposite to Wilson; very cultured and very cynical. 'The Tiger'.

Lloyd George was a  'prisoner of public opinion in England'. Urged by Lord Ratcliffe to look back at election promises.

These were democratic leaders representing the people.

1919 Assembly in Paris had no crown heads - the war had finished the royalties - in Russia, Austria, Hungary and the Kaiser.

Treaty of Versaille

Treaty of Versaille - May 1919

      1. Reparations £1,000 million, but Germany borrowed £ 3,000 million.
      2. Germany - lost the Saar Coalfield for 15 years, most of her merchant navy and most of the army. Occupation and demilitarisation of Rhineland.
      3. France regained Alsace-Lorraine.
      4. Formation of the League of Nations.


The Treaty of Versailles was drawn up too hastily. Tempers were still high. Lloyd George was ham-strung by the promises declared in election speeches.

Re-drawing the Boundaries

Frontiers were to be re-drawn after the collapse of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.

Many nationalities were involved.

Poland had been partitioned at the end of the 18th century and had ceased to exist for 100 years, but the Poles were very conscious of their nationality and claimed resurrection. How could this best be dealth with? By the people's vote?

The 'Slavs' were widely separated.

Wilson had laid down self-determination, but there were many problems.

Czechoslovakia was created. And Yugoslavia.

Austria had been the centre of the Austria-Hungarian Empire with Vienna. It was now decided to make Austria a country on its own; many were Germans and wanted unity with Germany. Versailles forbade such action.

The French insisted that Saar should be separate from Germany and come under the International Commission.

Three million Germans were included in Czechoslovakia. Half a million German-speaking people were annexed to Italy from Austria.

To give Poland an outlet to the sea, the Polish Corridor was set up.

In the final settlement, only two per cent of Eurpeans found themselves outcast from their own countries.

There were many economic problems in the newly-formed East European countries. Dictators took over and were ultimately sucked into the German influence.

France was very determined to make sure that Germany could not be a future threat again. France wanted the Rhine as a frontiere, but decided that Rhineland should be occupied for 15 years by the Allies.

Alsace-Lorraine had been taken from the French in 1871 and was now returned.

Repayment of reparations - three ways possible.

      1. Gold in international currency - Germany had gold, but there would be loss of confidence in the value of the Mark,
      2. Take over German properties? What would be the outcome? Germany had colonies. But this alas had complications - Germans would have to repay land-owners, needing still more money, and endangering the economy.
      3. Take over factories or products or materials - but there would be problems then for our workers, eg miners, if we had free German coal.


The surrender of the Merchant Navy had a crippling effect on trade. Germany had to pay the ships to carry her goods.

The blockade was not lifted until after the signing of the Versaille Treaty, by which time they were near starvation.

They had to send coal to France and Belgium. The main result was that Germany had to meet a tremendous bill from very limited resources, as well as rebuild their own factories etc.

Germany lost her colonies.

Formation of the League of Nations

League-of-NationsFirst Assembly of the League of Nations, Geneva 1920.

The League of Nations was one of President Wilson's hobby horses.

Wilson wanted to see the formation up for discussion before a war developed.

The French had no illusions, although prepared to have a go.

But it was a step forward - the first time we've had a world organisation, and certain rules would have to be accepted.

The League had an assembly, composed of one representative of every member state. Each could send three representatives, but only one could vote. Unanimity vote. It was extreme democracy, whereby every small country had equal rights - and this was an obvious drawback.  There were 26 members at first, but this increased to 50 odd.

America was not a member, because Wilson was defeated by the Senate. Germany didn't come into the League until 1926 and went out again in 1933.

Russia was not a member until 1933 and went out again in 1939 when she attacked Finland.

The Assemply met once a year in September in Geneva.

There was also a Council (a smaller body) with permanent members. And also 11 members elected annually. They had no executive power, everything was referred to the Assembly (NB - the UN was to have a permanant Security Council).

The League had a Permanent Secretariat for day to day work, with executive powers.

The International Labour Organisation was to try to raise the standards of unorganised countries. (The ILO was established as an agency of the League of Nations)

International Court of Cannes, which was to be the Hagues League, finished 1946 when the UN was formed, although there had been meetings & discourses even during the war.

In the League, economic sanctions were to be imposed immediately upon aggressors. League of Nations - mutual plan drawn up in case of aggression - first talks. Then economic sanctions.

Trade Unions

Back in Britain before the war, in 1911,  the Liberal National Insurance scheme was inadequate in the face of high unemployment; benefits were exhausted. The only source of help was therefore Poor Law relief - Boards of Guardians.

By 1919, funds for benefits came from rates.

1919 - Sir John Sankey's Coal Commission Act

Trade Unions emerged much stronger after the 1914-18 war, with increased membership, and the rise of the Shop Steward movement as necessary leaders of workers on the shop floor.

Miners, Transport, and Railwaymen were three of the strongest unions.

They formed a triple alliance, to be able to act in union. Workers were on the verge of a General Strike in 1914, but the war came.

After the war, the question of a triple alliance was raised again. Miners were strongly in favour of nationalisation. Wages were previously fixed in areas, then nationally during the war. Coal miners wanted to revert to private ownership.

The Government under Lloyd George wouldn't commit itself.

Suggested a commission - Sankey Commission - three industrialists, three coal owners, three economists & three representatives of miners. Four different reports were issued. (Sir John Sankey's Coal Commission Act)

One was in favour of nationalisation, but the Governent felt unable to act without a clear majority, & just kept the pot boiling. There was no alteration in the wage structure. Miners were very angry and restive.

The railwaymen wanted wartime gains consolidated into a new wages structure and threatened to strike. Lloyd George tried to get their support by a rise in pay, but the railwaymen stood together, went on strike and got demands.

In the docklands, Ernest Bevin pleaded the cause. As a result of the Commission,, they got a new deal.

Of the Triple Alliance, the miners were still dissatisfied.

The Depression was growing & deepening.

1920s - idealistic mainly, although there was deflation. More apparent internationally.

Democracy was in the ascendent.

(In 1919 Parliament passed the Sex Disqualification Removal Act, which made it illegal to exclude women from jobs because of their sex. Women could now become solicitors, barristers, and magistrates.)


In the industrial field, dockers were on strike for political purposes - and refused to load supplies for Poland and the 'White Russians'. They were considered a dangerous and growing power.

1920 - 'Jolly George' Industrial Action (London dockers refused to load the Jolly George ship in 1920 with munitions bound for Pilsudski’s nationalist forces in Poland to fight against the Soviet army.).


LansburyAs Labour Mayor of Poplar, one of London's poorest boroughs, George Lansbury led the Poplar Rates Rebellion in 1921, opposing not only the Government and the London County Council, but leaders of his own party.

Reorganisation of the Unions was necessary, and in 1921 there were permanent staff and a central council.

The number of unemployed in Britain reached 1,000,000 in 1921.

Black Friday - Triple Alliance breaks down.

Poplarism  (Poplar Rates Rebellion - tax protest) - led by George Lansbury.

Poplar (in London) had a Labour Councillor, George Lansbury.Their seal of poor relief was much more generous than elsewhere. Rates were therefore higher. The borough council, instead of forwarding the precept of collected tax monies to London County Council) dispersed the money as aid to the needy. It was considered that Lansbury had taken illegal action. The whole Council was summoned and put in prison. (Thirty councillors, including six women, were jailed by the High Court for six weeks). 

Support and publicity led to rates being levied evenly.

(Poplar's Labour administration elected in 1919 undertook a comprehensive programme of social reform and poor relief, including equal pay for women and a minimum wage for Council workers, far in excess of the market rate. This programme was expensive and had to be funded from the rates).


Black-FridayThe National Unemployed Workers Movement was formed at a meeting in London of representatives of local unemployed committees on 15 April 1921 - 'Black Friday' - which saw the collapse of the Triple Alliance. 

The Geddes committee recommended radical action, which meant a decrease of pay for many.

It was decided to de-control mines in 1921; owners published new area rates of pay. Miners couldn't stand this attack on wages & standard of living, and appealed to the triple alliance for a general strike. The government made plans, asking for volunteers for general services. The miners were approached by back bench MPsBlack Friday. (Triple Alliance breaks down.)


Lloyd George out of power. (Lloyd George resigned after losing the support of his Conservative coalition colleagues.)

In the 1922 Election, Bonar Law became Prime Minister but resigned in May 1923 and died before the end of the year. There was no clear indication of a suitable successor.


1923 - Concerns about 'Communists' in Parliament. Left-wing socialists were concerned at a constant compromise and were clinging to office without real power. George V was very reluctant to give permission.

Left wing socialists concerned at constant compromises, clinging to office without real power. George V was very reluctant to give permissions for another election, after such frequent changes.

The 1923 Election resulted in a deadlock. Lib & Labour together had more votes than the Conservatives. The King asked Stanley Baldwin to lead the Conservatives (He had been Chancellor of Exchecquer) but he required the support of the Liberals or Labour.

Baldwin formed Government, knowing that it couldn't last. They really had no power because they were dependent on Liberal support. Asquith was leader of the Liberals. Labour had been growing since the beginning of the century, reorganised after 1918, with Trade Unions but also middle class intellectuals. Some Labour councils had emerged. Initially he was Chancellor of the Exchequer as well as Prime Minister. This was the first time the Cabinet had been wholly composed of working men.

There were social problems - Levies at Buckingham Palace etc.

The Foreign Secretary was Lord Curzon (in the House of Lords).

A precedent was established that a Prime Minister should not be a member of the House of Lords.

A major problem at this time was the growing unemployment.

Baldwin's 1923 election slogan was "Tariff reform". Mounting a free trade country after the 1914-18 war, through McKenna duties.

There was a great fear of socialism in the country.


Women-MPs-1924Woman MPs in October 1924. Left to right, Dorothy Jewson, Susan Lawrence, Nancy Astor, Margaret Winteringham, Katharine Stewart-Murray, Mabel Philipson, Vera Terrington and Margaret Bondfield. 

Ramsay MacDonald took the post of Foreign Secretary as well as Prime Minister in January 1924.

(The first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government for two terms.)

Philip Snowden was made Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mckenna's Duties were repealed. Domestic issues were considered unimportant, but on Foreign affairs concrete steps were taken. Anglo-German relations improved.

(His first government - formed with Liberal support - in 1924 lasted nine months, but was defeated at the 1924 General Election amidst allegations, now thought to have been fabricated, that his government was endorsed by the Soviet Foreign Minister Zinoviev.)

Draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance - not carried through.

 Labour attempted to strengthen the League, but was unsuccessful.

Election Campaign

The Labour Party ran much-wanted relations with the new Soviet Government. The Russians needed help.

Zinoviev Letter - published first in the Daily Mail - set out course of action for Communists and Socialists in England. Attacked Ramsey McDonald.   It was handed out by the Foreign Office and was understood to have official backing. The Labour Party accused the Conservatives of an election campaigning stunt. It was later said to be a forgery.

Some constituencies had a pact with the Liberals, who stood down, to give the Conservatives a clear victory.


Communist-PartyHelen Crawfurd with the Women's section of the Merthyr Tydfil Communist Party in 1925. (In April 1920 Helen Crawfurd was one of the founding members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

Locarn Treaties - guaranteed frontiers of France & Germany (Britain & Belgium, France & Germany). France not happy about Germany's eastern frontier but Britain was not agreeable to be involved.

(The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, on 5 October – 16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on 3 December, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war territorial settlement, and return normalizing relations with defeated Germany.)


General Strike - nine days

The TUC (Trades Union Congress) met with Lord Samuel - resulting in the National Wages Board

General-StrikeTyldesley miners outside the Miners Hall during the 1926 General Strike.(The Samuel Commission published its report in March 1926 recommending that the industry be reorganised, but rejecting the suggestion of nationalisation. The report also recommended that the Government subsidy should be withdrawn and the miners' wages should be reduced. The report was one of the leading factors that led to the 1926 General Strike....  On May 7th, during the General Strike, the TUC, without telling the Miners Union, re-opened talks with Sir Herbert Samuel, Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry. Samuel and the TUC came up with a proposal that would include creating a National Wages Board with an independent chairman)


By 1926 there was some stability in Germany and international recognition.

1926 - Germany entered League of Nations


Trades disputes Act

(a British Act of Parliament passed in response to the General Strike. The Act was particularly resented by the trade union movement and the Labour Party.)

Labour Party repealed the Trades Disputes Act in 1945.


1928 - Women get the vote on the same terms as men.

Mond (Chairman of ICI - Imperial Chemical Industries) - Turner (Trade.Union leader)  - Mond-Turner Talks

(Ben Turner was chairman of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress in 1928. Sir Alfred Mond, Chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries. His letter to the General Council extended an invitation to a conference at which the whole field of industrial reorganisation and industrial relations could be reviewed. "We realise", he wrote, "that industrial reorganisation can only be undertaken with the co-operation of those empowered to speak for organised labour. . . We believe that the common interests which bind us are more powerful than the apparently divergent interests that separate." No concrete results stemmed from the Mond-Turner talks; but the experience of them influenced the thinking of TUC leaders for years to come.)

Pact - Kellogg - Germany, France, Britain renounced war as an instrument of policing. Russia abstained.

(The Kellogg–Briand Pact (also called the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War or the World Peace Act) was an agreement signed on August 27, 1928, by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Weimar Germany and a number of other countries.

The pact renounced war (very intentionally renouncing not "aggressive war" but all war), prohibiting the use of war as "an instrument of national policy".[1] It made no provisions for sanctions. The pact was the result of a determined American effort to avoid involvement in the European alliance system. It was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on September 4, 1928.)


Stock-Exchange-CrashPanicked New Yorkers flood Wall Street during the stock market crash on Oct. 29, 1929.

Labour returned to power, with Ramsay MacDonald as Prime Minister, with Jimmy Thomas  (as Lord Privy Seal) and Oswald Mosley (appointed 'only' the position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster).

(By the end of World War I Mosley had decided to go into politics as a ConservativeMember of Parliament (MP), although he was only 21 years old and had not fully developed his politics. He was driven by a passionate conviction to avoid any future war and this motivated his career. However, he fell out with the Conservatives over Irish policy, objecting to the use of the Black and Tans to suppress the Irish population. Eventually he 'crossed the floor' and sat as an Independent MP on the opposition side of the House of Commons. Subsequently he made a bold bid for political advancement within the Labour Party.)

Philip Snowden - Chancellor of the Exchequer - socialist ideals, but believed budget must be balanced, believed in free trade.

The system of benefits was reorganised.

New York Stock Exchange crash.


By the end of the 1920s, gold had found its way to America, as both France and Britain owed money. As German was physically unable to pay, she was lent money for re-building factories and expansion, so that in fact Germany was in the best economic position. |t was a very complicated question with many repurcussions by the time of the slump.


Disillusion set in with the 1930s.

The Depression had a repercussive effect.

Hopes for democracy were dashed.

Public opinion in 30's - many books had influence on the general public - regarding the futility of war, and incompetence of the generals and politicians.

1931 - The Great Depression

21st Feb, 1931 - Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

The Japanese went into Manchuria at the height of the world depression. Manchuria was an outlying province, beyond the control of the Chinese Government. China appealed to the League. Britain sent out the Lytton Commission and the League accepted the report.

Japan was not branded as aggressors - they said they were trying to restore order.

The Great Depression.

(Severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s)

Unemployment three and a half million.

During the depresson, the cost of living was going down.

If living on unearned income, life was comparatively easy.

The unemployed were obviously the worst off; with concentrated pockets of unemployment. The prosperous areas had little idea of the conditions in distressed areas.


Percentage of Insured Workmen Unemployed in Distressed & Prosperous Towns

Jarrow 67.8
Gatesthead 44.2
Workington 36.3
Maryport 57
Merthyr 61.9
Motherwell 37.4


Greater London 8.6
Birmingham 6.4
Coventry 5.1
Oxford  5.1
St Albans  3.9
Watford  1.0

Depressed areas - where there was a concentration of one industry - the north of England. Britain had pioneered the cotton trade, shipbuilding etc, but by 30's, other countries were able to offer cheaper rates.

Unemployment Pay -  1931 - 35  M +3 children 29/3 week

By 1936  Unemployment Assitance Board (on Means Test) -    36/= week

No means test for Insurance.

Report of the MacMillan Committee - external postiion - Decline in world trading. Invisible exports shrinking. shipping.

(Composed mostly of economists, formed by the British government after the 1929 stock market crash to determine the root causes of the depressed economy of the United Kingdom. Tasked with determining whether the contemporary banking and financial system was helping or hindering British trade and industry. The report was largely authored by Keynes, and it recommended several Keynesian policies such as nationalization of the Bank of England and government regulation of international trade. The report also asserted that "the relations between the British financial world and British industry ... have never been so close as" those respective relationships in Germany and those in the United States. From this conclusion arose the term the "Macmillan Gap". In response to the committee's suggestion, an institution was created to finance small businesses: the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation)

Report of the May Committee - Internal position. 

The May Report was alarmist. Public Servants should have 10% cut. School teachers 15%. Unemployment benefit by 20%.

These reports led to a run on the £.

Resignation of Government. Formation of National Government.

People went southwards from the depressed areas, resulting in a housing boom, which alleviated unemployment. Only elementary town planning regulations - 'ribbon' development. Age of the semi-detached house.

Non-parlour house worth £350 was down to £300,. Interest rates were very low. Bank interest came down from 6% to 2% which remained until the Second World War.

H.P (hire purchase) was not really 'acceptable', although a mortgage was usual practice.

The car industry boomed & especially small cars, such as the Austin 7 in 1932.

The Milk Marketing Board was formed.

Holidays with Pay and the growth of organised holidays. YHA (Youth Hostel Association) - influenced by German Youth.

The 1930s was a great age for Cinemas, with the great epics. 'Talkies'  had started in 1927. The Odeon started in 1933. In England, dominant was Hitchcock. Hollywood films were dominating the scene.

Controlled Competition emerged from the restricitions. Cut throat competition in cigarette sales (free gifts as well as slashed prices).

New industries got together to beat competition, good in many ways but too much control is not good. Tariff policy / Imports Advisory Committee) - might lead to monopoly protection.

Basic industries were declining.

Coal Mines Act 1930 attempted to reconstruct the industry - output controlled, and pits to be fined for over-production.

Similar in shipping and steel.

Birth Rate

The birth rate had been falling since 19th century:

1903 - 948,000

1933 - 580,413 (live births)


Great-Disarmement-ConferencGeneva Disarmament Conference 1932.

Great Disarmament Conference as late as 1932.

(The Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments of 1932-34 (sometimes World Disarmament Conference or Geneva Disarmament Conference) was an effort by member states of the League of Nations, together with the U.S. and the Soviet Union, to actualize the ideology of disarmament. It took place in the Swiss city of Geneva, ostensibly between 1932 and 1934, but more correctly until May 1937.)



Oxford University Resolution

Oxford students passed a resolution: 'This House will not fight for King & Country'.

East Fulham by-election

Since 1931, Labour had a pacifist in East Fulham.

(The Fulham East by-election was held after Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Kenyon Vaughan-Morgan died. In what had been a safe Conservative seat the election was surprisingly won by John Charles Wilmot of Labour.

The election was seen as a test of the developing mood of Pacifism in the country at the time, so much so that it became known as the 'Peace by-election'.)


In Germany, Hitler came to power in 1933. He opposed the Versaille Treaty.

He had many plans, withdrew Germany from the League, and then from the Disarmament Conference.

Germany left the League of Nations.

Weimar Republic collapsed and Hitler took over.

(The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the liberal democratic parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government.)

Poland and Yugoslavia were no longer democracies.

Hitler was not poular at first. His first triumph was the occupation of the Rhineland.

By 1933, peace was virtually restored in Manchuria and Japan had left the League. That was the first test case.


After 1933 there was vague talk of re-armament.

In 1934 the Soviet Union came into the League of Nations.

Labour Party leaders, Arthur Henderson and George Cansbury were against re-armament.

Peace Pledge Union

The Peace pledge Union grew in 1934 & 1935. 

 (The PPU emerged from an initiative by Dick Sheppard, canon of St Paul's Cathedral, in 1934, after he had published a letter in the Manchester Guardian and other newspapers, inviting men (but not women) to send him postcards pledging never to support war. 135,000 men responded and became members. The initial male-only aspect of the pledge was aimed at countering the idea that only women were involved in the peace movement. In 1936 membership was opened to women.)


League Peace Ballot

In 1935, there was a Peace ballot by the League of Nations Union.

There were 5 questions and eleven and a half million people were approached.

(The Peace Ballot of 1935 was a nationwide questionnaire of five questions attempting to discover the British public's attitude to the League of Nations and collective security. It was not an official referendum, although millions of people voted in it. The first objective of the Peace Ballot from the outset, even before the questions had been posed, was to prove that the British public supported a policy of the League of Nations as the central determining factor of British foreign policy.)

General Election

Britain had a General Election in November 1935.

The Conservatives won the election, though with a reduced majority. There should have been a debate on re-armament.

Baldwin became Prime Minister in 1935.

The League of Nations weakened because it was not universal.

Italian invasion of Abyssinia

The second test case for the League of Nations was Abyssinia in October 1935.

Abyssinia was the last remaining independent African country. Italy had long had her eyes on her - unsuccessful attempt in 1896. Promises by Mussolini were unfulfilled. Abyssinia appealed to the League for Collective Security and there was an attempt to bring both sides to the conference table.

Economic sanctions were applied but only partially. Oil sanctions were never applied, but many countries outside the League would have supplied her with oil.

Britain was very concerned about the Suez Canal - much more so than France, who was becoming obsessed by Germany. France was not anxious to oppose Italy, who could be an ally against Germany.

Hoare-Laval Treaty - for settlement of the Italy/Abyssinia crisis.

(Under the pact, Italy would gain the best parts of Ogaden and Tigray, and economic influence over all the southern part of Abyssinia. Abyssinia would have a guaranteed corridor to the sea at the port of Assab - though a poor one, called a "corridor for camels" .

Mussolini was ready to agree to this, but he waited some days to make his opinion public. Meanwhile, the plan was leaked by a French newspaper on 13 December 1935, and denounced as a sell-out of the Abyssinians. The British government disassociated itself from the Pact, and both Hoare and Laval were forced to resign.)

Hoare had an accident skating and was out of action. Baldwin demanded his resignation, and the treaty was forgotten.

The government did nothing to keep Abyssinia. The Italians used poison gas. The Emperor came over to Britain and lived in Bath. Eden replaced Hoare and sanctions finished in mid-1936.

Hoare was a scapegoat.

Attempts for Saarland to stay under British and French occupation under the auspices of a League of Nations Mandate. However, over 90% of occupants voted to return to Germany.

(Anti-Nazi groups agitated for the Saarland to remain under British and French occupation under a League of Nations mandate. However, with most of the population being German, the mandate was unpopular. A plebiscite was held in the territory on 13 January 1935.

With Adolf Hitler anxious for the propaganda advantages of the return of the Saar to Germany, Joseph Goebbels designed a concerted campaign to sway voters. The support of the local Catholic authorities for a return also helped, as did concerns about Bolshevism, against which Hitler was seen as a bulwark.[5] With a voter participation of 98%, the result of the plebiscite was that the overwhelming majority, 90.73%, voted to re-join the German Reich,)

Hitler then reintroduced conscription.

France then tried to make friends with the Soviet Union.


Jarrow-CrusadeKey industries closed in Jarrow in north-east England, sparking the Jarrow Crusade.

Abdication of of King Edward VIII.

(In 1936, a constitutional crisis in the British Empire was caused by King-Emperor Edward VIII's proposal to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and pursuing a divorce of her second.

The marriage was opposed by the governments of the United Kingdom and the autonomous Dominions of the British Commonwealth. Religious, legal, political, and moral objections were raised. As British monarch, Edward was the nominal head of the Church of England, which did not allow divorced people to remarry if their ex-spouses were still alive; so it was widely believed that Edward could not marry Mrs Simpson and remain on the throne. Mrs Simpson was perceived to be politically and socially unsuitable as a consort because of her two failed marriages. Despite the opposition, Edward declared that he loved Mrs Simpson and intended to marry her whether his governments approved or not. He remains the only British monarch to have voluntarily renounced the throne since the Anglo-Saxon period.)

The widespread unwillingness to accept Mrs Simpson as the king's consort, and Edward's refusal to give her up, led to his abdication in December 1936

Hitler marches into Rhineland.

(Nazi leader Adolf Hitler violates the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact by sending German military forces into the Rhineland, a demilitarized zone along the Rhine River in western Germany.

The Treaty of Versailles, signed in July 1919--eight months after the guns fell silent in World War I--called for stiff war reparation payments and other punishing peace terms for defeated Germany. Having been forced to sign the treaty, the German delegation to the peace conference indicated its attitude by breaking the ceremonial pen. As dictated by the Treaty of Versailles, Germany's military forces were reduced to insignificance and the Rhineland was to be demilitarized.)

Collective Security

      • 1914 - Home Rule was placed on the Statute Book, suspended until the end of the war. Ulster was excluded.
      • 1916 - Easter Rising in Dublin. Republic was declared.
      • 1918  - Coupon Election Snn Fein victory outside Ulster.
      • 1919 - Developments (a) Dail Governent (b) Anglo Irish War
      • 1921 - Ulster Government comes into existence under the Governent of Ireland Act 1920. Lloyd George & de Valera talk. Truce. Further negotiations. Ultimatum issued by Lloyd George.
      • 1922 - Dail agrees to Treaty. June - Civil War begins.
      • 1932 - De Valera returned to power.


The Media

      • 1920 - Marconi - to begin to broadcast (Chelmsford).
      • 1922 - British Broadcasting Company formed. Reith was appointed General Manager
      • 1923 - Radio Times was launched (giving times of television programmes)
      • 1926 - First Charter of BB Corporation. Reith - Director General


Technological changes in 1920 to 1930,

Popular journalism before 1st World War,

Broadcasing in '20s, then films.

Reverting to General Strike - British Gazette - Churchill. TUC produced British Worker. Competitors decided against taking over the Daily Herald.

British Broadcasting Company

The British Broadcasting Company started in 1922.

Post Office granted certain wavelengths.

Prime Minister to have the final word; all wireless manufacturers to participate.

Newspapers were against this new threat to their future - news broadcasts as well as concerts etc. News had to come from Reuters or other news agencies.

At first they refused to publish programmes and then the Radio Times further annoyed them.

The role of BB Company during the General Strike - was to be very critical.

Crawford Committee.

1922 - BB Company

1927 BB Corporation. Sir John Reich. Director General, Chairman. four Governors. Royal Charter for 10 years.

1929 - Daily Herald taken over by Odhams Press. Governor - Lady Snowdon. A Public Corporation - controlled by the government but has independence. The only one previously was P.L.I.


Horace Plunkett 1923Horace Plunkett 1923. In 1891 he learned at first-hand of the wretched conditions of the rural population west of the River Shannon. The experience only hardened his conviction that the one remedy for social and economic ill was co-operative self-help. 1829 - Catholic emmancipation- so Irish Nationalists were represented at Westminster.

This started to cause a divide in the Labour Party. Gladstone was in favour of Home Rule for Ireland, unlike Chamberlain, who broke with Gladsone & became leader of Unionists. The Liberals were returned to power in 1906 but this had been the start of the split.

Gladstone fought the elections in 1886 on the Irish question, but lost.

Horace Plunkett - (an Anglo-Irish Unionist) suggested cooperative farming.

Parnell (founder of the Irish Parliamentary Party) was succeeded by Redmond - an Anglophile.

De Valera had an Irish Mother and a Spanish father

Born in the USA and returned to Ireland at age of two.

Five million dollars raised by the Americans to help the Irish cause.

1919 Anglo-Irish War.

Many resigned from the The Royal Irish Constabulary, - and mercenaries took their place.

It was a guerilla war - and more successful than an open war. Mainly in Limerick, Kerry, and Cork.

Lloyd George was very pre-occuped at Versaille and dealing with industrial troubles at home. So many decisions were taken by generals, etc; who were pro-Ulster. There were two Parliaments - one in Belfast and one in Dublin.

The Government of Ireland Act  was passed in 1920, but by this time this was not enough. Home Rule was required. Since then, Ireland has always had a system of proportional representation.

The Role of George V was a conciliatory speech from the throne in Belfast.

Irish Civil War

The Civil War lasted about one year from 1922 to 1923. This seemed like victory for Lloyd George, but actually led to the decreasing popularity of Lloyed George amongst his colleagues.

The Irish Free State was 'coerced' into the Commonwealth, and envisaged constant interference from London as they were so near, unlike Canada & Australia.