The First World War Was Important as a Locomotive for Domestic Change
The First World War introduced a lot of large welfare reform,
including the war pension, but welfare reforms had started before the
beginning of the First World War, and continued after it. In that
sense, the First World War can be seen as a catalyst (or locomotive,
if you will) for welfare reform, as it sped up the changes.
Trade Unions had been active before the First World War, with the boom
before the war helping trade unions to negotiate better terms and
conditions, as can be seen in the Miners Strike of 1910.
Trade Unions really started to get strong and militant with the
formation of the Triple Alliance, when the miners, transport workers,
and railway men joined together to become a hugely powerful force.
Around the time when the Labour party was formed in 1906, the Liberal
Democrats introduced several new welfare acts including the Children's
Act and the Education Act. These acts were designed to keep the nation
healthy and educated, as it was seen by both the Liberals and the
Labour party that these were two major elements the youth of Britain
was lacking, and it would be those people that may be relied upon
later. The first state pensions were introduced in 1909 with the Old
Age Pensions Act, and the Workmen's Compensation Act enabled workers
to claim for injury or illness. These are all examples of the
government finally beginning to look after the working classes.
This shows that Trade Unions were becoming militant and powerful
before the war, and the government were already introducing welfare
reforms, and that the war did not start, but merely increased these
The Defence of the Realm act of 1914 gave the government control by
nationalising the main industries, such as the coal industry. This
shows a change from the Liberal's traditional laissez faire approach.
This act was also intended to help improve the health of the nation,
by making it illegal to sell cigarettes to under 14's and illegal to
let them enter a pub, restricting pub-opening hours, and introducing
licensing laws. This shows the war acting as a catalyst for change, as
it was because of the war that the government were so desperate to try
to improve the health of the nation, so that the country would have
stronger soldiers. Another example of government intervention, moving
away from the laissez faire approach was the Rent and Mortgage
Interest Act 1915, where landlords' rents were restricted. The "Homes
fit for Heroes" plan also demonstrates government intervention, when
the government promised to (but never quite did) build 500 000 homes
for the soldiers to come home to. Unemployment insurance became
compulsory for the majority of jobs in 1916.
In 1918, following on from its health policies seen in the Defence...