Impact of the First World War

Impact of the First World War


  • The First World War was a conflict that drastically changed the world and Britain, with major impacts felt socially, politically, and economically.

Political Impacts

  • The war gave rise to a coalition government led by David Lloyd George.
  • The war led to the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which dramatically widened suffrage by granting votes to all men over the age of 21 and propertied women over the age of 30.
  • The war saw the creation and use of the Ministry of Munitions, a government department dedicated to ensuring that the British Army was sufficiently supplied with weapons and ammunition.
  • The war orchestrated limitation of individual freedom, with the introduction of measures such as DORA (Defence of the Realm Act 1914), which gave the government wide-ranging powers to control many aspects of daily life.

Social Impacts

  • The war impacted societal views on women’s role as they took on jobs traditionally done by men, contributing to the eventual extension of the women suffrage after the war.
  • The war led to the loss of a significant portion of the population, with young men in particular being affected. This so-called “lost generation” had long-term societal implications.
  • There was a clear shift in class attitudes after the war, exacerbated by the shared experiences of the trenches, which blurred class distinctions and altered societal outlooks on class divisions.
  • Post-war British society faced a Spanish Flu epidemic which killed more people than the war itself, creating dire social consequences.

Economic Impacts

  • The war led to colossal economic implications, with Britain incurring huge debts due to war spending.
  • Price inflation and wage levels were deeply affected, leading to social unrest post-war, which in turn caused numerous strikes across the country.
  • Unemployment levels climbed post-war as soldiers returned home to find jobs scarce due to economic recession.
  • The war led to significant changes in taxation: direct taxes were increased to unprecedented levels to pay for the cost of war.

Cultural Impacts

  • Literature and art after the war reflected the general feeling of disillusionment, known as “war poets” such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon rose to prominence.
  • The shared tragedy and hardship of the war period led to a collective national consciousness, with an increased desire for peace.
  • Mental health issues, particular ‘shell shock’ or what would now be recognised as PTSD, became a significant issue after the war, changing public understanding and attitudes to mental health.