January 1914…


Vanity Fair cover, January 1914 

2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The History in the Making collective is committed to sharing with our readers the most interesting and most relevant centenary-related content.

This week we liked the Guardian‘s article about the cultural and political climate in Britain in January 1914. The author, journalist Elizabeth Day, asks “did those people waking up on this day in January 100 years ago actually believe Britain was teetering on the brink of war? And what kind of world greeted them when they bade farewell to the old year?”.

Day recognises that

“it was a time of considerable social change. In 1913, the Trade Union Act was passed and union membership was growing rapidly. A wave of strike action had led to “the great unrest” and, by January 1914, Britain was witnessing the rise of a mass labour movement. In America, on this day 100 years ago, the Ford Motor Company announced the introduction of a daily minimum wage of $5 for an eight-hour workday.”

The Women suffrage movement was also in force.

“The suffragette Emily Davison had been killed throwing herself in front of the King’s horse at the Derby in June 1913. By December, Sylvia Pankhurst was claiming in a speech that “we will make the cabinet ministers shake in their shoes until they are afraid for their very lives”.

However, Day argues that despite the rise of a more radical politics, for most people living in Britain, war certainly did not seem inevitable in the first weeks of the new year. As the Vanity Fair cover for the first issue of 1914 reminds us, for many everyday life went on as normal.   

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