chapter  II
THE STRAINS OF WAR, 1914–19
Pages 29

D u r in g a short period of time, in the First World W ar and its immediate aftermath, British society witnessed a series of traum atic historical changes. An initial euphoric reaction to the war, which gripped many sections of society, was soon followed by a more sober assessment of what the war involved. Vast battles, Mons, the Somme, Passchendaele, which still remain etched in the memory, mountainous casualty lists, the need by 1916 for conscription which in turn led to the increasingly thorny issue of conscientious objection, the greater involvement of women in the labour market, the downfall of Asquith’s government in 1916 and the emergence of David Lloyd George as war leader, industrial unrest as the war dragged on, and the need for greater state control over everyday life, evidenced by the introduction of food rationing in 1918, were some of the more dram atic events. Abroad there was a revolution in Russia in 1917, the collapse of other established empires in the wake of the war, and, at

the same time, as British influence diminished, there was a strengthening of the international position of the United States. Mr Britling lived at a dramatic time. Moreover, in common with other wars the First World W ar exercised a significant impact on the lives of immigrants and refugees. Even so, historians have neglected such m atters.1 As a result, anyone asking, who were the newcomers that came to Britain during the First World War? W hat were the salient features of their economic and social life? W hat kind of responses did they encounter? would be unable, as yet, to find a comprehensive answer to these questions, all of which deserve attention.