The interwar years
DOI link for The interwar years
The interwar years book
The First World War did not completely shatter British society, as was the case for a number of other European combatants. Even so, the British economy was fundamentally disrupted, social relations were thrown into a state of ﬂux, and the political landscape was permanently reshaped. Historians have tended to characterize the period between the end of the First World War in 1918 and the start of the Second in 1939 as “lost decades” that were dominated by unemployment, economic decline,
intensifying ideological conﬂict, and growing international tensions. There is much truth in this depiction: Britain’s economy was fundamentally altered by the war, and Britain’s leaders often proved unable to cope with the crises that ensued. Instead, they tried the solutions of the past, which did little to solve the country’s economic problems, particularly after a global depression began after 1929. To be sure, the diﬃculties varied by region, age group, and social level. Some economic sectors performed well, and the standard of living improved for many people. But in general, this was a troubled and unsettled period in which few people felt secure. Internationally, Britain struggled to maintain its prewar international position. The
British Empire emerged from the aftermath of the war larger in geographical extent than it had ever been, but with new challenges in the form of increased responsibilities and nationalist demands for independence. These pressures would build to a breaking point ﬁrst in Ireland, where armed conﬂict erupted in 1919, leading to its partition and the granting of self-governing dominion status to the majority of the island. European aﬀairs were also a source of continuing anxiety, culminating in the desperate search for a peaceful solution to the rise of extremist regimes on the continent in the 1930s, a quest that ultimately failed.