Britain in and after World Wars

The 20th century

The 20th century witnesses some of the most momentous events in British history. From the extravagant Edwardians to two world wars and from an unrivalled Empire to Royal abdication. Around the beginning of the twentieth century, Britain ceased to be the world´s richest country. The first 20 years of the century were a period of extremism in Britain. The Suffragettes, the women demanding the right to vote, were prepared to damage property and even die for their beliefs; some sections of the army appeared ready to disobey the government over its policies concerning Ulster in Ireland; and the governments introduction of new taxation was opposed so absolutely by the House of Lords that even Parliament seemed to have uncertain future. By the 1920, most of these issues had been resolved and the rather un-British climate of extremism died out.

It was from the start of the twentieth century that the urban working class (the majority of the population) finally began to make its voice heard. In Parliament, the Labour party gradually replaced the Liberals (the descendants of the Whigs) as the main opposition to the Conservatives (the descendants of the Tories). In addition, trade unions managed to organize themselves.