Podcasts

Origins and effects of the Liberal Reforms

This revision podcast presents an overview of the Liberal Reforms in Britain.

The episode begins with an explanation of the situation before the reforms, and why they were introduced.  Reference is made to social research at the time, key politicians, the impact of the Boer War, Britain’s industrial situation, and the effect of voting reforms in the late 19th Century.

The podcast then goes on to explain what the reforms did to improve life for four key groups – children, old people, the unemployed, and workers.  Finally, advice and examples are given for writing a balanced answer on how successful (or unsuccessful) the Liberal Reforms were.

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British civilians in the First World War

This GCSE revision podcast presents an overview of the impact of World War 1 on British civilians.

The episode is split into two key sections – recruitment and government powers.  When you have listened to the podcast, you may like to check out the British Civilians in WW1 PowerPoint.

Beginning with the popular excitement at the outbreak of war, the podcast explains how the British army recruited soldiers to join the army from the early days of voluntary recruitment through to the introduction of conscription in 1916.  There is then an explanation of the effect of conscription on British society, which referenced conscientious objectors.  For information on the role of women in the First World War, check out the podcast about women and the right the vote.

The second part of the podcast presents an overview of the different powers granted to the government under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA).  The effect of DORA on the civilian population of Britain is also assessed, with a particular focus on the causes and consequences of rationing.  The podcasts ends with an explanation of how propaganda and censorship were used in Britain during the First World War.

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Suffragettes

Women and the right to vote

This revision podcast aims to explain the different factors that contributed to women gaining the right to vote in Britain.

The podcast is split into two main sections – the effect of the Suffragists and the Suffragettes on the movement for votes for women, and the role of women in the First World War.

The first part begins by outlining the origins and methods of the Suffragists, which are then contrasted with the methods of the more forthright Suffragette movement.  The effects of their actions are assessed, with particular consideration given to the impact on government officials and wider public opinion as the Suffragette campaign resorted to hunger-strikes in prison.

The second part of the presents an overview of the role of women in World War One.  A short description is given of the role of women on boosting the number of recruits for the army, followed by an assessment of the the effect of women who entered the workplace to take up jobs that had been vacated by men going off to fight.  To revise how the First World War affected the rest of the population, check out the podcast about British civilians in the First World War.

The podcast ends with a description of the Representation of the People Act, which marked a shift in British politics to begin giving women a voice.

You may wish to also download the Women and the Right to Vote PowerPoint, and can test yourself using the Votes for Women practice questions.

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Suffragette

The foundation of the Women’s Social & Political Union

On the 10th October 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union, whose members came to be known as suffragettes, was founded at the Manchester home of Sylvia and Emmeline Pankhurst.

Frustrated by the lack of progress made by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies from whom the group had split, the WSPU soon became known for its militant and sometimes violent actions under the motto “Deeds, not words”.

The WSPU did not seek universal suffrage, rather votes for women on the same basis as votes for men. Considering many men at the time were denied the vote due to the property qualifications, the proposals by the WSPU were seen by some not as “votes for women” but “votes for ladies”. The WSPU even split from the Labour Party after Labour voted in favour of universal suffrage, leading the suffragettes to became more explicitly middle-class.

However, the actions of the suffragettes soon brought into question the traditional ideas of ladylike behavior as they were routinely arrested for various activities that were designed to shock the refined members of the establishment. It was to distinguish these actions from the more genteel suffrage groups that the Daily Mail newspaper reporter Charles Hands coined the term ‘suffragette’ to describe members of the WSPU.

Actions such as window breaking and arson routinely saw members of the WSPU imprisoned, where they would often go on hunger strike and be subjected to force-feeding by the authorities. However, the best known action is probably that of Emily Davison who was killed after stepping in front of the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby.

Overview of Suffragette Emily Davison at the Epson Derby

On the 4th June 1913, suffragette Emily Wilding Davison was hit by King George V’s racehorse at the Epsom Derby after she stepped onto the track. She died four days later from a fractured skull and other internal injuries.

Davison joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1906, and soon began to take part in their militant and confrontational activities that were designed to win the right to vote for women. She quickly developed a reputation as a particularly violent campaigner, and was imprisoned nine times for various illegal activities. During her prison sentences she went on hunger strike, and so was subjected to force-feeding by the prison authorities.

The Epson Derby is a highlight of the British horseracing calendar, and historians agree that Davison wanted to use the event to draw attention to the women’s suffrage movement. Newsreel footage of the event showed Davison ducking under the barrier and running onto the track as the horses began to race past her. She tried to grab the bridle of one of the last horses – which happened to be the King’s horse, Anmer – but was thrown to the ground by the force of the horse and trampled by its hooves.

Most people hold the view that Davison did not intend to martyr herself, but rather to attach a Votes For Women scarf to the horse. Various pieces of evidence support this view, including the return portion of a train ticket found in her purse. However, she did not share her plan with anyone so her true intentions will never be known.

Representation of the People Act 1918

The causes and consequences of the Representation of the People Act 1918

On 6 February 1918 the Representation of the People Act received Royal Assent, marking the start of female suffrage in Great Britain. The bill had been passed in the House of Commons by 385 votes to 55 and gave women over the age of 30 who owned property the right to vote. While it therefore denied the vote to a large number of women, it was still a watershed moment in the history of gender equality in the UK.

A traditional explanation for parliament supporting the bill is that it acted as a ‘reward’ for the vital work done by women during World War One. Adherents of this interpretation argue that the Suffragettes had actually damaged the suffrage movement through their violent actions. These included committed arson, vandalism, and other high-profile protests that included the death of Emily Davison at the horse racing Epsom Derby of 1913. This interpretation therefore argues it was only the work done by women during the First World War, such as in munitions factories, driving buses, or working on farms that persuaded Parliament to support women’s suffrage.

Conversely, in France where women did equally important war work, they did not win the right to vote. A counter-argument therefore exists that says this is because there was no pre-war suffragist movement in France – and certainly nothing to equal the militancy of the Suffragettes. Adherents of this interpretation therefore argue that the work of the Suffragettes and Suffragists before 1914 had been vitally important to women winning the right to vote years later. The actions of the Suffragettes had shocked many people in Britain, and no-one was keen to return to the violence of pre-1914. In the aftermath of violence that had erupted in Russia and led to the Communist Revolution, the British establishment wanted to avoid that possibility at home. This interpretation therefore argues that passing a relatively moderate female suffrage section in the 1918 Representation of the People Act kept the suffragists happy and delayed more radical reform – such as full and equal voting rights for men and women.

The 1918 Representation of the People Act was, therefore, an important but rather conservative measure. Firstly it only gave the vote to women over 30, since many politicians believed that their age meant they were 1much less likely to support radical politics since they were more likely to be married with children. This meant that many of the women who had worked in the fields and in munition factories during the war did not get the right to vote as they were generally younger than the minimum age. Secondly only women who were property owners qualified for the vote, meaning that even the educated middle-class women who had supported the Suffragettes before 1914 were excluded since many of them had gone into white-collar work after 1920 and lived in rented property away from their parents as a sign of their independence.

The bill passed through the House of Lords by 134 votes to 71 after Lord Curzon, the president of the National League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage, made it clear that he would not oppose it and risk clashing with the Commons. Consequently it received Royal Assent from George V on 6 February 1918, increasing the electorate to about 21 million of whom 8.4 million were women.

The women’s suffrage movements welcomed the 1918 Representation of the People Act with prominent campaigner Millicent Fawcett describing the act as the greatest moment of her life. However, the act still showed a clear division between men and women since the same act gave all men over the age of 21 the right to vote, while those who had been on active service in the armed forces could vote from 19. Therefore, women were still not political equals even after the 1918 act. True suffrage equality only came in 1928.