British Society : The War Of War Essay

1443 Words Jan 17th, 2015 null Page
Similar to the French populace, British society has frequently been depicted as being immensely enthusiastic about the outbreak of war in 1914. Yet Gregory argues that ‘the evidence for mass enthusiasm at the time is surprisingly weak’. This misleading portrayal of British society was fuelled by the memoirs of politicians, in particular Lloyd George. Writing almost twenty years after the outbreak of the First World War, the Chancellor at the time recalled how the crowds behaved in London after the announcement of war on 4 August, he wrote ‘hundreds were buying Union Jacks...the crowds cheered...with extraordinary fervour. It was a scene of enthusiasm unprecedented in recent times’. By depicting the war as being greeted with great zeal Lloyd George justified the decision to enter the war and shifted the burden of blame from the shoulders of the politicians.

In Britain, volunteering to fight has frequently been cited as evidence for war enthusiasm. It is striking that nearly 2.5 million men volunteered to fight in the British army. However this does not mean that British society was enthusiastic for war, volunteering does not equate to war enthusiasm. This myth has been propagated in schools and popular culture. For example, in one Key Stage Three Text Book pupils are misinformed that ‘Many believed the war would be over by Christmas, and they were anxious not to miss it. Many wanted a chance to fight for their country’. This jingoistic attitude is reinforced by popular…

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