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To What Extent Did Government Powers Increase at the Start of Wwi?

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On Monday 4th August 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany. This war was to be like no other. This war would involve the whole country. It was to bring about huge changes in society and in the lives of ordinary people. During the war, the Government did increase its powers over the country, but was it enough?

During World War I, the government introduced many changes in industry. One of the first things they did was take control of the mines. They took control of them so they could be used to help the war effort, not for the sole benefit of the mine owners. Miners were not conscripted, because they were considered to be doing 'vital work'. Also, railways were taken over by the Government and ran as one single unified system, as they were needed to transport troops around the country; to and from training camps and to the ports where they would be shipped to battlefields.

In 1915, it was well publicized that there was a shortage of munitions. The munitions industry couldn't keep up with the demand on the Western Front and there was a national shortage of shells, bullets and guns. The Government set up a 'Ministry of Munitions' to increase the production of armaments. The State took control of more than 20 000 munitions factories, which they stocked with the latest equipment.

The First World War transformed the position of women in society. During the war, women showed they could do the jobs of men in the workplace and take care of the family as well. The Government initially said that women were to support the family and their husbands throughout the war, but as more and more men left, there had to be positions filled. Male trade unions were largely opposed to the employment of unskilled women to replace skilled men. Women were paid less than men, so unions were worried that when the men came back, they would be paid less, or the women would be kept on, as they don't get paid as much. Eventually, trade unions came around as women were working in munitions factories, which was vital for the war effort. As the war went on, women were encouraged to work full time. There was direct persuasion from the government for them to join the Women's Land Army and the armed forces as nurses, cooks, mechanics and drivers.

The government also tightened its power over people, with the introduction of conscription. In January 1916, Parliament passed the first Conscription Act. This made military service for all single men between the ages of 18 and 41 compulsory. Three months later, due to even more shortage, this was extended to include married men. Between 1916 and 1918, one in three men was conscripted into the armed forces. During the war, many religious groups refused to go to war, as they were 'conscientious objectors', which meant that they felt war was wrong and they couldn't contemplate killing another human being. These people had to convince a tribunal they really were genuine, not just cowards. After the tribunal had been convinced, they were ordered to take part in non-combat work, for example, driving



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