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Discuss the assertion that World Wars one and two were the most important agents of social change in twentieth century Britain.

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Discuss the assertion that World Wars one and two were the most important agents of social change in twentieth century Britain. British society in the twentieth century underwent many changes and World War one and two undoubtedly played a crucial part in many of them. Changes had occurred in social policy that affected all society before the First World War, however in the twentieth century the effects of both wars were crucial to social change. When looking at the evidence it seems the effects of both wars dramatically speeded up the process of social change in Britain due to social, political and economic conditions. This social change then was concerning legislation and in turn, state welfare provision, health and education, which will be explored here. To understand fully and to what extent World Wars One and Two were the driving force for social change in the twentieth century, an understanding of social policy and legislation in Britain before the First World War and the twentieth century is necessary. Before the twentieth century changes in welfare had already begun to occur. For example industrialisation, 'The economic growth following the application of inanimate sources of power to mechanise production' (Abercrombie, 1988: 123) ...read more.


World War Two had a much force on social change than World War One did (Fulcher and Scott, 2003). For example through shared experiences such as rationing, evacuation of children from cities, conscription of all men and women and excess profits tax, things that brought people together resulting in higher expectations after the war. For Titmuss the British government during the World War Two demonstrated: 'Direct concern for the health and well-being of the population which, by contrast with the role of the Government in the nineteen-thirties, was a little short of remarkable.' (Titmuss cited in Jones, 2000: 104) Government was concerned with social tension and suffering and values as values changes citizens stuck together easing gaps between social classes. Classes merged as 'common experience of privatisation and danger' (Jones, 2000: 104) brought people together as the public shared 'devastating experiences' (Jones, 2000: 104) Also 'Wartime shortages led to many extensions in social services.' (Jones: 106) for example meals for children and childcare, and because of these affects of the war, afterwards people expected these to continue, if not improve. After the Second World War a welfare state was called for. ...read more.


In the post-war years there was a feeling of consensus from the British government and academics saw that social reform was needed through state intervention (Alcock, 1996). Both Beveridge and Keynes agreed that the government should intervene to make way for economic growth, employment and welfare (Alcock et al 2004). Also in terms of social attitudes people expected more from the new policies regarding equality. As a result of the Second World War Williams explains: 'Civilisation of a new order - of social justice and egalitarianism - an order that could replace the imperial ideal in sustaining cohesion.' (Williams, 2003:150) She claims that civilisation was of great importance in the post-war period and that the newly established rights and benefits should have been available to all. World Wars One and Two were extremely important in influencing social change in twentieth century Britain. Though some breakthrough laws such as the Children's Act and National Insurance Act were established before both wars, it was the change in legislation as a result of both wars that was the most significant in terms of social change. In conclusion these changes and developments in social policies for example the Beveridge Report explored here, were invaluable when analysing social change in twentieth century society. ...read more.

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