The one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World war looms on the horizon. 1914 is a date forged into the British consciousness, just as it's carved into monuments the length and breadth of the UK and many places beyond. With that awareness comes an understanding that it was the war to end all wars, shocking the culture, politics, and societies of Europe, but particularly Britain, out of their comfortable progress and reshaping everything.
But in this series Michael Portillo challenges that notion. Looking at a series of themes, the suffrage movement, the Irish question, the decline of the liberal party and the arts, he argues that to a large extent Britain was already in a state of flux by 1913 and many of the developments we think of as emanating from or being catalysed by the war, were actually in full flow.
In the fifth programme in the series Michael tackles the familiar idea that the angularity and a-tonal hallmarks of modernism in the arts and culture were a reaction to the shock and savagery of the slaughter in the trenches. In fact modernism in many of its forms, had already enjoyed its high water mark, while the cultural scene in 1913 was increasingly dominated by the popularity of music hall and film. Parisian Riots over Stravinsky's Rites of Spring don't seem to have been echoed in Britain where Henry Wood was boldly programming music by both Stravinsky and Weburn. But even as war threatened and then took hold, there was a move towards Pastoralism.
Producer: Tom Alban.