Michael Portillo explores the cultural, political and economic upheaval forgotten in the familiar images of Edwardian and Georgian calm before the brutal shock of the Great War.
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.
Michael starts today's programme at the Railway station in Llanelli, scene of a riot in 1911. It was provoked by industrial unrest on the railways and resulted in the shooting of two men by the armed forces. The familiar high-water mark of Industrial unrest in Britain is usually understood to be the General Strike of 1926. In fact the ten year period leading up to the First World War saw a wave of industrial strife with thousands of days labour lost and a growing feeling, on the part of the workers, that their voice could and would be heard. Ships were built, railways run and the Empire supplied, but not by a quiescent work force.
Producer: Tom Alban.
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