Labour and the First World War Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK 3 May 2014
The First World War was a climatic event for social relations between the classes and sexes, and for the politics of the labour movement in Great Britain. Millions of men fought on the battlefields of France and the Middle Eastern desert, whilst, in their absence, women entered the workplace to a significantly greater degree than in previous years. Both were rewarded through extensions to the franchise and expansion of the pre-1914 welfare state. The Labour Party partly a consequence of wartime Coalition government would become, by 1923, Britains leading anti-Conservative political force. The war was therefore a crucial moment in the history of the British left.
Yet it was also deeply divisive. The threat of industrial action pitted the Conservative press against the trade unions, whilst both left and right sought to stake their claim on the meaning of the war, and the deceased who could not explain their sacrifice. Meanwhile, people objected to the conflict for a variety of serious reasons, and saw such opposition denounced through both the militaristic tone of the time, and governmental statute. Recruiting tactics in the UK and its empire explicitly defined war service as the test of character, and those who demurred were subject to significant sanction including the loss of liberty. The divisions of the war affected British politics and society for decades.
We are looking for a range of papers on this subject, from both top-down and bottom-up perspective. We value analyses of experiences of 1914-18 at the front, at home, and in political, social and economic spheres. Localised studies of particular cities, towns or industries are very welcome.
The Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin hosts a range of events and conferences on the history of the Labour Party and wider labour movement. We intend this conference to lead to a major publication as with a previous conference on the 1929-31 Labour Government.
Please send abstracts (max. 400 words) by Monday 16 December to firstname.lastname@example.org
Possible topics for papers (20 mins max.) include:
1914, the start of war, and leftist parties across Europe
Trade union relations throughout the conflict
The press and perceptions of the labour movement
Recruitment of imperial forces
The mobilisation of womens labour during the war
Ideology and/or the end of the Second International
The Labour Party in and out of the Coalition
Working class experiences of conflict
Ireland, the Easter Rising, and Catholic reactions to the conflict
Narratives of sacrifice
Conscientious objection, and the Union of Democratic Control
Factory life during the war
Comparison with European movements of the left
Workers and commemoration of the war
Labour Party, the memory of the war and the 1918 General Election
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