British History Timeline, 1900-1946

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British History Timeline, 1900-1946




October 1900

Conservatives are re-elected

Benefit from British success in the Boer War. Imperialism becomes a corner stone of British Conservatism.

31 May 1902

End of Boer War

British foreign policy concerned with its empire. Consolidation of empire in Africa to shut out Germany.

8 April 1904

'Entente Cordiale' is signed between Britain and France

The containment of Germany essential to give Britain a free hand in the world.

4 December 1905

Liberals form a government under Henry Campbell-Bannerman

Main domestic rivalry between Conservatives and Liberals

31 August 1907

Britain and Russia agree an entente on 'spheres of influence' in Asia

This produces the Triple Entente of Britain, Russia and France to contain Germany and the Central Powers. Ends the concerns of Lord Curzon about the Russian threat to India.

6 May 1910

Edward VII dies and is succeeded by George V

19 December 1910

Liberals retain power in the second general election of 1910

The period 1910-14 is known as the ‘Great Unrest’. Workers went on strike across the country over pay, housing and the cause of Irish independence. The sympathy or many Britons for the Irish cause fed into sympathy for the INC later on.

10 August 1911

House of Lords loses its power of veto over legislation

11 April 1912

Liberals propose Irish 'Home Rule' for the third time

Reflecting their dependence on Irish Nationalist votes in the House of Commons, the Liberals proposed 'Home Rule' for Ireland. In response, Ulster Protestants and unionists formed the Ulster Volunteer Force, a paramilitary force which threatened the government with civil war if the measure was carried out.

20 March 1914

Officers in the army mutiny over Irish 'Home Rule'.

This is known as the Curragh Mutiny where the British army overturned the will of parliament. It showed contempt for democracy and led to the formation of Loyalist paramilitary forces in Ulster.

4 August 1914

Britain declares war on Germany

25 May 1915

Herbert Asquith forms a coalition government

27 January 1916

Conscription is introduced in Britain

Civilians had ceased to join up voluntarily. Important because it raised the question ‘What are we fighting for?’ to millions of Britons.

24 April 1916

Irish rebels of the 'Easter Rising' seize the post office in Dublin

The question of Irish Home Rule should be seen as a parallel to Indian Home Rule. Anti-Irish racism was a factor in determining the attitude of the British Conservative party and it led to a much harder line being taken against Indian independence.

6 December 1916

David Lloyd George becomes prime minister

6 February 1918

Limited numbers of women are given the vote for the first time

The Representation of the People Act enfranchised all men over the age of 21, and propertied women over 30. The electorate increased to 21 million, of which 8 million were women, but it excluded working class women who mostly failed the property qualification.

May 1918

Massive flu epidemic reaches Britain

Killed more than 200,000 people in Britain and up to 50 million worldwide.

14 December 1918

David Lloyd George's coalition wins the post-war election

The government consisted of Conservative and Coalition Liberals. Labour won 72 seats. The Liberal party was split with Asquith’s Liberals getting 36 seats. The election marks the decline of the Liberal party and the emergence of Labour as the party of the working class.

13 January 1919

Sir Satyenda Prassano Sinha becomes the first Indian peer

In 1919, he advised on the Government of India Act. He became Baron Sinha of Raipur.

31 January 1919

Massive rally in Glasgow sparks fears of a Russian-style revolution

The rally was broken up by police, and troops and tanks were deployed on Clydeside.

18 March 1919

Rowlatt Act extends the suspension of civil liberties in India

The Rowlatt Act extended wartime 'emergency measures', such as detention without trial. The 1918 Montagu-Chelmsford Report offered reform, but not self-rule - despite the sacrifices India had made in the war and US President Woodrow Wilson's declaration regarding national self-determination.

10 April 1919

British soldiers kill hundreds of unarmed Indian civilians at Amritsar, India

July 1921

Unemployment reaches a post-war high of 2.5 million

Prime Minister David Lloyd George had promised 'a land fit for heroes' following World War One, but after a short post-war boom, demobilised soldiers found it increasingly difficult to get work. Deprivation was widespread and industrial relations deteriorated. War debts to the United States and non-payment of European allies' war debts meant the government could not pay for many planned reforms. The 1922 Geddes Report recommended heavy cuts in education, public health and workers' benefits.

28 June 1922

Irish Civil War breaks out

Note that as the civil disobedience ends in India Ireland erupts.

19 October 1922

Prime Minister David Lloyd George resigns as his wartime The coalition breaks up

British Conservatives hated the Anglo-Irish Treaty and become more openly imperialistic. This tendency reflects British decline as a world power.

23 October 1922

Conservative Andrew Bonar Law becomes prime minister

22 May 1923

Conservative Stanley Baldwin becomes prime minister

23 January 1924

Ramsay Macdonald becomes the first Labour prime minister

A minority government reliant on Liberal support. Labour in office was disappointing for voters who wanted change.

29 October 1924

Conservatives win a landslide election following the 'Zinoviev Letter'

Labour votes increased but Liberals lost hugely.

28 April 1925

Chancellor Winston Churchill returns Britain to the 'Gold Standard'

This made British manufacturing industries uncompetitive, which in turn exacerbated the massive economic problems Britain was to face in the 1930s. India was needed to balance disastrous policies in Britain.

3 May 1926

General strike is declared after miners reject the Samuel Report

Well-organised government emergency measures and the lack of widespread public support for the strikers meant it was called off after nine days.

19 October 1926

Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa are recognised as autonomous

The Imperial Conference in London went further towards legally defining a dominion by recognising that the dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) were autonomous and equal in status, a decision that was later affirmed by the 1931 Statute of Westminster. Note that India was left out.

1 January 1927

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is created

7 May 1928

All women over the age of 21 get the vote

30 May 1929

Labour wins the general election with Ramsay Macdonald as prime minister

Ramsay Macdonald headed the first Labour government with a clear majority. It lasted for two years. Labour won 287 seats, the Conservatives 262 and the Liberals 59. Macdonald's administration coincided with the Great Depression, a global economic slump triggered by the Wall Street Crash. Unemployment jumped by one million in 1930, and in some industrial towns reached 75%.

21 January 1930

London Conference on Naval Disarmament starts

A powerful disarmament movement reached the peak of its activities in the 1930s. Ramsay Macdonald, a committed internationalist and pacifist, was an enthusiastic believer that the League of Nations could make the world disarm through dialogue. But in 1931, Japan seized Manchuria and pulled out of the League. The rise of militarist regimes across Europe meant that by 1933 the idea of 'collective security' was looking increasingly unworkable.

12 November 1930

'Round Table' conference on India opens in London

Three of these conferences took place from 1930-1933, the last of which failed to include any Indian members. The collapse of the Round Table talks led to further mass non-cooperation in India. A new Government of India Act was passed in 1935, granting Indians an elected assembly and extending the powers of the eleven provincial assemblies.

22 - 23 August 1931

Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald resigns in a row over the budget

He offered his resignation to the king, George V, but was instead persuaded to lead a 'national government' coalition, which included Conservatives and Liberals, but only three Labour ministers.

1 October 1932

Oswald Mosley founds the British Union of Fascists

19 July 1934

New air defence programme adds 41 squadrons to the RAF

11 April 1935

Italy, France and Britain meet to discuss German rearmament

Britain isolated over later signing the Anglo-German Naval Agreement that allowed Hitler to extend Germany’s navy.

7 June 1935

Conservative Stanley Baldwin becomes prime minister for the third time

20 January 1936

George V dies and is succeeded by Edward VIII

26 August 1936

Anglo-Egyptian Treaty ends the British protectorate of Egypt

Britain was reluctant to end its occupation of Egypt because the Suez Canal provided a vital sea route to India. The treaty allowed the British to retain control of the Suez Canal for the next 20 years, and for Britain to reoccupy the country in the event of any threat to British interests.

5 October 1936

Jarrow men march to London to highlight local poverty and unemployment

Poverty and mass unemployment (as high as 70%) in the north east of England drove 200 men from Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, to march 300 miles to London to deliver a petition to parliament asking for a steel works to replace the local shipyard that had recently closed down. The marchers attracted considerable public sympathy, but the crusade ultimately made little real impact. In heavy industry areas like the north east the Depression continued until the rearmament boom of World War Two.

10 December 1936

Edward VIII abdicates in order to marry Wallace Simpson

12 March 1938

Germany occupies and then annexes Austria in the 'Anschluss'

India more necessary to British military interests.

28 - 30 September 1938

'Munich Agreement' cedes the Sudetenland to Germany

31 March 1939

Britain guarantees territorial integrity of Poland

This guarantee formally ended the policy of appeasement, and the British government reluctantly began to prepare for war.

3 September 1939

Britain declares war on Germany in response to the invasion of Poland

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain still hoped to avoid declaring war on Germany, but a threatened revolt in the cabinet and strong public feeling that Hitler should be confronted forced him to honour the Anglo-Polish Treaty.

10 May 1940

Winston Churchill becomes prime minister of the coalition government

Churchill was a hard-line imperialist.

2 September 1940

'Destroyers for bases' agreement gives Britain 50 US destroyers

In September 1940, US President Franklin Roosevelt signed an agreement to give Britain 50 obsolete American destroyers in exchange for the use of naval and air bases in eight British possessions.

12 August 1941

Anglo-American alliance is sealed with the Atlantic Charter

15 February 1942

British colony of Singapore surrenders to Japanese forces

This catastrophic defeat was a fatal blow to British prestige and signalled the fall of the empire in the Far East.

11 March 1942

Sir Stafford Cripps goes to India to offer post-war self-government

Sir Richard Stafford Cripps was sent to India in March 1942 to win the co-operation of Indian political groups. The Japanese had occupied Burma, and were at the border of India. Stafford Cripps effectively offered post-war independence, which Mohandas Gandhi described as a 'post-dated cheque on a crashing bank'. The Indian National Congress insisted on immediate independence, which Stafford Cripps refused. Gandhi launched a last civil disobedience campaign, for which he was imprisoned.

November 1942

'Beveridge Report' lays the foundations for the Welfare State

Sir William Beveridge's report gave a summary of principles aimed at banishing poverty from Britain, including a system of social security that would be operated by the government, and would come into effect when war ended. It can be seen as a sign of fear of social unrest and a spur to fight on to victory.

22 June 1944

Allies defeat the Japanese at the battles of Imphal and Kohima

General Slim used Kohima and Imphal to break the Japanese in Burma and by June 1945, 14th Army had retaken Rangoon.

4 February 1945

Allied leaders shape the post-war world at the Yalta Conference

The war leaders agreed that Germany should be forced to surrender unconditionally and would be divided into four zones between Britain, the Soviet Union, France and the United States.

8 May 1945

Britain celebrates the end of war on Victory in Europe Day

26 July 1945

Labour wins the general election by a landslide

Churchill was accepted as a war leader but working class Britons wanted no return to the squalor of the 1930s. The current government seems keen on 1930 levels of poverty.

15 August 1945

Victory over Japan Day marks the end of World War Two

Even though the USA were now guaranteed victory as Russia and Britain were also committed to the defeat of Japan, the USA used the atom bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It marked America’s military dominance and set the scene for the Cold War and nuclear arms race.

24 October 1945

United Nations comes into existence with Britain as a founder member

The End!

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