British History Timeline, 1900-1946



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British History Timeline, 1900-1946

Date

Event

Comment

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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