Government’s Role in Impacting Daily Lives: Twentieth century Britain
A government in a country promotes general welfare, establishes justice, ensures domestic tranquillity and provides for common defence. We usually take these for granted but they actually play an important role in our lives. There was a huge role of government in impacting daily lives in the twentieth century. This intervention and impact increased drastically during war and in post-war situations. As a case study, this essay shall reflect upon the role of the government in impacting everyday lives in Britain during World War II (1939–1945). The government’s role was partially revolutionary as some of the improvements stayed for many decades that came after. All laws were passed on a massive scale. The number of causalities was huge and the reform required, equally enormous.
During a war, civilians lose freedom and are completely dependent on the government for their safety. The Emergency Powers Act, 1940 gave the British government extensive powers over people and property. During the Blitz, children and young mothers were evacuated from the big cities where bombardment was happening to safer parts of the country. Different groups of people came together for the first time. This ensued a lot of cultural exchange and sharing of the worries of the war amongst them. Food rationing began in 1940, where citizens were given books for ration stamps and provided a fixed amount of certain products for a fairer price. Similar rationing for clothes also began in 1941. Besides, women were systematically mobilised as workers and soldiers in accordance with the conscription. This provided finances to households to buy basic amenities, helped in war and gave women an opportunity to prove themselves. Many people welcomed such government involvement and wanted it to go further. Towards the late 20th century, women had the same legal rights as men in many parts of the world. The social taboo of prejudice waned as women recognized their potential. The roots of this idealistic change can be found back in WWII.
Nearly all houses possessed one radio or wireless to keep responsive of the happenings and consequent government actions and instructions for the civilians. Many traces of reassurance and inspiration can be found in Winston Churchill’s speeches during the war, that kept the spirits of the people up and filled them with a feeling of nationalism. Not only were the civilians consoled by the government, but also asked for volunteering for war work, changing their lifestyle to save food and taking care of evacuees sent out of cities. The Ministry of Information was in control of the propaganda and censorship to keep the morale of the populations by ensuring that the newspapers reported about the war in a positive way.
At the end of the war, in 1945 General Elections, the Labour Party was elected to the government. Britain witnessed rapid growth in the next 15 years under Labour and Conservative governments. The National Health Service Act 1948, National Insurance Act 1946 and the nationalism of industries and Bank of England had a lasting impact. The government played an important part in maintaining national unity during the war. Women benefitted a lot of from the government’s efforts in mobilising them out of their homes to workplaces. The war gave way to migration within Britain, and people from different regions came together.