Leaving the 1900s, we step into one of the most volatile decades of the 20th Century, not only for the United Kingdom but for the world. Seeds sown during the Victorian period and the 1900s bore bitter fruit as the grandchildren of Queen Victoria launched the first world war. Fortunately, while WWI took up half the decade, it wasn’t the only important thing to happen. A new king, an unsinkable ship, and advances for women were amongst the period’s other important moments. We’ve outlined ten of what we believe to have been the most important moments of the 1910s below, and if you think we left something out, you can let us know in the comments.
1911 – Coronation of King George V
While George V became king on the passing of his father, King Edward VII, in 1910, the months of planning involved in the coronation meant that the ceremonial event did not take place until June 22, 1911. Knowing that he only had a short amount of time as king, Edward worked hard to prepare George for a role he knew was coming sooner than later. George would oversee England at war against and alongside his own extended family, as well as its financial depression and the looming second world war.
1912 – Sinking of the Titanic
Perhaps the most well-known sinking of a passenger ship in history, the RMS Titanic was thought to be “unsinkable” due to advances in modern ship construction. However, on April 15, 1912, an iceberg in the North Atlantic proved too much for the ship as it tore through too many of the watertight bulkheads to keep it afloat. Out of an estimated 2,224 people on board, there were up to 1,635 casualties
1914 – Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, World War I Begins
When Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated while touring Sarajevo, it kicked off a domino effect of alliances that had been established in the previous decade and started the First World War. The war would produce a devastatingly high casualty rate for British soldiers due to trench warfare and the use of chemical weapons. The war would also mark the first time that Britain employed tanks in warfare at the Battle of the Somme.
1915 – Sinking of the RMS Lusitania
In the midst of the war, Germany employed submarines in the Atlantic that not only targeted Allied warships, but also transports that aided the Allies with supplies. Britain had conscripted many passenger liners to the war effort, but the Lusitania had remained a passenger liner running a regularly route between New York and Liverpool. On May 7, 1915, U-boat U-20 fired a single torpedo that had a devastating effect on the ship and caused it to sink in the Celtic Sea with a total of 1,197 casualties. In addition to igniting a desire for retribution in the British people for the lives lost, the sinking of the Lusitania was also one of many incidents of German aggression that led the United States to enter the war.
1916 – Easter Rising
On Easter week 1916, the failure of efforts to establish Irish home rule led Irish Republicans to take matters into their own hands. Armed Irishmen took control of several government buildings in Dublin and engaged in skirmishes with British forces in other parts of the country. Eventually, the UK brought in troops, artillery, and a gunboat that shelled the city until rebel forces relented. Sixteen of the leaders of the rising were executed for their roles, but rather than end the rebellion; the executions lit a match that would kick off the Irish War of Independence.
1918 – Royal Air Force Established
As aviation technology figuratively and literally took off in the early part of the 20th Century, it was quickly adapted to warfare, with the British Army and Royal Navy forming the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, respectively. In 1918, these two services were combined the form the Royal Air Force, the first independent air force in the world. The RAF would be instrumental in the air battles of WWI and WWII.
1918 – Women Given the Right to Vote
Though not all of them. After years of struggle the women’s suffrage movement in Britain finally bore fruit with the Representation of the People Act in 1918. The act extended the right to vote to women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification, which was roughly 1/3 of all women in the country. The act did even more for men by removing the property qualification and lowering the age to vote to 21. Suffrage for all women would not come for another ten years.
1919 – Nancy Astor Becomes 1st Woman MP
Born the eighth of eleven children in Danville, Virginia, Nancy Langhorne married Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor in 1906, and joined the ranks of British high society. When her husband was elevated to the peerage in 1919, Nancy campaigned for her husband’s seat and won. While Constance Markievicz was the first woman to be elected to Parliament in 1918, as a member of Sinn Fein, she refused to take her seat, and Astor became the first woman to be a Member of Parliament, paving the way for many others.
1919 – Treaty of Versailles
When World War I came to an end with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, it came at a great cost and sowed the seeds that would grow into World War II. Britain and its allies sought to punish Germany, though Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s attempt to lessen Germany’s reparation payments fell on deaf ears as France pushed for severe penalties. Germany was forced to pay a heavy price to the victors while demilitarizing itself and losing a lot of its territory, all actions that would leave a lasting bad taste in the mouths of the German people.
1920 – Oxford Awards First Degrees to Women
Even into the 20th Century, higher education was largely an area occupied solely by men. Oxford University had allowed women to enroll as students and sit in lectures since 1870 but would not admit them as full members nor award them degrees that were earned in their years of study. That all changed in 1920 as the university not only allowed the granting of degrees to women through new legislation in Parliament but also retroactively allowed women who had studied to graduate and receive their diplomas.