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The death of Queen Victorian, seemed to make the end of an era, even if what was typical Victorian faded away and gradually. When EDWARD VII became king in 1906, he introduce an important changes into British politics: in fact, with the general election, the Liberal Party to office was restored. Moreover, were introduced legislative measures of social improvement:

  • Medical service in schools (1907);
  • Invalid and Old Age Pension Act (1908);
  • Coal Mines Regulation Act (1908 eight-hour working days for the first time;
  • National Insurance Act (1911): free medical treatment available to insured workers

But the pre-war years of 20th century were a time of industrial unrest, strikes and violence. Some workers' organisers sympathised with French syndicalism, according to which trade unions should use strikes as weapons to disrupt  industry and bring down the Government. But violence came also from women!

In 1903 was founded the "Women's Social and Political Union. The "Suffragettes" wanted women to have the vote, and soon won massive publicity, but the use of violence won them few friends.

In 1909, the Liberal Chancellor DAVID LLOYD GEORGE, in presenting the budget, declared his intention to favour the poor and penalise the rich by taxing the "unearned" incomes. But lords dejected it (Conservative Party).

After that, in 1911, Conservative Party introduced Parliament Act which made it impossible for the Lords to reject a finance bill and restricted their veto and other bills to a maximum of two years. This system still operates.

GEORGE V's (1910-l936) was characterised by political violence and a jingoistic mood in foreign affairs in the face of growing German rivalry. Home Rule in Ireland became a possibility: the civil war would have broken out in Ireland if the British Empire had not suddenly found itself at war with Germany.

Europe was divided into two rival camps:

  • Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria and Italy;
  • Triple Entente between Britain, France and Russia

In 1914 there was the outbreak oh the war: Russia was forced to defend Serbia and Germany came to the aid of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914. the nation was told that it would defend the weak against the strong (Germany).


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