There are a few weeks until the centenary of the start of the First World War. It was a brutal, bloody war that cost the lives of over 37 million people, both military and civilian, including more than 750,000 Britons.
Without question it was a catastrophe of epic proportions but we’re not going to talk about the war. There are plenty of places online where you can pore over every detail and the BBC have commissioned hundreds of hours of programming charting all aspects of the war, but what was life like in London a century ago?
Actually, it wasn’t too dissimilar to some of the stories we read about today!
The Liberal government under Prime Minister Herbert Asquith was under attack from all sides because of issues in Northern Ireland and the Suffragettes were intensifying their campaign to secure votes for women.
In March, Mary Richardson slashed the Velasquez ‘Rokeby Venus’ painting at the National Gallery and the following month, a Suffragette broke 10 panes of glass with a hatchet at the British Museum while others ran around the country setting fire to empty houses, piers, golf courses and rail stations.
Trade unions were also in the headlines in the first few months of 1914. There were widespread strikes and the year started with a lockout of London’s bricklayers. There were 4m trade union members and a triple alliance of three of the most strategically important trades of the day – miners, railway workers and port workers – were planning a general strike that would have had disastrous consequences for the upcoming war effort (although at the time, the idea that we’d be embroiled in a world war seemed a notion bizarre in the extreme).
It wasn’t all bad news though! In the world of sport, Burnley beat Liverpool 1-0 in the FA Cup Final at Crystal Palace (Wembley wasn’t used until 1923) in front of King George V, the first monarch to attend. Lancashire football was on a purple patch with Blackburn Rovers winning the First Division title, England won the rugby union Grand Slam and Jack Hobbs helped England’s cricketers to a 4-0 series whitewash in South Africa.
OK, so where rugby and cricket are concerned, 1914 was the polar opposite of 2014!
In the world of entertainment, Charlie Chaplin made his film debut in the silent comedy ‘Making a Living’; Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw opened to rave reviews and the most notable books published in 1914 were Dubliners by James Joyce and Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
As feelings escalated in Germany, it did cause some trepidation here however while there was some warning of the dangers of war (through books and plays instead of Twitter and the internet in general today), the threat wasn’t taken seriously, it seemed, by anyone.
Janet Morgan, Agatha Christie’s biographer who was due to get married at the outbreak of the war summed up the national sentiment: ‘It’s difficult to appreciate how unexpected the First World War actually was, especially to people like Agatha and her mother who did not read the lines of politician’s speeches or bother dissecting the ambitions of the Kaiser’.
The fundamental difference between then and now is that they knew who the enemy was. Today, we don’t but while we (and the rest of the world) are dealing with potential threats every day, London remains the most vibrant, cosmopolitan city in the world.
On our doorsteps we have world-class culture, entertainment, sport, restaurants, fashion and technology and the biggest businesses in the world are calling our capital home.
We have a thriving an exciting tourism industry and here at Euracom, we have some fantastic apartments to rent in London from where you can get everywhere, see everything and embrace what we think is the best city in the world!
If you are coming here and you need great accommodation in London, please don’t hesitate to call us on +44 (0) 20 8420 7666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you enjoyed Wimbledon, we hope you’re enjoying the World Cup (especially Germany’s demolition of Brazil!) and we especially hope you’re enjoying the sunshine!
Have a great month and we’ll see you in August!