Industry and Society: A Study of the Home Front in Barrow-in-Furness during the First World War

Schofield, Peter (2017) Industry and Society: A Study of the Home Front in Barrow-in-Furness during the First World War. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The thesis examines the case of Barrow-in-Furness through the period of the First World War. As a town dominated by one of the UK’s most important armaments firms, Vickers, Barrow experienced the full force of industrial mobilisation and government intervention. In analysing the responses to these events, the thesis provides insights into their impact on a town and population dependent on industries stimulated by war.
Barrow had special problems arising from its geographical isolation and large munitions population. Vickers, the work force and the town at large were used to negotiating their own difficulties, but these were severely tested by the impact of war. Industrial relations in a heavily unionised but strategically important town were complicated by the different positions of Vickers, unions, shop stewards, rival government agencies, and the role of women, yet ultimately all parties found ways of working together. The knock-on effects of the war on industry were extensive and far reaching. The life of the town was intimately bound up with the war industry and the changes in war requirements ultimately affected its population through housing, health and welfare and the need for utilities and transport. Addressing these difficulties posed some of the greatest problems. Political implications of wartime in a working-class town led to a split in the Labour Party and ultimately the return of a Tory in 1919.
While historians have considered how the nation met the demands of the war, a focus on the regionality of the home front highlights more precisely the impact on specific places and how the war effort was sustained in practice. The experience of the town of Barrow throughout the period of the First World War is therefore invaluable for demonstrating the complexity and inter-relatedness of how the war affected people, industry and infrastructure on the home front.

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