The year 1919 has often been ignored in historians' dizzy haste to enter the world of the Roaring Twenties but it was a year of enormous challenges and change. After a brief period of celebration after the Armistice, reality began to sink in. Returning servicemen were resentful at the prospect of unemployment and lack of available housing. Many of the troops had lost their jobs to women on lower rates of pay. Soon there were strikes, with soldiers and tanks on the streets of Britain. This is also the year in which The Troubles began in earnest.
The Spanish Flu epidemic continued to take its toll. Even the gilded few were unhappy with rising taxation and a scarcity of servants. Worse, men who had made fortunes from the war had invaded their exclusive clubs. The bars and smoking rooms were full of regional accents and loud suits. Remarkably, something like 40 per cent of all the tax revenue the government raised in the twenties was swallowed up by the war bonds debt. The emerging `bright young things' embraced sex, drugs and Dixieland jazz.
Motor transport was replacing horses, whilst the first crossing of the Atlantic by air showed the way forward. There was entertainment to be had, with sport providing a popular outlet. Long queues formed outside cinemas to see the latest silent films. Theatres and music halls played to packed houses. It was a year of creativity and invention within the arts but also one of nostalgia for old Edwardian certainties. The nation rediscovered a love of shopping in the expanding number of department stores.
The year was also a pause for breath after the horrors of war; a time to take stock before rushing into an uncertain future that was rapidly announcing itself.
Mike Hutton wrote several novels before concentrating on social history. His previous books by Amberley include `Life in 1940s London', `Life in 1950's London' and `The Story of Soho'. His aim is to bring a wider audience to our recent history by the range of subject matter he covers in a style that is easy to read yet informative. He has keen interest in early 20th century British art and was for some years a part owner in a number of race horses. He has also spent many years researching archives concerning Britain after the First World War. He lives with his wife in rural Northamptonshire.