The impact of the Great War on a local community: the case of East Lothian

Cranstoun, James G. M. (1993). The impact of the Great War on a local community: the case of East Lothian. PhD thesis The Open University.



This is a study of the impact of the Great War on one local community - the Lowland Scottish county of East Lothian. The thesis examines the economic, social and political consequences of the war in the short term of the war years and in the longer perspective of the first pre-war decade. The precise impact of the military presence in the county during the war and the extending role of government during the war are also discussed.

Chapter 1 surveys the literature on the effects of the Great War as relevant to this study. Chapters 2 and 3 provide a pre-war background to the geography, economy and demography of the county and examine its society and politics. Chapter 4 outlines the military aspects in a local context, including the voluntary and compulsory phases of recruiting, mobilisation by local military units and the impact of the military presence. Chapter 5 studies the impact of the war on the three major industries of the county - farming, coal mining and fishing - how their activities were disrupted by the war and to what extent these difficulties were surmounted. Chapter 6 examines the consequences of the war for East Lothian society, its demographic effect, the impact on education and crime and religion. The voluntary activities to aid the war effort are described. Chapter 7 traces the political life of the county during the war culminating in the 1918 General Election and considers the changing role of government during the war. Chapter 8 and 9 examine in turn economic, social and political trends in the county during the post-war decade.

The study found that, generally, local trends fitted in with national developments. The problems of the coal industry in the 1920's can be clearly related to the disruptive effect of the Great War, while those of agriculture and fishing illustrate the effect of more long term trends. There were limited social gains in the form of housing and increased educational provision as a result of legislation at the end of the war. The disintegration of Liberalism as a political force in East Lothian was to a great extent attributable to the failures and divisions of Liberals, though increasing working-class consciousness was also a factor in the growth of support for Labour.

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