How the Great War Changed Us

How the Great War Changed Us
  • Governments borrowed heavily to pay for the war. They issued government bonds and raised taxes to pay growing interest debt. The result was increasing inflationary pressure, higher cost of living and an erosion of wealth for those on fixed incomes and pensions.
  • Shortages of manpower as a result of war casualties lead to increased wages, although these lagged behind increases in the cost of living.
  • Changes in technology and the introduction of mass production meant fewer unskilled workers were employed.
  • Mechanisation and the use of new materials increased productivity and output.
  • The development of Nitrates used in the manufacture of munitions led to the use of artificial fertilisers and a rapid rise in agricultural production worldwide. The price of wheat, one of Australia’s main exports, fell sharply.
  • The export of surplus agricultural and industrial production led to the imposition of tariffs and the collapse of international trade.
  • Agricultural prices fell after a brief period of high demand following the war. Soldier Settlement schemes failed and rural poverty became endemic.
  • Government involvement in the economy and areas of social concern expanded. Housing, repatriation and welfare payments became part of the responsibility of government, along with the provision of infrastructure and industry regulation.
  • At the end of the war, women were expected to give up the jobs they had undertaken as part of the war effort. Returning soldiers were given preference in employment and married women were banned from working in the public service.
  • Unmarried women were allowed to continue working in some fields, but their pay was reduced and their conditions discriminatory. The status of work in female dominated industries was diminished
  • Some women adopted a more independent stance, which was evident in fashion, social convention and contemporary music. This was the age of jazz, the era of the flapper in which “anything goes”.
  • Mass production required mass consumption. The only way to achieve this was through mass media. The wireless (radio), cinema and popular magazines (including comic books, women’s journals and special interest publications) were all means of achieving this.
  • Advertising was developed to sell more goods, and create on-going demand for a product or brand. Advertising came to define the aspirations of consumers and hence a way of life.
  • Electricity became more widely available. Seen as the cornerstone of modern life, city streets were lit up at night, factories were powered by electricity and household electrical appliances were introduced to lessen the housewives’ burden.
  • Australia’s population increased more rapidly through government-sponsored migration. British migrants were encouraged to come to Australia with the promise of a better life.
  • Returned servicemen aspired to the “Australian dream” raising a family on their quarter acre block in the suburbs.

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