The world in 1911

The world in 1911

The 1911 census was taken at a time of rapid change, both in Britain and the rest of the world. International politics was becoming increasingly turbulent as relatively young nations such as Germany and America underwent rapid industrialisation, and Japan’s economic power grew after the end of 200 years of isolation in 1853. All posed a threat to Britain’s economic supremacy, which was reflected in an increasing sense of nationalism both in Britain and abroad that was to culminate in World War I.

Great Britain in 1911

British industry suffered a year of industrial unrest with several strikes in key industries, such as shipping, mining, and the railways. There was also political unrest, with a political power struggle between The Liberals and Conservatives over Asquith’s programme of social reform.

Life in 1911
  • Life expectancy is 54 years for women and 50 for men
  • The average family has 2.8 children
  • Just over five percent of children aged 10 to 14 are in employment
  • The richest one percent of the population holds approximately 70 percent of the UK’s wealth
  • Electricity is available through a patchwork of small supply networks and the London Underground gets its first electric escalators. Earl's Court is the first tube station to benefit.
  • The UK is connected via a series of local telephone networks. Some wealthy homes have phones and telephone kiosks are available.

National events
  • The coronation of George V and Queen Mary - who would become the first of the Windsor monarchs - takes place at Westminster Abbey on 22 June.

  • The Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, is head of a minority government; David Lloyd George is Chancellor of the Exchequer. After a two year struggle, the Parliament Act is passed, which abolishes the right of veto in the House of Lords
  • The Commons vote to pay MPs a salary
  • Home Rule is given to Ireland, in return for the support of the Irish Nationalist Party in the Parliament Act.
  • The Official Secrets Act is passed
  • The 1911 National Insurance Act comes into force
  • The Manhood Suffrage bill is proposed, which would give the vote to all men but not to women. The bill does not become law
  • The movement for women’s suffrage gains momentum, culminating in a mass boycott of the 1911 census.

Arts and culture
  • The first edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary is published, 18 years ahead of the final instalment of the complete OED
  • The UK cinema industry is in its first years; people can watch films at cinema chains such as The Rex
  • In the UK, 16 male artists including Walter Sickert, Augustus John and Henry Lamb form the Camden Town Group
  • In Europe, Cubist artists continue their experiments with abstraction. Picasso produces Ma Jolie and Georges Braque paints The Portugese
  • In May, Edward Elgar conducts the premiere of his Symphony No.2 in London
  • The song Any Old Iron is published

  • In football, Manchester United win the 1910-11 First Division title
  • The American Jack Johnson is world heavyweight boxing champion
  • In golf, Harry Vardon wins the British open.

  • In January, three policemen are killed and two injured after trying to arrest a group of Latvian anarchists trying to break into a jeweller’s shop. The event becomes notorious when the gang hold off 300 police in the ‘Siege of Sydney Street’. Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, attends the scene and refuses to let the Fire Brigade intervene when the building catches fire. Two bodies are found, but a mythical third man, ‘Peter the Painter’, escapes.