In my recent post on Thankful Villages I mentioned the relationship between the law, World War One and popular culture. In fact the entry of the United Kingdom to World War One on 4 August 1914 presaged a number of legal responses. In particular, four days after the War began the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 received its Royal Assent. The original Act was very short and was amended a number of times during the War, including twice before 1914 was out. Indeed, the first amendment came barely two weeks after its commencement with the Defence of the Realm Act (No 2) 1914 and a series of other legislative provisions followed in its wake.
The powers conferred were wide ranging, the poster below, to be displayed at train stations across the land, illustrates the breadth of coverage here.
|Source: National Archive|
Powers afforded to the Government included taking possession of land, requiring the removal of persons and property from specified areas and various controlling measures, including increased stop and search powers that all seem consistent with a state being at war. Some more seemingly bizarre powers included the need for a permit to keep homing pigeons and the outlawing of whistling, although these two had their specific rationales as to how they aided the war effort.
In terms of the intersection of the law with popular culture, a marked effect can be seen during the War. I will post again about some of these specific issues, but they include concerns around alcohol and censorship, but we also see the impact on areas such as sport, spiritualism and even intellectual property too. As I say I’ll blog about these in due course, perhaps with some guest blogs from members of the Law School who have an interest in these areas. We also hope to develop this in a number of ways via the activities of the Centre of Law Society and Popular Culture and details will appear of these here in due course.
Finally I mentioned previously about the role of the University of Westminster in terms of World War One. In 1914 we were known as the Regent Street Polytechnic, and our involvement was multi faceted, playing important roles both on and off the battlefield. On the Western Front members of the Poly were fighting for King and Country as members of the Polytechnic’s own Territorial Force regiment. At home the Poly played a vital role in recruiting, training, accommodating and rehabilitating soldiers, and fundraising in an endeavour to help the war effort and the aftermath. More details can be found via the online exhibition The Polytechnic and World War One, written by staff in our excellent Archives, and well worth a read. For my next post I will look at the legal regulation of alcohol in World War One, any any other suggestions are most welcome.