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Happy New Year! It’s 2013, a year whose fortunes we cannot yet know, but one in which, without doubt, a lot will happen. But what of 1913, a century ago? What happened then? Unlike many years, it is not one we particularly remember now; not especially famous or infamous.

Yet a great deal still went on, of course, and some of it was very important. In this post I summarise the main events from British history that year. We will no doubt return to some of them, and provide a bit more archival insight into them, in due course. But for now, let this whet your appetites and excite your historical synapses. And I hope you make a good start to your own year, with all your resolutions coming true!

January 1913. The British Board of Film Censors, created in 1912, first began its work. Now known as the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), it continues to exist, but with a very different set of do’s and don’t’s to the ones it started out with a hundred years ago. More or less all male-female contact used to be banned, as did ‘lampoons’ of monarchy, and ‘white men’ depicted in ‘states of degradation’ in ‘native surroundings’!

Also created in this month was the Ulster Volunteer Force, an organisation whose name and memory are still kept alive by present-day, if somewhat different, heirs. Indeed, as I write, today’s UVF is still making headlines, as some of its senior members have today been accused of orchestrating recent flag protests in Belfast. Sir Edward Carson, the creator of the original group, might or might not have been pleased: he tried to surround his paramilitaries with an air of respectability that has never accrued to the current bunch.

The UVF was formed by Edward Carson in 1913 as a sort of loyal threat to the British Crown.

Unemployment and maternity benefits were also introduced in January 1913, following the pioneering budgets of David Lloyd George. Again this has resonance for today, though perhaps not in a good way. Universal child benefit, formerly known as Family Allowance, was a later addition to the welfare package of DLG. It has just been phased out for rich parents.

February 1913. London learned for the first time of Captain Scott’s failed polar exhibition, which had set out the year before.

April 1913. In one of several major suffrage stories this year, Emmeline Pankhurst was sentenced to three years in prison for her radical activities as a Suffragette. She would go on to be force-fed while incarcerated, because of a hunger strike.

May 1913. The first Chelsea Flower Show was held in London.

June 1913. Emily Davison, another Suffragette, was killed after running in front of the King’s horse, Anmer, at the Derby.

Emily Davison

Just 39 at her death, Davison was a seasoned campaigner. Two years earlier, she hid in a cupboard in the House of Commons, so that it could be recorded as her address in the census.

August 1913. Stainless steel was invented – where else but in Sheffield.

October 1913. Shockingly forgotten now, 439 coalminers died in the worst ever British pit disaster, at Senghenydd, in South Wales.

Glamorganshire, Senghenydd, Mine Disaster

Coffins were said to come out of the pit in a seemingly endless procession.

Addendum 1. Thanks to Maureen Davidson for corrections and clarifications on the UVF (incorporated above), and also for the identification of the building in the background of the UVF parade as Killyleagh Castle.

Addendum 2. Eleanor Rodgers reports that 1913 is the biggest date in Irish labour history because of the Dublin Bus Lockout. This 7-month-long struggle, beginning in August, pitted Dublin bus workers who wanted to unionise against their employers: roughly 20,000 men against 300. Eventually, with many workers on the brink of starvation, the employers won. 

 

 

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