When one thinks of London and war, one inevitably thinks of the Blitz. But London historian Jerry White has written an account of London in the First World War. It is a fascinating story, and all the more so for being a less well-known history. White explores the impact of the Defence of the Realm Act on Londoners, with highly amusing anecdotes such as the investigation into ‘Tippling among Women.’ Morally lax theatres were also the bane of the establishment: the Lord Chamberlain was charged by the King himself to investigate a picture of a scantily-clad music hall performer in an illustrated paper.
Women came under further attack due to their perceived loose sexual conduct. Arthur Conan-Doyle described the city as ‘harlot-haunted’, a view not shared by Sylvia Pankhurst. Pankhurst’s account of the sights she witnessed reads far more credibly and charitably. Dancing was of course condemned, too, as ‘enjoying the war’. Interestingly, the first female police officers began to appear on the streets at time. While these aspects of social history are absorbing as well as at times highly entertaining, White also unflinchingly explores the harshest realities of the war. And of course, it wasn’t just soldiers – civilians also died in the terrible Zeppelin incendiary raids. No wonder Londoners sought consolation where they could. Recommended.