Matthew Hendley, Department of History has recently published a chapter entitled “Politics in the Social Sphere: The Primrose League during the First World War” in David W. Gutzke (ed) British Politics, Society and Empire, 1852-1945 (London and New York: Routledge, 2017), pp. 113-141.
This essay investigates the First World War experiences of the Primrose League, a supposedly nonpartisan organization created in the Victorian period and credited as a pioneer for women’s involvement in British politics. With a large female membership, the Primrose League was well known for its canvassing in support of the Conservative Party during elections as well as a wide range of popular social activities, including garden fetes and whist drives. Past studies of the Primrose League have ended in 1914 under the assumption that the vast changes in wartime Britain, including women’s enfranchisement, made it irrelevant. Dr. Hendley’s essay shows that the Primrose League’s experience in the social side of politics enabled it to branch out into wartime philanthropic and patriotic work that kept its membership active and its organisation intact. Although the Primrose League also commented on wartime political changes and continued to propagate popular imperialism, its political activities in the social sphere proved to be most crucial for its continuation into the post-1918 political world.