Business as usual? Trade, Commerce and Ethics on the Home Front 1914-1919

Centre for Everyday Lives in War.

Saturday 28 October 2017, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield.

THE EMPLOYMENT OF WOMEN IN BRITAIN, 1914-1918 (Q 31059) A female worker helping a man roll a barrel of beer at a London brewery. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

When war was declared it was decided that Britain should as far as possible continue to follow the economic philosophy of Herbert Asquith’s Liberal government and its doctrines of free trade. People could contribute to the country’s war effort by ‘carrying on’ as normal – or at least as far as possible.

The catchphrase ‘business as usual’, generally attributed to David Lloyd George when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, was also used a good deal. He supposedly coined it in August 1914 in a speech to business leaders as a part of a plan to reduce the effect of the war on the economy. The big shopkeepers took up the slogan, as did manufacturers and representatives of industry.

This one-day event seeks to investigate how businesses – big and small – national or local – did manage to carry on “as usual” – or whether they were forced to radically change their way of doing things during the war. We want to explore some of the following questions:

  • How did manufacturers or retailers engage in what Leslie Midkiff DeBauche has termed ‘practical patriotism’?  How did they `combine allegiance to country and to business’?
  • Could making a profit ever become profiteering?
  • How did the media treat these issues?
  • Did it matter who you did business with? What instances are there of companies trading with “enemy” partners? What was the consequence of this?

We invite short papers (max 20 minutes) or poster displays or video essays addressing these or other-related issues.  Case studies of particular companies or events are also welcome.

Expressions of interest to the Centre for Everyday Lives at War by 14th September  2017.  Please email:

Also part of the day will be a semi-staged performance of two short 1-act plays dealing with these topics: Howard and Son (1916) and Harold Brighouse’s satire Once a Hero (1921)

The event is free.

For further details or to book your place, please email:  A more detailed programme will be made available closer to the event date.

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