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Britain's `Lost Generation' of the First World War

J. M. Winter
Population Studies
Vol. 31, No. 3 (Nov., 1977), pp. 449-466
DOI: 10.2307/2173368
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2173368
Page Count: 18
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Britain's `Lost Generation' of the First World War
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Abstract

The demographic consequences of British war losses in the Great War varied by class. Since casualty rates among officers were higher than those among men in the ranks, the social elites from which officers were largely recruited suffered disproportionately heavy losses. Working-class casualties were more numerous, but they were lighter proportionately, because many workers were excluded from the army and navy to work in war industries. In addition, once in uniform, workers were less likely than their social superiors to be passed fit for combat duty, and until late in the war were excluded from the officer corps. As a result, the most severely depleted social groups in the 1914-18 war were the most privileged, whose marriage patterns in the immediate post-war period were distorted by the absence of marriageable men. The concept of a `lost generation' of social elites who fell in the war is, therefore, not a myth, but rather a legend which had a basis in fact, but which took on a life of its own in the inter-war years as a justification of class privilege.

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