99 Years Since the Lamps Went Out

British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey’s comment at the beginning of World War  I:



A friend came to see me on one of the evenings of the last week — he thinks it was on Monday, August 3rd. We were standing at a window of my room in the Foreign Office. It was getting dusk, and the lamps were being lit in the space below on which we were looking. My friend recalls that I remarked on this with the words: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”

All of our history since 1914 is a playing out of the consequences of the Great War.



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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. You’re so right about this. I think the sexual revolution really started in the 1920s after WWI…the 60s was just Round Two.

  2. Claire makes a good point about the sexual revolution.

    Taking the figures for my own country, Scotland, there were 87 divorce decrees in 1890. In the decade 1900-1910, the annual average was 180, but in 1918, there were 485, in 1919 829, in 1920 776 and in 1921 there were 500; that is 2,590 in four years. For the rest of the decade, the annual average was 444.

    Just to complete the picture, the annual average for the 1930s was 597; it sky-rocketed in the 1940s to 1,782 and in the family-friendly 1950s, it was 2,071.

    The population, I should add, was stable throughout the period, at 4.4m in 1901 and 5m in 1951.

    In other words, one sees an accelerating rise in the divorce rate throughout the first 60 years of the century

  3. MPS:

    What you saw in marital attrition rates in the United States was as follows:

    1919-29: modest upward trajectory
    1929-35: nosedive
    1935-44: rapid increase
    1944-47: highest levels ever recorded as war marriages dissolve
    1947-67: fall to 1942 rates; stability, with only modest flux
    1967-79: rapid increase, with a trebling of rates and a quintupling of the odds ratio
    1979- : mild downward trajectory.

  4. Art Deco

    Very interesting comparison.

    With us, there was a steady increase from 180 decrees a year in the 1900s to 597 a year in the 1930s (except for a sharp increase in the three years 1919-1921, following WWI). This represents an increase of 232%.

    Then there was a sudden leap in the 1940s, from 597 to 1782 a year, an increase of 198%.

    No fault divorce produced not even a blip. The annual average for 1970-74, before its introduction was 5,863 and for 1976-79 it was 8,703, an increase of 48%. Compare this with the increase of 104% for the years 1970-74 over the 1960s average of 2,875, with no change in the law at all. Indeed, there had been no significant changes in the law since 1573. The introduction of cruelty as a ground of dissolution in 1938, in addition to the existing grounds of adultery and desertion, was of little significance, for the courts had for more than a century treated expulsive conduct as “constructive desertion.”

    The rate of acceleration has been more or less constant throughout the century, only declining in the last two decades.

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