Remembering the people who resisted World War One

A week today (on 28 July), it will be 100 years since World War One began. Two weeks today (on 4 August), it will be 100 years since the UK entered the war.

Amidst all the many discussions of this centenary, there has been relatively little discussion about the people who opposed World War One and campaigned against it. Yet the leading anti-war group of the time – the No-Conscription Fellowship – had 100,000 subscribers at its height. There were at least 16,000 conscientious objectors (far more than the government expected), of whom over 6,000 went to prison. Other peace activists were imprisoned under laws restricting criticism of the war.

For the last few months I’ve spent lots of time researching the peace activists of World War One. It has been a real privilege to spend time reading diaries, memoirs and letters from prison, many of them unpublished. Most of this work has been because I was hired by Quakers in Britain to edit the White Feather Diaries, an online storytelling project exploring the lives and dilemmas of five pacifists from the time.

The White Feather Diaries will go online on 4 August.

I will also be teaching a course on the World War One peace movement for the Workers’ Educational Association in Richmond (in London). It will begin in September and run on Tuesday afternoons. And I’ll be writing about these issues in various places over the coming weeks and, I hope, years. Many thanks to everyone who has encouraged and questioned me and is continuing to do so. Watch this space!

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