Archives on pacifism

This guide to archives on pacifism held at Senate House Library is not intended to be exhaustive. It complements the Archives Catalogue, which includes a subject search facility.


Anti-conscription leaflet, 1915 (reference MS1152/box 1/file8/2)


The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 caused euphoric crowds to gather in the capitals of several combatant nations. Notoriously, Hitler was photographed in the midst of a huge, jubilant crowd in Vienna. But there was also notable opposition to the war. Keir Hardie addressed large crowds of protestors in London as war loomed.  Hardie was the first leader of the Labour Party. His successor but three, Ramsay MacDonald, who also opposed the war, stepped down from the leadership once hostilities had begun.  In Britain, several pacifist organisations continued the campaign. The introduction of military conscription in 1916 boosted the appeal of the No Conscription Fellowship (NCF), which had been founded by Fenner Brockway in November 1914. Brockway, like many pacifists of this era, was imprisoned for his beliefs.  Pacifism was a significant political force in the inter-war period although the increasingly obvious menace of Nazi Germany in 1930s convinced the Labour Party, for instance, to abandon its quasi-pacifist position and support re-armament. Nevertheless, the build-up to the outbreak of the Second World War was accompanied by a significant amount of pacifist activity. Anti-war campaigners included Christian groups and members of far left and extreme right-wing organisations. Campaigns against the war continued after the declaration of war on Germany by Britain on 3 September 1939.


Pacifist archives

Undated Second World War leaflet (MS1190/2/163)

World War One era pamphlets, posters, c1913-1923.

Includes the following:  suppressed leaflets and pamphlets including those written by Clifford Allen and Fenner Brockway, 1913-1917; The Tribunal, 1918-1919; Union of Democratic Control leaflets, 1919; pacifist leaflets, 1915-1916; No Conscription Fellowship leaflets, 1916; map of inland waters showing suspected mine fields, 1919.


Second World War pacifist pamphlets, journals, c1937-1940.

Includes publications by the Peace Pledge Union, the British Union of Fascists, Eric Gill, and Vera Brittain.  Also includes A review of the proceedings of the Appellate Tribunal (December 1939), War Resisters’ International, British Union, Friends’ Home Service Committee, National Peace Council, Independent Labour Party Women’s Peace Campaign leaflets.


Playne Collection, 1907-1924.

Leaflet giving advice to conscientious objectors, 1940 (MS1190/2/144)

Notes, press cuttings, pamphlets and journals compiled and collected by Caroline Elizabeth Playne for her research and publications, including material

regarding the war effort in the First World War in Britain, France, Germany and other countries, pacifism, censorship and propaganda and the internment of aliens in Britain, along with publications of pacifist groups, such as the National Peace Council, the No-Conscription Fellowship and the Union of Democratic Control, socialist pamphlets and official publications.


Higgins/Richardson collection.

Some Trotskyists initially opposed Britain’s entry into the Second World War.  Evidence of this can be found in this comprehensive collection of Trotskyist archives and publications.


Ron Heisler collection.

 Letter relating to a pacifist manifesto (1936).