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.
Senate House Library’s archives include some rich sources on pacifism. Amongst these are newly catalogued archives on First World War era pacifism and anti-war movements in the run up to the Second World War.
These collections and other pacifist archives at Senate House Library are described in more detail in a new archive subject page on pacifism and anti-war movements.