the men who said no
 

CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION IN
Context

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MEN WHO SAID NO | ROAD TO CONSCRIPTION | CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION | PRISONS | SENTENCED TO DEATH | TRIBUNALS | CONTEXT | INDEX | SITE MAP |
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COUNTDOWN TO WAR

 

In 1914 few wanted war, some realised that dangers were building up in the political system and worked to prevent it; most gave the possibility little thought. Half a century of relative peace in Europe led to complacency as a mounting arms race, colonial ambitions and jealousies, a bellicose military and incompetent leaders, whose secret diplomacy and resulting alliances that made war ever more likely, were largely ignored.

When Britain declared war on Germany it was both expected and in some ways a surprise and, once it was declared, many who previously opposed it now felt they had to 'stand by their country' and give it support. Enthusiasm for the war was never as great as we are often led to believe.Daily Herald

In the years before August 1914 a Europe wide anti-war movement thrived. Thousands of people not content to sit and wait for war campaigned against bellicose government policies and proposed mechanisms for preventing war. Through public meetings, protest and petition, they made their voices heard. Britain had a long tradition of anti-war activism and many of the protests in the early 20th century were organised by the same people who had protested against Britain's aggression in the Boer war.

Anti-war activists came from many backgrounds. Religion and more recently humanism had long been the driving force of pacifism. While non-conformist Christians were a large group within the anti-war movement, for many a secular, political background was a powerful motivation. Religion played a much larger part in society at that time and for many their motivation for resisting war had mixed origins.

What united all of the groups was a desire to see Europe and the world at peace, and a willingness to work to achieve that goal. British anti-war protesters argued that the Government were fatally taking steps that would lead to war – building battleships, and aggressively seeking to expand the empire. They argued for another way through education, protest and building international organisations dedicated to peace and understanding between nations.

Despite the protests, petitions and frantic last minute international action and meetings across Europe, on 4th August 1914, the anti-war activists' worst fears were realised.

| conscription comes to britain

 






War Agaimst War
Protests against the looming war such at the one advertised above just two days before Britain declared war, took place around the country. Kier Hardie speaks.




 
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