This second conference organised by the project
focused on the history of the Quaker
peace testimony, the particular experience of Quakers in Yorkshire in
interpreting that testimony during the 20th century, and the archival and
printed sources available for research in this area. As early as 1654,
George Fox wrote to Oliver Cromwell to assert that 'my weapons are not carnal
but spiritual'. But it is the declaration presented to the King by Fox
and Richard Hubberthorne in January 1661, after the Fifth Monarchy Rising,
which constitutes the first official expression of the Quaker peace
testimony. The origins of the modern peace movement in Britain can be
traced to the Peace Society, formed in 1816 on Quaker initiative.
Quakers have a long history of non-cooperation with successive militia acts
and with conscription, and of humanitarian relief work during wartime.
Large numbers of conscientious objectors to both the First and Second World
Wars were Friends, many from the standpoint of absolute renunciation of
war. Others undertook alternative service in the Friends Ambulance Unit
and the Friends War Victims Relief Committee.
An overview of the Quaker
contribution to the British peace movement was given by Dr Martin Ceadel, of
New College, Oxford, based on his two most recent books, The origins of war
prevention: the British peace movement and international relations 1730-1854
(1996) and Semi-detached idealists: the British peace movement and
international relations 1854-1945 (2000). Cyril Pearce, of
Bretton Hall College, gave an illustrated talk on the anti-war movement in
Huddersfield during the Great War, a movement which drew in not only the
radical left, but also feminists and Liberals, including the Quaker Robson
family, the Friends Meeting in Huddersfield and local Adult School members.
David Rubinstein, author of Faithful to ourselves and the outside world:
York Quakers in the 20th century (2001), discussed his own research into
the varied responses of York Quakers to the Second World War, whilst Brenda
Rigby gave a personal history of the Northern Friends Peace Board. The
day ended with talks on the research resources of the Commonweal Collection, a
library devoted to issues of peace and non-violence, by its outreach worker,
Chris Arber, and on tracing primary sources for the history of the peace
testimony, by the project archivist, Helen Roberts.
An information pack produced for the conference
is available on request from the project archivist. The papers will be
published in the journal Quaker Studies in autumn 2002.