Date of Award

9-1984

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Supervisor

Professor R. A. Rempel

Abstract

The Peace Pledge Union was Britain's premier pacifist organisation during the years of the Second World War, and Vera Brittain one of its most influential leaders. Neither has been the subject of close historical examination.

The Union, founded fifty years ago by Canon 'Dick' Sheppard, was a direct product of the "never again" mood so pervasive in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s, although its sources of inspiration and principles resulted from deeper traditions. The heritage of the Peace Pledge Union was Christian, Radical, Liberal, Dissenting, Humanitarian and Socialist. It was also peculiarly English because the experience of relatively stable parliamentary government made generous allowance for the expression of dissent. But the Second World War placed British democracy and its associated traditions in a crucible. Yet, the vitality of these values was sustained by the Peace Pledge Union and other voices of dissent.

Until recent years radical groups and their leaders have tended to be relegated to the sidelines of history as the "also rans", a tendency that has arguably distorted the historical balance. The present study seeks to contribute to a partial redressing of this balance by exploring the inspiration, background and work of the wartime Peace Pledge Union. By its continued existence, and determination to express its minority view, the Peace Pledge Union made an important contribution to the maintenance of the democratic right of dissent and the privileges of English parliamentary democracy.

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