Category Archives: Peace

Ban the Bomb! CND at Sixty

Sixty years ago, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) was founded. The organisation grew out of widespread public concern about a frightening new twist in the Cold War arms race: Britain had built and was testing its own hydrogen bomb.  Such H-bombs are thousands of times more destructive than the original atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945.  How were the tests affecting the environment?  Would the existence of such bombs mean the British government would feel compelled to use them?

Deeply worried by these developments, celebrated author J.B. Priestley wrote possibly his most influential article: “Britain and the Nuclear Bombs”, published in the New Statesman of 2 November 1957.


Section of Britain and the Nuclear Bombs, article by JB Priestley, New Statesman 2 November 1957. (ref HAW 13/4).

Priestley drew on his own experience of war to argue that if weapons were there, they would be used, and called for the country to take a moral lead in renouncing them:   “Alone we defied Hitler; and alone we can defy this nuclear madness”.

Many readers agreed, and wrote to the magazine, overwhelming it with sackfuls of mail.  Something had to be done.  Priestley and his wife Jacquetta Hawkes met  peace campaigners at the flat of Kingsley Martin, the magazine’s editor, to discuss a national anti-nuclear campaign. The result was the creation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.  It was chaired by Earl Russell, Priestley was Vice-President and Canon L. John Collins chairman. Priestley was one of the speakers at the public launch of CND in the Central Hall Westminster, on 17 February 1958.

CND acted as an umbrella group, bringing together people with a wide range of political and religious views and differing ideas about how to achieve their goals (or even what those goals were).  Priestley and Jacquetta and their circle were not necessarily pacifists, and campaigned using traditional lobbying methods, using their connections in political and cultural life.   Other campaigners were veterans of the Peace Pledge Union era, while others were influenced by Gandhian ideas of nonviolent direct action.  The latter included the Direct Action Committee (DAC), whose members had explored the potential of such techniques as long ago as the early 1950s.

The DAC organised a march from London to the Aldermaston weapons research centre for Easter 1958. Graphic designer Gerald Holtom created the Nuclear Disarmament Symbol for use on the march.  CND later adopted both the design and the Aldermaston march.

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Detail from sketch by Gerald Holtom, showing the nuclear disarmament symbol in use on a march.  Courtesy of Commonweal Trustees.  (ref: Cwl ND).

The Symbol was based on the semaphore signs for ‘N’ and ‘D’ but in its simplicity it echoed many other ideas: a human figure in despair, a tree, a cross, a missile.  Endlessly applicable to creative re-imaginings, and adopted by Americans protesting against the Vietnam War, the Symbol  became synonymous with peace and counter-cultural ideas.

CND in its early years grew a mass membership and was strongly influential on culture.  Members moved increasingly towards direct action methods as traditional campaigning did not have the desired result.  In 1960 Russell resigned as President to take up a role in the new Committee of 100.  This aimed to create a mass movement of civil disobedience against British government policy on nuclear weapons.  The Priestleys became less involved as the group became more radical.


Front cover of pamphlet advertising Aldermaston film (ref Cwl HBP)

The organisation, and its many regional and themed sub-groups, has remained active ever since its foundation, with a notable rise in membership and influence once again during the early 1980s.  Protest centred on the peace camps at air bases: bearing witness, symbolic protest, and carrying out acts of disobedience such as cutting the wires.

The 60th anniversary will be marked by many events (and no doubt much press coverage).  Here are two in Bradford:

Yorkshire CND exhibition at the Peace Museum from 12 January 2018.

CND 60th Anniversary event 17 February 2018 (includes the chance to meet objects from our collections!).

Want to know more?  The Commonweal Library and our peace campaign collections contain thousands of resources for the history of CND and nuclear disarmament campaigns.


People Power: Fighting for Peace

2017 offers a very rare chance to see the original sketches of the ‘peace symbol’.  Special Collections and the Trustees of the Commonweal Collection are lending them to a major exhibition at the IWM, People Power: Fighting for Peace.

Sketch of nuclear disarmament symbol,by Gerald Holtom. Copyright: Commonweal Collection.

Sketch of nuclear disarmament symbol,by Gerald Holtom. Copyright: Commonweal Collection.

Artist Gerald Holtom created the symbol in 1958  for the first Aldermaston March (organised by the Direct Action Committee); it was later adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and many other groups and campaigns working for peace, making it one of the most recognisable and powerful designs ever created.  Holtom’s original sketches are very fragile and so can rarely be shown to the public. This exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for us to display them to great numbers of people for the first time.

People Power explores 100 years of anti-war campaigning in Britain through 300 objects: banners, posters, flyers, leaflets, paintings, letters … Many have never been exhibited before. In addition to the sketches, we are lending a pencil drawing of Peace Pledge Union founder Dick Sheppard by activist and artist Peggy Smith and a range of letters and ephemera relating to the anti-nuclear campaigns of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

People Power is on show at the IWM London, 23 March-28 August 2017.  Find out more on the IWM’s website.

Bradvent Calendar, part 2

Second round-up of the Special Collections Bradvent Calendar.  More info in our previous post.

Day 13


Fishing by torchlight looks tricky!  Christmas card from Japan.  Mitrinovic Archive.

 Day 14


Awe-inspiring scenery of Chamonix, from photograph album in the W. Riley Archive

Day 15


Snow on houses, Richmond Road, during building of Main Building of University of Bradford, circa 1962, University Archive B3

Day 16


Cycling Santa says giving gift tokens helps the war effort, 1941, Reynolds News

Day 17

Dales-born photographer Cherry Kearton and friend, Penguin Island

Dales-born photographer Cherry Kearton and friend, Penguin Island

Day 18

14 Bombing Days till Christmas.  The ICDP call for peace in Vietnam, 10 Decmber 1966

14 Bombing Days till Christmas. The ICDP call for peace in Vietnam, 10 December 1966

Day 19


Ingleborough in the snow, cover of book by WR Mitchell

Day 20


Bored on Christmas day?  The Doctor’s Visit, a compendium of old games, suggests   passing a lighted match around (Jack’s Alive!)

Day 21


A quirky Sun for the winter solstice, detail from issue of Reason, 1964

Day 22


Entertainment of … convalescent soldiers, Bradford Technical College, 22 December 1916

We’ll share Part 3 after the New Year!


Bradvent Calendar, part 1

We’re counting down to Christmas!  Follow @100objectsbrad on Twitter to see a new seasonal object daily. From exquisite illustrations to 1930s Christmas cards to 1980s student humour, there’s always more to discover in Special Collections.  Here’s a round-up of the first twelve.

Day 1


Ice is nice!  The Universal Glaciarium, 184 Lord Street, Southport, Holden Papers.

Day 2


Season’s Greetings from the Co-op, Bradford Pioneer, 1935.

Day 3


In the bleak midwinter … snow on the “Amp”, University of Bradford, December 2009

Day 4


Our Book Tree, 2015

Day 5


Our 2015 book tree was so popular we did another in 2016!

Day 6


Pretty poinsettia Christmas card, Mitrinovic Archive

Day 7


Brrr!  Cyclists on Kex Gill, photographed by Fred Robinson Butterfield

Day 8


Christmas has been too much for this sheep!  Fleece, number 11, December 1983

Day 9


Revenge of the Turkeys!  Shep, number 2, December 1988

Day 10


Common Ivy, from Beautiful Leaved Plants, one of our favourite books!

Day 11


Holly, from Flowering Plants of Great Britain, 1855

Day 12


Star sticker, Women for Life on Earth STAR marches, 1983, Annie Tunnicliffe Archive

Taming the Hydra: the Adam Curle Symposium

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Join us at a Symposium at the University of Bradford which will bring together academics and activists from across the world to discuss peacemaking in the 21st century.  The event is on 5-6 September and organised by our colleagues in Peace Studies.  It celebrates the centenary of Professor Adam Curle, the first Chair of Peace Studies at the University.

Adam Curle came to Bradford with a distinguished academic career (across disciplines including psychology and education) and considerable experience of mediation efforts in conflicts across the world.  These, combined with the influence of Buddhist and Quaker ideas, led him to distinctive and important conclusions about peace studies.

At the time of his arrival in Bradford, he had realised that negotiation was not enough.  The negotiator might “ease a particular situation, but the circumstances, the rivalries, the oppression, the scarcity of resources – which had given rise to it – remained”. Peace studies should therefore be about more than “preventing or terminating wars”: those working in the discipline should identify and analyse relationships between people, groups or nations and then “use this information in order to devise means of changing unpeaceful into peaceful relationships”.  Not easy – Adam Curle likened the multiple and complex challenges of addressing violence to taming the mythological multi-headed hydra.


In 2016 people still face war, injustice and inequality … can Adam’s ideas help us as individuals and groups bring about more peaceful relationships?

The packed Symposium programme features talks, workshops, exhibitions, film showings, and the launch of a new book from Hawthorn Press, Adam Curle: radical peacemaker, by Tom Woodhouse and John Paul Lederach.  Above all, it is a chance to learn and share ideas with interesting and committed people.  Everyone is welcome and the charge for attendance is only £10.

Commonweal: a library for the good of all

Visitors to the Library at the University of Bradford will often come across references to “Commonweal” and maybe wonder what this means.   Wonder no more!

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Commonweal means “the good of all”.  The Commonweal Library is an independent peace library run by Trustees and volunteers.  Commonweal is located within the main Library of the University of Bradford (handily just outside my office on Floor 1!) and is a treasure trove of books, journals and pamphlets on protest, social change, religions, ideas, and much much more.  Its extraordinary collections of campaign archives are part of Special Collections.

Befriending Commonweal Peace Library“, a feature in the most recent issue of Peace News, is a great introduction to Commonweal’s fascinating story.  The author of the feature, Michael Randle, encourages activists and academics interested in nonviolent protest to make use of Commonweal’s wonderful resources.

Commonweal, like Special Collections, is for everyone.  Unlike Special Collections, however, Commonweal is open access:  you don’t need an appointment and you can explore the shelves to your heart’s content.

Find out more:

I Vote for Radical Action! Free event at University of Bradford

“I vote for Radical Action!” Ernest Rodker

Commonweal Lecture 2015
Tuesday 17 February 6:00 pm
John Stanley Bell Lecture Theatre, Richmond Building, University of Bradford
Free admission
I Vote for Radical Action : Ernest Rodker and a life...

Ernest Rodker is a conscientious objector and veteran of many direct action campaigns including Free Vanunu, Stop the 70 Tour, Anti-Poll Tax campaign and local campaigns.  Ernest will share details of these campaigns and how direct action has shaped his life.   He recently donated the Archive of the Free Vanunu Campaign to Special Collections, where it will form a fantastic resource for activists and researchers interested in nonviolent campaigning.  The lecture is brought to you by Commonweal Collection, an independent public library for social change.

Advance booking: