Degradation and brutality were meted out to those branded as cowards, yet by 1919 it was accepted that a man had the right to follow his conscience in time of war. In that year, the foundations of the Peace Movement were laid. Only Britain and the US, with their traditions of individual liberty and religious freedom, recognised a legal right to conscientious objection. Many ‘conchies’ were confronted by excruciating dilemmas when serving in the Ambulance Services, when they realised the full horror of Nazism.
Through graphic photographs, artwork and cartoons, Smith charts the evolution of the Peace Movement through the terrible conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries – the First and Second World Wars, Hiroshima, Vietnam – through to the Gulf Wars via Greenham Common, Aldermaston, and Guantanamo Bay.
Over the past 100 years, dogmatic pro-war views have been challenged by sincerely held opinions of men and women such as Dick Sheppard, AA Milne, William Douglas-Home, Bruce Kent and Kate Hudson, who in their varied ways pushed the pacifist argument.
And yet, on finishing this thought-provoking book, questions remain. The sincerity of the pacifist viewpoint does in some cases appear naïve and detached from pressing world issues. War is terrible, but we live in a world of dictatorships and fanatical movements who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. Will pacifism deter them or could it encourage even greater violations?