Refusing to kill, available from the PPU.
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‘I might as well die for a principle as for lack of one.’
WW1 conscientious objector
‘I had eight months solitary confinement at Lincoln Prison. Three months bread and water treatment until the doctor wouldn't allow more. And yet one had a sense of freedom which I can't describe..... one had an extraordinary sense of personal liberty, personal freedom.’
Fenner Brockway. WW1 conscientious objector
‘I believe in the necessity of a state of continuous action until the last epaulet on a uniform and the last landmine on earth are removed. I also believe that the elimination of the causes of war is a guiding path that leads to the foundation of a free world, I won't be anyone's soldier!’
Mustafa Seyhoglu.Turkish conscientious objector. 2005
Most of us are economic conscripts - forced through the tax system to pay for war preparations and war making. For those of us who object to this the situation is both easier and more difficult than that of COs to military conscription. We don’t need to break rocks, or languish in prison or sew mailbags - instead we have to decide how to oppose the war system. Supporting this project is one way.
The men who refused to fight - the conscientious objectors of the First World War and their supporters, many of them wives and girlfriends, laid the foundations of today’s nonviolent protest movement in Britain. After the war many were at the forefront of prison reform and many other progressive causes. Many more continued to campaign for the abolition of war and a just settlement of conflicts.
A mere 20 years after the end of the First World War Europe slid into another war, in which many more refused to fight and many more campaigned against the institution of war.
Their voices, as indeed the voices of many other radicals arguing against war are often marginalised, sometimes ridiculed, but mostly unknown.
The dominant view that war, while undesirable, is sometimes necessary is transmitted from generation to generation as an absolute truth. A major aim of this project is to challenge this through the many voices and experiences of COs. Through stories, original documents, video and audio, young people particularly will have access to the wide variety of reasons why so many young men and women in Britain and around the world say no to war.
The CO Archive and Education Resource is a joint Peace Pledge Union and Peace Research and Education Trust Project
reclaims the lost voices
The project reclaims the lost voices of the young men, many of whom languished in prison, often in solitary confinement; young men who risked loss of family support, and social ostracism. Some in World War One, despite being condemned to death, refused to put on a uniform or pick up a gun.
Our aim is also to promote a better understanding of war and the arguments against it through the eyes and activities of its radical opponents.
we tell the stories of the men and women conscientious objectors of the 20th century
we document their experience
we video their recollections
we promote their ideals
we publish teaching resources
our education and resource centre has
- an extensive database of COs
- original documents, letters and photographs
- sample catalogue list WW1 | WW2
- DVDs and videos
- audio recordings
- books on conscientious objection, pacifism and related issues
- support for students and researchers
Download copy of CO Project leaflet
INTERNATIONAL CO DAY May 15
A time every year to celebrate and support the struggles of COs past and present around the world and call for nonviolent resolution of conflicts.