Britain's semi-detached geographical position has helped to give it the world's strongest peace movement. Secure enough from invasions to be influenced by an idealistic approach to international relations (unlike most of Europe), yet too close to the continent for isolationism to be an option (as it was in the United States), the country has provided favourable conditions for those aspiring not merely to prevent war but to abolish it. The period from the Crimean War to the Second World War marked the British peace movement's age of maturity. In 1854, it was obliged for the first time to contest a decision - and moreover a highly popular one - to enter war. It survived the resulting adversity, and gradually rebuilt its position as an accepted voice in public life, though by the end of the nineteenth century its leading associations such as the Peace Society were losing vitality as they gained respectability.
Stimulated by the First World War into radicalizing and reconstructing itself through the formation of such associations as the Union of Democratic Control, the No-Conscription Fellowship, and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the movement endured another period of unpopularity before enjoying unprecedented influence during the inter-war years, the era of the League of Nations Union, the Oxford Union's 'King and country' debate, the Peace Ballot, and the Peace Pledge Union. Finally, however, Hitler discredited much of the agenda it had been promoting the previous century or more. This book is the first comprehensive and authoritative study of this subject. It covers all significant peace associations and campaigns and is based on an extensive use of archival as well as printed sources. Its subject matter is of relevance both to historians of nineteenth and twentieth-century British politics and to specialists in international relations interested in the anti-realist tradition.