Archives of the Committee of 100 collected by Derry Hannam

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This is a very small archive which reflects the fact that material was lost during the fire at the Committee of 100 offices, circa 1968. The decentralised structure of the Committee from 1962 onwards meant that records were also created and kept by the convenors of regional Committees of 100 and of national sub committees and groups.

The collection comprises mainly:

- a series of files of Committee of 100 papers, arranged chronologically and covering the years 1960 - 1964. Each file contains a mixture of meeting minutes, circulars, reports, policy and discussion documents, leaflets and correspondence.

- files covering the work of the London Committee of 100, 1962-1967; the London Students Committee of 100, 1962; the Industrial Subcommittee, 1962-1964; the International Subcommittee, 1962-1966; and the Christian Group, 1963-1967.

There is evidence to indicate that Hannam has added some of his own papers to the collection. For example, the file on the War Resisters' International study conference in Denmark in 1962 contains the papers which he acquired as a delegate.

Peter Cadogan, who was in post as National Secretary when the organisation disbanded in 1968, also retained his own collection of archives of the Committee of 100. These were consulted by Richard Taylor, author of Against the bomb (1988), in the 1980s. It is possible (but not confirmed) that Cadogan's collection forms the basis of the Committee of 100 archives donated to the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam by Heiner Becker.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Committee of 100 was founded on the initiative of Ralph Schoenman and Bertrand Russell in October 1960. The Committee called for a mass movement of civil disobedience against British government policy on nuclear weapons. Its members saw a need for more radical methods than those used by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, especially following the defeat of the Labour Party in the 1959 general election. In this sense, the Committee of 100 was the successor of the Direct Action Committee, which disbanded in June 1961 after the Holy Loch demonstration. The Committee of 100 aimed to use non violent direct action on a mass scale, something the DAC had never managed to sustain. Bertrand Russell resigned as president of CND to take on the presidency of the Committee of 100 and Rev. Michael Scott became chairman.

Many leading DAC activists joined the Committee of 100, including Michael Randle, who returned from Ghana to become its first secretary, and April Carter, who sat with Randle on the working group. However the Committee of 100 did not share the DAC's Gandhian commitment to using non violent methods to achieve a non violent society. Its focus was limited to achieving British unilateral nuclear disarmament, as described in its manifesto by Russell and Scott, 'Act or perish'.

Its early campaign tactic was to organise sit-down demonstrations and these were not to be undertaken without at least 2000 volunteers pledging to take part. The first of these sit-downs took place on 18 February 1961 outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. The high point of the Committee came on the weekend of 16-17 September 1961, with successful demonstrations in Trafalgar Square and at the Holy Loch Polaris submarine base. These were preceded by the arrest and trial of 32 members of the Committee for incitement to breach the peace.

With several of its more experienced leaders in prison, the Committee took the decision to stage simultaneous demonstrations at military bases in Wethersfield, Ruislip, Brize Norton, York, Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester. This action was planned for 9 December 1961 and the aim was to immobilise temporarily at least one of the bases. In advance of the demonstrations, the Committee of 100 offices at 13 Goodwin Street, London, were raided by Special Branch officers. Six leading members of the Committee were arrested and charged with conspiracy under the Official Secrets Act. The trial of Ian Dixon, Terry Chandler, Trevor Hatton, Michael Randle, Pat Pottle and Helen Allegranza took place in February 1962, and all received jail sentences as a result.

In early 1962 the original Committee of 100 dissolved itself and reformed on a decentralised basis. Under this new structure, 13 regional Committees became responsible for organising demonstrations, with the National Committee limited to a co-ordinating role. Of the regional Committees, the London Committee of 100 was the most active and influential. A national magazine, Action for Peace, was launched by the London Committee in April 1963, published under the name Resistance from January 1964.

Demonstrations continued both in London and at military bases during 1962, and a controversial Troops Against the Bomb campaign was also launched, but the year marked the beginning of the movement's decline. An attempt to recreate the Trafalgar Square sit-down, planned for 9 September, was called off at the last moment and led to Bertrand Russell's resignation from the Committee. This reflected a shift within the movement towards greater influence by anarchist activists and supporters of the journal Solidarity for Workers' Power. The most dramatic example of this break with the DAC tradition was the Spies for Peace operation. The revelations at Easter 1963 about plans for Regional Seats of Government in the event of a nuclear attack followed a secret raid on RSG6 at Warren Row, near Reading.

1963 also saw the beginning of Committee involvement in the various marches and demonstrations organised under the ad hoc Save Greece Now committee, from the Greek royal visit in summer 1963, through to the invasion of the Greek Embassy on 2 April 1967. As the decade progressed the influence of the Committee (and of CND) waned as the political initiative passed to the anti-Vietnam War movement and nuclear disarmament shifted down the political agenda. The London Committee disbanded in January 1968 and the National Committee followed in the September.

Derry Hannam was an activist in the Committee of 100, but not an original signatory. A retired deputy headteacher, he works as a researcher, adviser and trainer in education for democratic citizenship, including for the Council of Europe and the British government.

Arrangement

The arrangement of the collection reflects how it was ordered and kept by Derry Hannam. His annotations appear on many documents.

Conditions Governing Access

A high proportion of the documents in this archive have suffered fire damage and are therefore discoloured and liable to disintegrate when handled. Some files have been closed for this reason.

Available to researchers, by appointment. Access to archive material is subject to preservation requirements and must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the Commonweal Collection by Derry Hannam, July 1994.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

A high proportion of the documents in this archive have suffered fire damage and are therefore discoloured and liable to disintegrate when handled. Careful handling is required.

Archivist's Note

Described by Helen Roberts, February 2010

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of Special Collections staff, subject to copyright law and the condition of the originals. Applications for permission to make published use of any material should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian in the first instance. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

A small amount of published material (leaflets, duplicates of bulletins) has been transferred to the Peace Ephemera collection (Eph PAC).

Custodial History

These archives were rescued by Derry Hannam after a fire at the national offices of the Committee of 100, 13 Goodwin Street, London, circa 1968. The archives were kept in his personal custody until their transfer to the Commonweal Collection.

Accruals

None expected.

Related Material

Papers of Mary Ringsleben relating to the Committee of 100 [GB 0532 Cwl MRL]

Papers of Michael Randle [GB 0532 Cwl MR]

Papers of Richard Taylor [GB 0532 Cwl DT]

Archives of the Committee of 100, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam

Bibliography

Chapter 5 in Richard Taylor, Against the bomb: the British peace movement 1958-1965 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988)

Corporate Names