Archives of Peace News (1936 - to date)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

With a few exceptions, the coverage of this archive begins in the late 1950s and is most useful for the 1960s. There are significant gaps in most series, reflecting the nature of the organisation, and the creation and custody of the archives. The following series are available:

Memoranda and articles of association, 1937 and 1972 [Cwl PN/1]

Annual reports and accounts, 1953-1974 [Cwl PN/2]

Minutes and papers of the Board of Directors, 1958-1988. These records also cover the sister companies of Peace News, including Finsbury Park Typesetters, Housmans Bookshop and Peacemeal Wholefoods. [Cwl PN/3]

Applications for shares, dating from the company restructuring in 1971-1972 [Cwl PN/4]

Minutes and papers of Committees and Working Groups, including Policy, Premises, Publications, Development, Circulation, Promotions, Finance and Planning, 1959-1971 and 1987, with report of Peace News Trustees Working Group, April 1984 [Cwl PN/5/1-7, 11-12]

Minutes, correspondence and papers of the London Peace News Working Group, with mock-ups of proposed newspaper, 1974-1976 [Cwl PN/5/8-10]

Minutes and notes of discussions of staff meetings and meetings of the Peace News Collective, 1963-1964 and 1982-1988 [Cwl PN/6]

Minutes, lists of participants, correspondence, questionnaires and other papers for Peace News conferences, and meetings of readers and supporters, including the Potlatches, 1956-1959, 1970-1971 and 1978-1984 [Cwl PN/7/1-7]

Readership survey responses and questionnaires, 1965-1982 [Cwl PN/7/8-11]

Editorial correspondence files (61), including subseries arranged by name of correspondent, 1954-1972 [Cwl PN/8]

Files relating to pamphlets and books published by Peace News, and publicity, including the 50th anniversary in 1986, 1957-1987 [Cwl PN/9]

Subject files (236) covering organisations, countries, individuals and topics of interest to Peace News, 1948-1987. These contain sources used for news items and articles, as well as representing the network of organisations which Peace News was in contact with, mainly during the 1960s. Key topics covered by the files include nuclear disarmament and nuclear power, non violent direct action, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the black civil rights movement in the United States, and conscientious objection. [Cwl PN/10]

Photographs (223 envelopes) collected from various sources for possible publication in Peace News, 1942-1990. These are arranged into four subseries covering the history of Peace News, individuals, the British peace movement and related groups, and countries. There is also a small set of files containing designs and cartoons. There is extensive coverage of the Anti Apartheid Movement, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Faslane Peace Camp, Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, Molesworth Peace Camp, Torness Alliance, and peace movements in Greece, Italy, the United States and Germany. [Cwl PN/11]

Administrative / Biographical History

The origins of Peace News lie in a pacifist study group which met in Wood Green, London, on the initiative of Humphrey Moore. The group financed the publication of the first issue of Peace News as a means of spreading the pacifist cause. It appeared on 6 June 1936 and soon became the official newspaper of the Peace Pledge Union (formed in 1934 by Dick Sheppard). Humphrey Moore took on the role of editor and a limited company was set up in 1937. Peace News reached a peak circulation of 35,000 in 1938.

Wartime restrictions on the distribution and printing of Peace News and divisions within the peace movement about how to respond to the war led to a drop in circulation. The editor during this period, John Middleton Murry, became personally disillusioned with pacifism and resigned both from the newspaper and the PPU. Frank Lea took over as editor in 1946, assisted by Hugh Brock whose printing firm had produced Peace News during the war. Hugh Brock also worked alongside Bernard Boothroyd (1949-1951) and J Allen Skinner (1951-1955), before becoming editor himself in 1955. Peace News acquired its offices at 5 Caledonian Road, London, in 1959; the building also housed Housmans Bookshop.

It was under Hugh Brock’s editorship that Peace News shifted its focus from traditional pacifism to nuclear disarmament, non violent direct action and the movement for colonial freedom. An example of this came when Gene Sharp, the American non violence campaigner, was taken onto the staff in 1955 and began to cover the black civil rights movement. Tension developed with the PPU, including with Sybil Morrison, who had previously written regularly for Peace News and was both Chair and Campaign Organiser of the PPU. Formal links were broken in 1961 and Peace News became an independent publication. In practice many PPU members continued to read and sell the newspaper. A sister company, Finsbury Park Typesetters, was created in 1962 to typeset the paper and subsidise Peace News financially.

Hugh Brock retired as editor in 1964 and was briefly replaced by Theodore Roszak (1964-1965) and Rod Prince (1965-1967). Thereafter, all the editorial staff became co-editors, pre-figuring the Peace News collective which emerged later. During this era, the emphasis of the newspaper changed again as its writers were influenced by the counter-culture in Britain and America and wider ideas of social revolution. Peace News was also closely identified with the cause of Biafra and civil rights in Northern Ireland (through co-editor Bob Overy who moved to Belfast).

In 1969 regular meetings (known as potlatches) began with the Peace News readership. The aim was to integrate the newspaper more closely into the peace movement. The company was re-structured in 1971 to separate the management of Peace News from that of Housmans Bookshop. Overseeing both of these was the newly created Peace News Trustees Ltd. In the same year, the banner ‘For nonviolent revolution’ was added to the masthead.

After much debate, Peace News moved its offices to 8 Elm Avenue in Nottingham in 1974 and re-organised itself as a publishing collective. The newspaper became a fortnightly magazine and attempts to sustain a weekly London-based publication as well came to nothing. In 1975 Peace News won a ‘scoop of the year’ award for its investigation into plans for a private army to break up strikes. Peace News was also closely involved in the British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland Campaign and was found guilty of contempt of court for its role in the ‘Colonel B’ affair.

As the decade progressed, Peace News established links with the new resistance movement against nuclear power and became its main discussion forum. This then fed through into the renewed campaign for nuclear disarmament, which emerged in Britain in the early 1980s. Peace News was the only reliable channel for news of the many peace camps which sprang up around the country.

The company’s financial difficulties came to a head in the late 1980s. The collective was disbanded in 1987 and publication was suspended until May 1989. The magazine returned to its London base and has been co-published with War Resisters’ International since July 1990.

Arrangement

The arrangement of this archive is largely artificial, although some series are based on fragments of an original filing system. Series have been created either based on record type or on the creator of the records. The photograph collection has been completely re-organised in order to make it more accessible for researchers.

Conditions Governing Access

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 Peace News.

Archivist's Note

Described by Helen Roberts, May 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

This archive has been reduced considerably in size by weeding a large number of files containing general press cuttings, and removing many pamphlets, journals and other peace ephemera. Duplicate records have also been destroyed.

Related Material

Papers of Hugh Brock [GB 0532 Cwl HBP]

Bibliography

A full set of Peace News is held by the British Library on microfilm

Albert Beale, Against all war: fifty years of Peace News 1936-1986 (Nottingham: Peace News, 1986)

Gail Chester and Andrew Rigby eds., Articles of peace: celebrating fifty years of Peace News (Bridport: Prism Press, 1986)