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War Resisters' International Records


Held at: Swarthmore College Peace Collection [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore 19081-1399

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The War Resisters' International was founded at Bilthoven, Netherlands, in 1921 by representative pacifists from that country, Germany, Austria and Great Britain. The name originally chosen for the new movement was "Paco," which is the Esperanto word for peace.

For two years the work was directed from Bilthoven, but in 1923 all papers were transferred to Enfield, England, and H. Runham Brown was appointed as Honorary Secretary. At the same time the new name was adopted.

H. Runham Brown remained as the directing and guiding force of the movement until his death in 1949. His first move was to establish contact with individual pacifists and groups of pacifists in all parts of the world. By 1925, when the first international conference of the War Resisters' International was held (in Hoddeston, England), there were 42 affiliated groups of war resisters in 19 countries and individual resisters were associated with the movement in almost every country.

From the beginning the structure of the War Resisters' International was similar to that of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, which had preceded it by two years. The War Resisters' International was never more than a coordinating body in its relationship to affiliated groups. No group and no individual was ever committed to a majority point of view or decision. Few decisions were in fact ever made by either the International Council or by conferences of the movement. Nothing more was required of anyone than that s/he subscribe to the following declaration: "War is a crime against humanity. We therefore are determined not to support any kind of war and to strive for the removal of all causes of war."

It must also be observed that although some groups were sponsored or inspired from Enfield, the main organizations connected with the movement were born independently. The No More War movement in Great Britain came into being in the same year as the War Resisters' International and sent a delegation to the Bilthoven gathering at which Paco was founded. The War Resisters League in the United States organized shortly afterwards. Both of these bodies were completely autonomous; the latter still exists, while the former merged in 1937 with the Peace Pledge Union, which in turn became the British Section of the War Resisters' International.

From the beginning the governing body of the War Resisters' International has been the International Council, which has varied considerably in size through the years. Members of the Council are elected for a period of three years at the international conferences and are not strictly representatives with delegated powers from member organizations. They are elected purely for their personal qualities.

It will be recognized that the main function of the War Resisters' International -- apart from bringing the various pacifist groups of the world together -- has been and continues to be the encouragement and sometimes the support of the individual war resisters in the remoter pars of the world. Its literature has usually been directed toward that aim.

The bulk of the material in SCPC pertains to two time periods, 1923-1949, and 1960-1976. The collection includes scattered minutes, correspondence, form letters and memoranda sent to members of the War Resisters' International International Council and to Sections in various countries, War Resisters' International publications, press releases, lists of imprisoned war resisters, and material relating to annual conferences. Although most of the War Resisters' International pamphlets and literature is in English, the collection also contains material printed in Esperanto, French, German and Italian.

The SCPC is not the official repository of War Resisters' International However, it does have a microfiche edition of the Archives of War Resisters' International, 1921-1974, for patron use.

Gift of the War Resisters' International Office in Great Britain.

Checklist prepared by Michael Sorensen, 1979; updated by Anne Yoder, January 1995; this finding aid was prepared by Chloe Lucchesi- Malone, August 2009.

All material not pertaining directly to War Resisters' International has been removed and filed in the Collected Document Groups under the organization's country.

The War Resisters' International periodicals, War Resistance and War Resister, as well as their newsletters have been moved into the retired periodicals collection.

For Magazines/Newsletters see Periodicals Collection For photographs see Photograph Collection [see also photographs and lantern slides in the Devere Allen Papers (DG 053): Photographs]

Swarthmore College Peace Collection
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Collection Inventory

Co-sponsorship of the International Anti-War Conference, Amsterdam (Netherlands), November 10-12, 1962.
Box 10
"A Guide to the Microfiche Edition of the Archives of the War Resisters' International" by Research Publications.
Box 11 (DG 039)
Microfiche 2.1 - 2.103 [in microfiche box within box 11]: The Archives of the War Resisters' International deposited at the International Institute of Social History (in 1985), 1921-1974.
Box 11 (DG 039)

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