Records of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. 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 Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), an organization formed in Great Britain in January 1958, intended to persuade the government to "renounce unconditionally the use or production of nuclear weapons and refuse to allow their use by others in its defense."
Fearing a retreat by the United States back into isolationism after World War II, Britain felt compelled to provide for its own defense. In a secretive era under the Labour Party, the British government began work on its own atomic weapons in 1947, and tested its first atomic bomb in Australia five years later. Over the next decade, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) grew in face of Soviet imperialism, and the United States and Britain pursued coordinated but independent nuclear programs.
By 1957, two groups had emerged to coordinate the anti-nuclear movement in Britain. The National Committee for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons Tests (NCANWT) and the Emergency Committee for Direct Action Against Nuclear War (DAC) were created to oppose the Conservative Party's White Paper on Defense (1957) which openly supported a nuclear program. The White Paper expressed the first official government support for what had been a secretive ten-year effort to produce an atomic weapon.
The formation of NATO in 1949 and eventually the Korean War prompted a NATO effort to match the nuclear weaponry of the Soviet Union. The NATO nuclear relationship progressed to the point where, in 1958, the United States based several of its nuclear fleet submarines and intermediate range nuclear missiles in Britain, thereby committing the U.S. to respond to Warsaw Pact aggression and allowing Britain to feel more confident.
It was at this point that the peace movement took its first steps toward prominence in the British political arena. Initially the peace movements were small and independent, but they forced the issue of disarmament onto the political agenda of the parties. The Labour Party, in power from 1945-51, initiated the British nuclear program. By 1957, Labour was the opposition party, torn between its left and center-left components. The left demanded Britain's unilateral nuclear disarmament to set an example for the United States and the Soviet Union. Debate raged within the Labour Party and among non-Parliamentary notables, the most influential of whom was the author J.B. Priestley.
Priestley's article in The New Statesmen in support of unilateral disarmament prompted a meeting of Britain's intelligentsia. Those attending included Bertrand Russell, Sir Julian Huxley, Kingsley Martin, Priestley, and members of NCANWT. The meeting resulted in the formation of the CND with Bertrand Russell installed as President, Canon Collins as Chairman, and Peggy Duff from NCANWT as organizing secretary. This prominent group was able to draw a large following.
The first major decision facing the newly organized CND was whether to endorse the "street politics" of the DAC or to utilize available links with Parliament to promote their agenda. The first important direct action endorsed by the CND was the DAC-organized Aldermaston march. The protest attracted 10,000 people its first year (1958), and upwards to 50,000 and 100,000 participants by the early 1960s. In addition, the CND worked through traditional channels to pressure the Labour Party Conference to adopt a unilateralist plank in their 1960 platform. They were successful in both approaches, but the CND began to split between the supporters of direct action and those who favored making use of traditional channels.
The debate became public in 1960. Bertrand Russell resigned his presidency and formed the "Committee of 100." The breakaway Committee advocated non-violent direct action (billed as civil disobedience by the English media) throughout the country. The common purpose of the Committee of 100 and the DAC brought on their merger within a year.
In the meantime, Canon Collins and the CND survived the media fiasco and loss of support created by Russell's split. The CND distanced themselves from the Committee of 100 by insisting that, unlike Russell's group, the CND was not strictly pacifist and, furthermore, believed unilateral disarmament could be pursued most effectively through the existing political system. However, lacking a formal membership until 1966, the CND found it difficult to use the political process. Their main target, the Labour Party, was not united, and the issue of unilateral nuclear disarmament became a pawn in the power game being played within the Party.
By 1963 the Labour Party under Harold Wilson had rejected unilateralism, the British Navy was equipped with Polaris missiles from the United States, the world had seen through the Cuban Missile Crisis that nuclear war could be averted, and the Partial Test Ban Treaty (banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere) had been signed. That year was the last of the Aldermaston marches.
CND activity remained in decline until the debate over inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) deployment in Europe arose during the late 1970s. Even then, the strength and effectiveness of the movement could not reach the peak it achieved in the early 1960s.
Byrne, Paul. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. New York: Croom Helm, 1988.Mattausch, John. A Commitment to campaign: a sociological study of CND. New York: Manchester University Press, 1989.Thayer, George. The British political fringe: a profile. London: Anthony Blond Ltd., 1965. Much of the organizational information has been derived from the contents of the collection.
The records of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), spanning from 1941-1972, contains three linear feet of material including articles, clippings, minutes and agendas from conferences, files, microfilm, and publications.
The material surveys the issues of the nuclear disarmament movement in England beginning with the formation of the CND in 1958. Several contentious issues are documented throughout the collection. These issues include discussions of the impact of nuclear weapon strikes on Great Britain and of nuclear weapons in general, the effectiveness of unilateral disarmament as a national policy, the merits of non-violent protest vs. civil disobedience, and the ability of pressure groups to stimulate political change. To a lesser degree, the collection reflects the impact of Bertrand Russell, his political thinking, and his role in persuading public opinion.
The collection, as a record of the CND, includes official documents and publications of the organization; and reference files of published articles, newspaper clippings, and papers dealing with nuclear disarmament. The history of the CND is well documented through these materials. Highlights include the initial meeting of the CND leaders in 1957, descriptions of the annual Aldermaston march and its planning, the breakaway of Bertrand Russell and his Committee of 100, information on the creation of the CND symbol (which gained international recognition as the peace symbol) and the dependent, fragile relationship of the CND with the Labour Party. Additionally, the records provide information on the development of CND structures, strategies, and planning.
The material is divided into three distinct series. The first series, Files of the CND, contains materials from the yearly conferences, files of the regional CND organizations, and information regarding the Committee of 100. The second series, Publications of the CND, features many of CND's official periodicals from 1962-1967. These provide insight to the concerns and changing policy positions of the organization. Finally, the third series, Press Clippings and Articles, is a set of newspaper clipping files, 1960-1963, which chronicle British press coverage of significant world events, nuclear issues, and the CND. In addition, the series includes reference articles on a wide range of disarmament topics.
- Boxes 1-4: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
- Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)
- Removals: Shelved in SPEC Media Microfilm
Original records microfilmed from the collection at the Commonwealth Library and Archives, Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5HX, United Kingdom.
Acquired from Dr. James Nathan, circa 1980.
Processed by Paul Dziewisz, 1993 May. Finding aid encoded in ArchviesSpace by John Caldwell, 2017 December.
- Nuclear weapons--Great Britain
- Nuclear arms control
- Nuclear disarmament
- Antinuclear movement
- Civil disobedience
- University of Delaware Library Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
- Finding Aid Date
- 2017 December 21
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library, https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?askspec
This series consists of minutes, agenda, correspondence, and leaflets of the national and the regional branches of the CND. Most of the files exist here in original form, however some also appear on the microfilm of CND records from the Commonwealth Library. After the microfilm, the series includes a CND file index and individual files which were removed from binders but retained in their original order. The contents of the files reveal work accomplished at the various conferences and meetings, the evolution of issues, work done on special topics, and distinctions between the national and regional branches of CND.
Film 1: Annual Conferences: 1959, 1960, 1964, 1965/66, 1967; National Committee; Easter: 1963, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1968 additional material, 1969, 1970; Groups; Correspondence: 1965
Film 2: Correspondence: 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, miscellaneous correspondence & memoranda A-Z; North West CND and YCND; YCND Executive; YCND Conference 1968; Other organizations; New supporters; Fact sheets; Advertising; Ministry of disarmament; Material for magazines and leaflets; Polaris
Film 3: The Bensen Affair; Labour Party; Pre-1964 Group Files; Campaign Caravan and Workshops; Operation "Peanuts"; Committee of 100; T.U. and Factory; Direct Action Committee; Policy 1 and Policy 2; Executive correspondence; Office administration and organisationPhysical Description
3 microfilm reel
These index pages have been removed from within the files. They should be used to determine the content of the folders in this series.
This series is an extensive collection of newsletters and weekly papers published by the CND. The publications provide insight into issues of the day and cleavages which distinguished separate factions from one another.
This series represents a collection of reports and writings chronicling current events and issues of the anti-nuclear movement. There are three subseries. The first includes a set of clipping files arranged in chronological order dealing with both news about the CND and nuclear affairs. The second subseries, arranged in alphabetical order by subject, involves countries and organizations. The final subseries consists of collected reference articles pertaining to a vast array of nuclear issues. These articles are contributed from such broad fields as physics, ethics, and military strategy.
This subseries consists of a collection of news clippings, some in their original form and some which have been removed and placed in folders.
These articles were originally stapled to the back of old memos and housed in three binders. A subject index file precedes the series of files removed from each binder. Preservation photocopies have been made and the original clippings were discarded. F130 and F131 contain samples of the old memos used for scrap pages in the binders.
This folder and the next contain the scrap pages to which the clippings were originally attached. Only papers which were legible, unique, and displayed information not readily available elsewhere in the collection have been preserved. The papers deal with an eclectic range of topics.
This subseries consists of a variety of articles both published and unpublished.