Thursday, November 24, 2016

Remembering War-Resisters in Scotland

Brief Book Review

Objectors & Resisters: Opposition to Conscription and War in Scotland 1914-18, by Robert Duncan (Glasgow: Common Print/Common Weal, March 2015)

Dedicated "To all peace activists, whatever your political views". 

According to the London Rebel History Calendar 2016, on 24 November 1918 a mass meeting of the North London Herald League demanded the release of jailed socialist John MacLean. His name and record of resolute opposition to the First World War will be familiar, up to a point, to many radical historians, as will several other aspects of the story told in Robert Duncan’s excellent book: the Glasgow rent strike, industrial unrest, the launch of the Women’s Peace Crusade.  It breaks new ground, however, in collating and adding to the information available on these and other topics, and deserves to be widely read.

The longest chapters are 4 and 5, dealing with conscientious objectors (COs), arguably the group whose anti-war stance cost them the most. From the Acknowledgements, the author’s work on the book was completed in January 2015, so that he would probably not have had access to the Pearce Register online. Nor does he refer to many of the secondary sources published or re-issued and updated in or shortly after 2014, which in any case tend to be rather short on information about Scotland. This means that he relies extensively on his own original research in newspapers and periodicals and often on the accounts of his protagonists themselves, providing resounding statements of principle and heartening examples of resistance.

Obtainable from the publishers - advisable to allow 2-3 weeks for delivery on recent experience.

 "In the case of hunger strikers, we could always feed them artificially in the last resort, but in the case of the work striker we can do nothing..." 
 - Excerpt from confidential Scottish Police Commissioner's report on prominent CO James Maxton in Perth prison, June 1917, on p.84 of the book.


  1. An augmented review of this book has just been posted at:

  2. A short version of the above augmented review is now online at