2. Signs of Peace: the Nuclear Disarmament Symbol

The nuclear disarmament symbol, often known as the CND symbol in Britain and the peace symbol or peace sign elsewhere, is a modern icon of peace and dissent.  It is ubiquitous in fashion and youth culture, used in protests worldwide, and still provokes powerful emotions.

Detail of marchers carrying symbol banners

The original designs of the symbol belong to Commonweal Library and are cared for by Special Collections.  They were made by graphic artist Gerald Holtom in 1958 for the Aldermaston March, which was organised by the Direct Action Committee.  The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament later asked to adopt the symbol.  This illustration shows a detail from a sketch in which Holtom imagined the symbol in use on banners during the March.  Find out more about Gerald Holtom’s work on the  webpage for the symbol drawings.

At Bradford, the designs are at the heart of a rich network of archives, library collections, museum objects and art relating to peace.  This network has grown around the University’s Peace Studies department and the city’s radical, activist traditions.  The unique Commonweal Library is based at the University.   The archives it collected are in Special Collections (recently catalogued by the PaxCat Project).  The University’s art collection includes many relevant works, and the Peace Museum is located in central Bradford.

Versions of nuclear disarmament symbol

Versions of nuclear disarmament symbol

Here are just a few images from Special Collections that illustrate the ways campaigners appropriated and adapted this remarkable design.

The original sketches are too fragile to put on display.  However, several excellent facsimiles exist, often shown in Commonweal Library or the Peace Museum.

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5 responses to “2. Signs of Peace: the Nuclear Disarmament Symbol

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