These powerful images show campaign flyers from the Direct Action Committee Archive. Like the much better-known Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the DAC originated in the storm of protest against Britain’s decision to test a hydrogen bomb, at Christmas Island in 1957. CND’s leaders worked via traditional methods, such as public meetings, education work and parliamentary lobbying. However, the DAC sought to use Gandhi’s techniques of non-violent direct action to demonstrate their personal opposition to nuclear weapons and to raise awareness of the issue. They were willing to risk arrest and imprisonment. Members included Michael Randle, Hugh Brock, April Carter, and Pat Arrowsmith.
Their first big success was the Easter 1958 Aldermaston March (see Object 2); CND later took over the organisation of these annual marches. The Committee carried out direct actions at military bases and research establishments, and tried to influence workers in the arms industry. In 1961 the group, in financial difficulties, was wound up. The Committee of 100, which aimed for mass civil disobedience, can be seen as its successor in many ways (more in Object 44).
The DAC had an impact way beyond its size. Many later protests, notably the civil rights movement in the USA, adopted the Gandhian techniques pioneered by the DAC. Individual members took part in many other campaigns, including the Committee of 100, and some took their expertise into building the study of peace and conflict resolution in the academic world.
Special Collections includes the large and detailed archive of the Committee, one of the Archives collected by independent peace library, Commonweal. Until very recently, these archives were “hidden collections”, uncatalogued and unknown. Helen Roberts, the PaxCat Project Archivist, funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Scheme, catalogued them in detail and brought them to life in her blog. Now they form a major resource for the study of history, protest and even design.