95. A Letter to the Lancet: the story of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War

On 20 January 1951, at the height of the Korean War, seven distinguished doctors published a letter in the Lancet expressing concern about the arms race, the impact of arms spending on healthcare (“each pound spent on bombs means … more dead babies now”) and the apathetic drift towards another world war.

Signatories to letter of 20 Jan 1951 in the Lancet

Signatories to letter of 20 Jan 1951 in the Lancet

The signatories (Richard Doll, Alfred Esterman, Ian Gilliland, Horace Joules, Duncan Leys,  Lionel Penrose, and Martin Pollock) argued that doctors could use their unique expertise and authority to work towards disarmament:

“We appeal to all our fellow doctors who think there may yet be an alternative to merely providing treatment for casualties ; we ask them to join us, in the spirit of our chosen profession of healing, in doing all in their power to halt preparation for war …”

The letter provoked many responses, to the Lancet and privately.  Not all agreed with its perspective.  Doll et al. summed up and tried to refute those arguments in a further letter in February.

Typescript of first paragraph of letter to the Lancet 17 February 1951

Typescript of first paragraph of letter to the Lancet 17 February 1951

Some respondents had argued that war and peace were political matters which should not be discussed in a medical journal.  The seven profoundly disagreed: “Doctors have a social responsibility as well as a personal one to their patients ; they have an ethical tradition and an international allegiance.  War is a symptom of mental ill health.  Its results include wounds and disease.  Doctors are therefore properly concerned in preventing it”.

The February letter called for a forum to discuss how doctors could put these ideas into action.  The resulting event, held in London on 16 March and chaired by Dr Joules, was attended by 130 doctors and led to the founding of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW).

Detail from cover of MAPW Journal June 1983

Detail from cover of MAPW Journal June 1983

Over its forty year lifespan, MAPW brought the expertise and authority of doctors and, later, other medical professionals to many issues via its publications, conferences and advocacy: nuclear weapons, chemical and biological warfare, radiation, terrorism, the medical needs of developing countries, even expressing concern about the bellicose lyrics of national anthems.  It was explicitly politically independent, though accused of being a communist front and proscribed by the Labour Party during the 1950s.

In 1992, MAPW merged with the Medical Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (MCANW), which had been founded in 1980. A merger had been discussed since the mid-1980s but, as Dr Alex Poteliakhoff observed in a position paper in 1990 “the changing international and global scene, namely the collapse of the cold war, hesitant moves towards nuclear disarmament” and increased public concern about environment and quality of life meant both organisations needed to rethink their missions to survive and be useful.

Medact logo, from press release of April 1992

Medact logo, from press release of April 1992

Given their long-term collaboration on joint conferences and projects such as the Medical Educational Trust (not to mention shared office and fax machine!), a merger made sense.   The result was Medact, which continues to bring together health professionals working for a “fairer, better and safer world”.

I decided to write about medical campaigners this week as I recently learned that the Wellcome Library plan to catalogue the substantial and hitherto inaccessible MCANW and Medact archives they hold.   I look forward to working with the Wellcome to promote the distinctive archives of medical professional campaigns to researchers in many disciplines.

Sources: quotations and images from MAPW Archive (references H2, M3, M10.  Note that we are about to release a new edition of the Archive catalogue).  I am indebted also to Physicians and the Peace Movement, by Nick Lewer (Cass, 1992) and many published and unpublished articles in the Archive concerning the history of the association.

Postscript (18 December 2013): the catalogue of this Archive is now online as part of our Quick Wins programme.  Find it on the MAPW webpage in PDF and Word format.

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94. Pioneering Pacifist Journalism: the Peace News Story

This week, two little pamphlets which tell the story of a unique newspaper: Peace News.  The history of  Peace News is that of the peace movement in Britain.  Written, edited and read by activists, it reflected and shaped campaigns and debates.

Cover of The Peace News Story by Harry MisterThe Peace News Story was written by Harry Mister.  This particular issue dates from around 1951 or 1952, just after Allen Skinner became editor.  It begins with a potted and very positive account of the early years of the paper.

Half-title page of The Peace News Story by Harry Mister, image of paper's founder Humphrey S. MooreThe paper’s first editor, Humphrey S. Moore, a young Quaker journalist, believed that existing peace publications did not reach out to ordinary people.   A popular newspaper-style weekly could explain and promote pacifism more effectively.  On 6 June 1936, with the support of the Wood Green Study Group (who became the Peace News Group), the first issue was published.

The Peace Pledge Union quickly saw the potential of this new publication to share pacifist ideas.  The PPU was born in 1934 from the mass response to a letter by clergyman Dick Sheppard.  In this famous letter, Sheppard renounced war and called on others who felt the same to join him.  The Union had recently taken a more organised form.  Peace News became the official newspaper of the PPU.

From the first print run of 1,500 copies, the paper grew quickly as it tapped into concern about the threat of war.  Peak circulation of 35-40,000 was reached during the late 1930s.

The Second World War saw circulation drop considerably, for several reasons, including the varying responses of pacifists to the war and the refusal of printers and newsagents to handle the paper.  Peace News survived (and actually made a profit) thanks to dedicated street sellers and other volunteers.  Given these difficulties and restrictions on the use of newsprint, the paper concentrated on supporting conscientious objectors rather than reporting on general peace issues.

Front page of Peace News a short history 1962

A similar yet intriguingly different version of the pamphlet appeared in 1962.  Much of the history section in the 1952 version came from a PPU source.  The version in the 1962 pamphlet was based on another Peace News Story by Margaret Tims* and has a different, more candid tone.

Tims shows how from the explosion of the first atomic bombs in 1945, Peace News helped to create “a new movement against nuclear war based on the idea of unarmed resistance to tyranny”.

From about 1948 we see (and the newspaper reports on) pacifists studying Gandhian ideas of nonviolent resistance and considering how these might be used to campaign against the Bomb.   Hugh Brock, who became editor of Peace News  in 1955, played a key role in these groups.  Although very small, these organisations were exploring ideas and methods which came into their own from 1957, when (as we have seen) the testing of Britain’s H-Bomb led to mass protest and the founding of CND.  There was great overlap between Peace News people and the Direct Action Committee (who organised the first major Aldermaston march in 1958).

Photograph of protesters with placards at Non-Violent Resistance Group demonstration against colonial policy (Cwl HBP 1/19 image 22). Photographer and date unknown.

Non-Violent Resistance Group demonstration against colonial policy (Cwl HBP 1/19). Photographer and date unknown.

Alongside campaigning against nuclear weapons and exposing the dangers of nuclear tests, Peace News encouraged struggles for colonial freedom and campaigned against apartheid in South Africa.  Gene Sharp, the American campaigner, joined the staff in 1955 and began to cover the black civil rights movement.  Increasingly the paper, like the peace movement of which it was part, sought to address the causes of conflict by calling for changes in society.

These developments worried some absolutist pacifists such as the PPU’s Sybil Morrison.  She complained in I Renounce War (1962)  of the paper’s “all-out support and advocacy of the CND” and that Peace News “appeared to be the organ of the Movement for Colonial Freedom”.   The paper became independent of the PPU in 1961.

However, this split, like those amongst CND’s leaders, was perhaps less relevant to activists.  There were not really two sides: traditionalist PPU versus the new campaigns.  Individuals involved in the latter were active in the PPU too; indeed the first studies of Gandhi’s ideas in Britain were PPU initiatives.

This continuity at the grassroots can be seen in the “practical guide for propagandists” in the pamphlets.  The text changes little between the two editions, offering  advice to activists on getting Peace News read: ask your local librarian to take it, advertise at the railway station, write to the press, leave old copies where they will be seen … The main differences between 1951 and 1962 are technological (in 1962 you can get colourful green and yellow posters and a Peace News sticker for your car).

*A small mystery: I have never encountered a copy of this work or seen it on a library catalogue.

5 Caledonian Road soon after it was acquired for Peace News and Housman's bookshop in 1959 and remains home to both today.  Image is frontispiece to Articles of Peace, photographer not known.

5 Caledonian Road soon after it was acquired for Peace News and Housmans bookshop in 1959. It is still home to both paper and bookshop. Image from Articles of Peace.

Sources and credits. Quotations are from the pamphlets, unless otherwise noted.

Peace News created a huge published and archival presence which can be seen in Special Collections and Commonweal Library.  Two key books from 1986, the paper’s anniversary year: the short history Against All War and the more reflective discussions in Articles of PeaceIn Special Collections, most of our peace archives, but in particular  Peace News Archive, the papers of Hugh Brock, our pamphlet and ephemera collections and the artworks of Peggy Smith who sold the newspaper on the street for most of her life.   Commonweal has a complete run of Peace News.

Recent editions of Peace News are freely available online on the paper’s website and a welcome initiative to digitise historic issues is under way.

And finally, thank you to our PaxCat Project archivist, Helen Roberts, who catalogued the Peace News and Hugh Brock archives and to my colleague Martin Levy who has been cataloguing the pamphlet collection.

93. Your Starter for Ten: Bradford’s University Challenge

On 28 January 1979 a team of students from Bradford University triumphed against Lancaster University in the final of University Challenge, 215 points to 160.

Bradford University's University Challenge winning team and the reserve

Bradford University’s University Challenge winning team: Watt, Lee (reserve), Bradford, Simkin and Cooter

University Challenge is a notoriously difficult and fast-moving television quiz.  Produced by Granada Television, the original programme was presented by Bamber Gascoigne and ran from 1962 to 1987.   It was revived by the BBC in 1994 with presenter Jeremy Paxman (an honorary graduate of Bradford University) and is still running today.  Contestants are usually university students although there have been series which used different formats.

The Bradford University team of 1979 boasted three postgraduate computer science students (John Watt, Mike Bradford, John Simkin).   The other team members were Maxwell Cooter, an Interdisciplinary Human Studies student, and a reserve, Martin Lee, a postgraduate in Social Sciences.

The dominance of computer scientists apparently “amused and bemused” Bradford’s opponents, though in fact the three were studying conversion courses.  Along with their colleagues, they had excellent general knowledge spanning key subjects such as classical music, literature, sport and art.

The team actually criticised the University Challenge format, which they felt “tested school rather than at university learning” and called for “fast recall of fairly shallow or even trivial knowledge, rather than the analysis or coherent pattern which University education should develop.”   They emphasised that it was no measure of intellectual ability, and might even mislead the public about the nature of students and university life.

Bradford University's University Challenge winning team reunited for a special series in 2002: Lee, Bradford, Simkin and Cooter

Bradford University’s University Challenge winning team reunited for a special series in 2002: Lee, Bradford, Simkin and Cooter

The University of Bradford’s Corp Comms managed to track down three members of the team for a 2002 series celebrating forty years of the programme: University Challenge Reunited.  Bradford, Simkin and Cooter were joined by the reserve, Martin Lee.    The team lost narrowly to their 1979 final opponents, Lancaster, but enjoyed the experience.   John Watt saw the event on television and got in touch later on.

A Bradford University team who took part in the 2003/04 season were less successful, scoring a mere 35 points in their first-round match on 15 December 2003 against Queen’s University Belfast, who scored 280.

Whatever the scores though, the programme has provided plenty of entertainment.  As Bradford’s winning team observed,  “It seems that this sort of quiz would be best approached in a mildly egotistical mood, as a load of laughs, proving nothing in particular!”

Notes and queries.  There is some confusion around the years of wins, partly caused by inconsistencies in listing styles by the programme makers.  Bradford’s win is often attributed to 1980, as can be seen in the 2002 image above.   Mr Cooter’s first name is “Steve” in the News Sheet article, but “Maxwell” elsewhere.

Sources. Quotations from News Sheet March 1979 p.3-4 and 21 and News and Views May 2002 p.7.  (also online, the 2002 press release seeking the 1979 team).  I have also found many other sources useful, including the BBC site and sites by enthusiasts Blanchflower (useful on statistics and the issue of the varying years of wins) and UK gameshows.

92. The Story of Skeleton A8: Dr Calvin Wells and Leprosy in Saxon England

This week we look at one of the most influential articles written by Dr Calvin Wells, identifying a very early case of leprosy (Hansen’s disease): “as far as I know, the earliest British example to be described”.

Feet of Saxon leprosy case A8.

What remained of the feet of the Saxon man Dr Wells believed had leprosy. This image appeared with Dr Wells’ article. Copyright unknown, possibly Dr Wells though there is correspondence relating to photography of these bones by others.

Dr Wells, as we already saw, brought his medical training to the study of human bones, exploring the diseases and accidents from which past people suffered: palaeopathology.  He had often seen skeletons showing signs of possible leprosy, but he had been cautious in proclaiming them as cases of that disease.  There were so many other conditions that could produce a similar appearance in the bones of feet, hands or face.  In this case, however, having considered all the possibilities, he was sure.

CAL 1_16 Notes on leprosy Beckford A8 detail

Notes by Dr Calvin Wells on skeleton A8 at Beckford (archive ref: CAL 1/16). Note mention of small dogs, at the top.

The skeleton in question, known as A8, belonged to a very strong man aged between 25 and 35.  He died sometime around the year 500 AD.  Dr Wells reported that the bones of A8’s feet were badly damaged by infectious disease, with the phalanges and metatarsal heads entirely destroyed.  He concluded that “These feet are absolutely typical of advanced leprosy. Despite their Early Saxon date they could be used to illustrate a modern textbook of pathology.”

A8 was buried in an early Anglo-Saxon cemetery found at Beckford (near Evesham) during gravel-digging work in 1954.  Archaeologists quickly excavated the graves then the process of analysis began.  Dr Wells, as an expert in this subject, was asked to report on the human bones during the late 1950s.

He decided, with permission, to publicise the discovery of this almost certain case of leprosy in advance of publication of the excavation report.  The Calvin Wells Archive includes a letter from Vera Evison, the archaeologist who had dug the cemetery.  She had been “very puzzled at the absence of toes” on A8 so Dr Wells’ diagnosis made sense to her.

CAL 1_16 Letter from Evison 1960 re A8 p1

Detail of letter from Vera Evison who had excavated the graves, in which she explains that the absence of toes on A8 had puzzled her.

The full report was published in 1996 by the Council for British Archaeology.  It unites the story of A8’s leprosy with details of his grave and those of the people he lived with.  As if he did not have enough difficulties, it seems A8 also had spina bifida.

We get the faintest sense of him as a person from his grave-goods.  A8 was buried with various objects including a yew-wood bucket, a bronze ear-scoop and a spearhead.  As he had more goods than anyone else in the cemetery, he may have been an important person in his society.

A woman, A11, who died in her late twenties, was buried next to him.  She also had many goods in her grave (brooches and beads), showed possible signs of  leprosy and had similar back problems to A8: perhaps his sister?  Dr Wells noted that A8’s grave also  contained the bones of two small dogs “one about the size of a terrier, one the size of a whippet”.

A8, A11 and their companions would have led tough lives with little comfort and gritty food.  The report writers concluded that the Beckford community was poor, isolated and inbred.  It is not surprising therefore to find leprosy in such a setting: it is a disease most likely to be experienced by people living in poverty and difficult conditions.

Sources

  • The article: Wells, Calvin  “A Possible Case of Leprosy from a Saxon Cemetery at Beckford”.  Medical History, 1962 October; 6(4): 382–386.  Available online via Pub Med Central. (STOP PRESS 4 Oct – this link may not work as Pub Meb is affected by US government shut-down.  Apols if so, I am sure it will be back in due course).
  • The excavation report:  Evison, Vera I. and Hill, Prue.  Two Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries at Beckford, Hereford and Worcester.  Council for British Archaeology, 1996.  CBA Research Report 103.
  • File CAL 1/16 in the Calvin Wells Archive includes notes, typescripts and correspondence concerning the human bones from Beckford burials.
  • You can find out more about the impact of leprosy on bones and see many high-quality 3D images on the websites for University of Bradford projects From Cemetery to Clinic and Digitised Diseases.

Thanks to my colleagues Sarah George and Jo Buckberry for their assistance with this article.

91. Barbed Wire and Curfew Passes: a Friend reports on Cyprus, 1958

“If I was looking for trouble, here it is”, Quaker activist and academic Eric Baker wrote from the increasingly tense city of Nicosia in Cyprus on the 12 June 1958. In a series of letters circulated by the Friends Peace Committee, Baker told of “barbed wire, curfew passes, security checks and a heat that blisters the road under your feet”.

Eric Baker's press identity card as representative of The Friend, Cyprus 1958 or 1959 Cwl EB 1E press cardThis week’s Objects are Baker’s press identity card, which accredited him as a journalist for Quaker journal The Friend, and his curfew pass, which allowed him to travel during curfew hours.  Baker did indeed write about Cyprus for The Friend and other magazines and newspapers, but accreditation mainly served to enable him to travel more freely than would otherwise be the case.

Baker was really in Cyprus to investigate the situation and see whether Friends might be able to assist.   He was sent by the Friends Peace Committee, who were increasingly concerned at the growing violence on the island.

Baker (1920-1976) had been a pacifist since childhood, joined the Society of Friends while at School and registered as a conscientious objector during the Second World War.  At the time he went to Cyprus he was General Secretary of the National Peace Council.  The evidence in the Eric Baker Archive suggests that Baker was ideal for the mission, being analytical, tactful, experienced and able to communicate with people from all sides.  He apparently knew Cyprus well and had travelled there before.

Curfew pass for Eric Baker, Cyprus 1958 or 1959.  Hotel des Gourmets Nicosia.  Cwl EB 1E curfew pass

Baker spent several weeks in Cyprus during June and July 1958, mainly in Nicosia as it proved impossible to travel because of increased curfews.  He met Sir Hugh Foot, the Governor, and his deputy, commissioners in charge of prisons, welfare and labour, educationalists and diplomats, and a small group of refugees.  Eric Baker concluded that the situation was extraordinarily confused, featuring multiple conflicts: “Right wing against Left wing Greeks, Right wing v. Left wing Turks, Greeks v Turks and both against the British”.  In answer to the question he went to consider, he concluded that there was little that Friends could do to help at the present time, other than to watch in case opportunities arose to offer assistance.

Eric Baker visited Cyprus on behalf of the Committee again in 1959 as part of a trip which also took in Greece, Turkey, Malta and a private visit to see the work of Danilo Dolci in Sicily.  He returned to a now-independent Cyprus in 1967 and to the divided island in 1975, with Michael Harbottle.  The Eric Baker Archive is full of rich and detailed material on all these activities: articles, reports and letters by Baker, and extensive correspondence with all sides.  The Archive also reflects Baker’s later work in campaigning for prisoners of conscience and the end of torture, notably his role in the founding of  Amnesty (later Amnesty International) by Peter Benenson in 1961.

Note on sources: quotations from circular letters from Eric Baker Archive, Cwl EB 1/L.  The two cards are from file Cwl EB 1/E.  They are undated, so we cannot be sure whether they date from the 1958 or 1959 visit or both.

90. Whither Archaeology? Jacquetta Hawkes versus the statniks

In 1968, Jacquetta Hawkes considered the future of archaeology in one of her most famous and controversial pieces of writing: “The Proper Study of Mankind”, published in the journal Antiquity.

Jacquetta Hawkes in a garden, 1969 (ref HAW 18/6/43).

Jacquetta Hawkes, 1969 (reference HAW 18/6/43).

In this article, Jacquetta warned against the dangers of scientific reductionism in archaeology.  She certainly was not against the use of technological aids, but she felt that these had taken over along with pseudo-scientific aims and methods:   archaeologists had become “statniks”, looking only at what could be quantified.

Too much archaeological writing was “swamped by a vast accumulation of insignificant facts, like a terrible tide of mud”.  In another geological simile, the “extreme precision of detail” combined with “endless uncertainty of interpretation” in archaeological reports was like “walking across coarse scree”.  Instead, archaeologists should be economical in presenting their data and “extract the essential historical meaning … set this out in clear, firm and humane language”.

Archaeologists were also paying less attention to human attainment, consciousness and individuality: “art and religion receive very little of the serious attention that is available in our world of archaeology”.  More could be learned from art historians, psychologists and folklore experts as well as natural scientists.

An editorial in the next issue of the journal observed that the article had “aroused widespread comment”, mainly from archaeologists over 40!  Antiquity therefore announced an essay competition for the under-40s: “Professors,  archaeological correspondents, Druids, moonrakers – anyone may put in”.   The essay title would be “Whither Archaeology?”  (the original holding title for Jacquetta’s piece).  The two prize winners were published in the journal in 1971.  One, by Glynn Isaac, is an interesting response to the points made by Jacquetta by an author who did not agree with her view of archaeology or its relationship to the humanities.

Further responses can be found in letters to Jacquetta in her Archive.  Whole-hearted praise:  “Three cheers … the statniks needed taking down a peg or two”.    A couple of writers observed that the archaeological research she criticised was bad science anyway: “many of the people would not be very good at any sort of research … you underrate the creative and selective role that a competent natural scientist plays.”

Over the next few years, Jacquetta became “an established champion of old-time humanist values in archaeology” as the debate continued.  Eloquent in writing and in person, and “a free-range individual with no academic eggs to break”, she wrote, lectured and appeared in discussions on radio and television.   In one television programme, she opposed Professor Lewis Binford, a founder of the “new” or “processual” archaeology.  “To me his long abstractions were almost without meaning, while to him I must have appeared as something out of the rotting woodwork”.

Jacquetta Hawkes outside Kissing Tree House, 1973 (reference HAW 18/7/8).

Jacquetta Hawkes outside the Priestleys’ home Kissing Tree House, 1973 (reference HAW 18/7/8).

This concern that she is “suffering from the sense of universal decay that so often invades the passing generation” appears in Jacquetta’s article.  To some younger archaeologists excited by the potential of the new models, Jacquetta’s ideas did indeed seem “desperately out of date” (Clive Gamble in his Guardian obituary of Binford).   However her approach appealed at least to some budding archaeologists: one letterwriter exclaimed, “Why couldn’t you have written the article two years ago?  You would have inspired at least a handful of originally enthusiastic undergraduates who are now reduced to a state of cowed apathy by the hot wind of turgid technological detail …”

Sources.  The articles in Antiquity can be read online by staff and students of the University of Bradford and other organisations which subscribe to the title.  Jacquetta quotations are from “Proper Study” or the preface to Nothing But or Something More, her John Danz lecture against reductionism.  Letters quoted are in HAW 3/14.

Happy Holidays!

We’re taking a break for our summer holidays, but we’ll be back in September for the Autumn Term and the final ten.

Sun detail from front cover of Reason, April 1964 (archive ref HBP23).

Sun detail from front cover of Reason, April 1964 (archive ref HBP23).

If you’re new to the series and don’t know where to begin, here are six of the  most popular Objects to get you started.   Enjoy!

  1. Radical reading: Reynolds News, a popular but now rare newspaper
  2. The story of a modern icon, the “peace sign”
  3. Potential Graduate, a well-loved film about 1960s students at Bradford University
  4. J.B. Priestley’s wartime broadcasts which inspired a nation
  5. Dr Raistrick’s unique insights into the Yorkshire Dales
  6. A Land: Jacquetta Hawkes fused poetry and geology to tell Britain’s long story