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Opposition to the Second World War (Hardback)

Conscience, Resistance and Service in Britain, 1933–45

Military P&S History > Social History WWII

By John Broom
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 212
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526716644
Published: 19th November 2018



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As Europe lurched towards war during the 1930s, many people in Britain, with the memories of the horrors of the First World War painfully fresh, set out to build groups opposed to the idea of a future war. Despite current notions of the Second World War as being a time when Britons pulled together with a unity of purpose, many of these organisations continued their work in either campaigning against the conduct of the war, or to alleviate its more destructive effects. The people who went against the political and cultural climate of the time have been somewhat airbrushed from history. This book brings them back into focus and demonstrates the myriad ways in which they lived out the slogan ‘I Renounce War’.

As featured on History of War

History of War

Brings together less well known facts concerning, for example, pacifism, conscientious objectors, humanitarian work, human guinea pigs and the post war world.

Military Historical Society

An interesting topic that portrays a complicated time.

Read the full Spanish review here

Miniaturas JM

In my humble opinion, there is a myth that continues to be propagated in relation to the Second World War from a British perspective. Firstly, that it was a ‘just’ war, and that there was complete unity in the United Kingdom in the prosecution of the war. The phrase ‘the Dunkirk Spirit’ is still used today by politicians to invoke national unity and purpose. The truth, as usual, is more nuanced and complicated, and this book delves into this difficult area.

The author holds a PhD and has studied Christians in the Armed Forces during the Second World War. As such, he is well placed to write on this subject, and covers it in depth with some personal examples. There are eleven chapters, beginning with the international situation in the mid-1930’s through to the outbreak of war in Europe. The issue of pacifism in relation to both politics and religion is examined in Chapters 4 and 5, and then in Chapter 8 is the sensitive issue of the use of human guinea pigs in the U.K. for medical trials.

There are some photographs contained in the centre of the book, mainly of some of the people mentioned in the text. The select biography is very useful for people wishing to study the subject area in more depth, and it indicates the sources used by the author. In conclusion, I found this book well written, well researched, and very thought provoking. It will challenge some people’s perception of the Second World War, which makes it an even stronger candidate to be read. I learnt a lot from reading it, so I recommend it highly to other military and social historians.

British Military History, Rob Palmer

This With literarlly thousands of books on the subject of how the British people pulled together to resist Hitler and the Nazis, this book chronicles the work of the pacifists, the other side of the story and equally fascinating.

Books Monthly

The author has provided a balanced history of opposition to WWII. In a readable style he has looked at how these people lived under the slogan “I renounce war”. In support of the text there is a photo-plate section of images.

Read the full review here


This excellent, well-referenced title will be a valuable tool for anyone with pacifist ancestors.

WDYTYA? February 2019 – reviewed by Jad Adams

Article: 'Book looks at anti-war activism' as featured by

Sheffield Telegraph, 9th January 2019 – words by Julia Armstrong

To listen to author interview click the links below

Part 1

Part 2

Branch FM, 22nd January 2019
 John Broom

About John Broom

After graduating in History from the University of Sheffield in the early 1990s, JOHN BROOM pursued a career in teaching, firstly in his chosen subject and latterly with children with autism. He has been awarded a PhD on Christianity in the British Armed Services by the University of Durham. John has a wide-ranging knowledge and interest in social, sporting, industrial and military history, and is the author of eight published books: Cricket in the First World War: Play Up! Play the Game (Pen & Sword, 2022), Cricket in the Second World War: The Grim Test (Pen & Sword, 2021), Reported Missing in the Great War: 100 years of searching for the truth (Pen & Sword, 2020); Faithful in Adversity: The Royal Army Medical Corps in the Second World War (Pen & Sword, 2019); Opposition to the Second World War: Conscience, Resistance and Service in Britain, 1933–45 (Pen & Sword, 2018); A History of Cigarette and Trade Cards (Pen & Sword, 2018); Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War (Pen & Sword, 2016); Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War (Pen & Sword, 2015).

Perfect Partner

The Peace Protestors A History of Modern-Day War Resistance (Hardback)

From Afghanistan to the Falklands, from Northern Ireland to Iraq, British troops are nearly always in action somewhere in the world. But whenever there is war, there will be people who resist it. Sometimes, they can draw on public sympathy. At other times, they stand alone against the crowd. Peace movements large and small have been a constant part of UK history, not least in the last 40 years. This book tells their stories. Drawing on interviews, fresh research and newly released government documents, the book sheds light on some of the most surprising and overlooked events of recent decades.…

By Symon Hill

Click here to buy both titles for £42.50
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