On 3 August, Professor Lois Bibbings spoke to the BBC World Service’s History Hour as part of a feature on Conscientious Objection. The feature also includes archived interviews with objectors about their feelings and treatment at the time.
Lois has been researching conscientious objectors (COs) to military service, focusing particularly on WW1, for nearly 30 years. She has spoken and written extensively on the subject. Her book ‘Telling Tales about Men: Conceptions of conscientious objectors to military service during the First World War’ (2009), looks at the way in which these men were viewed and treated. Amongst other things, the book challenges the notion that COs were universally ostracised, vilified and treated as cowards and shirkers. It demonstrates that they were also viewed in much more positive terms and supported and helped by communities.
In the programme Lois explains that COs could be legally exempted from conscription but did not always gain that recognition in practice. In addition, harsh treatment as a result of this non-recognition could create sympathy towards objectors, which worried the authorities and led to a number of policy shifts.
Listen to Lois here: