The latest instalment of The white feather diaries, an online project of British Quakers, goes live today. Updated daily on @wfdiaries, they tell of the challenges faced by five people who followed their consciences as the horror of World War I enveloped their lives. All of them were, or became, Quakers – Bert Brocklesby, John Hoare, Hilda Clark, Howard Marten and Laurence Cadbury.
The date is late 1915: the threat of conscription is imminent and opposition to war is censored. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Quakers work for individual conscientious objection to be recognised by the state.
The white feather diaries storytelling project contains an up-to-date twist, posing questions for readers. How important is it to challenge majority opinions if you hold a different view? Are there times when it is easier to keep quiet rather than speak out? How can we support people facing abuse because of their beliefs? Parallels are drawn between events a century ago and the choices we make in the world of today.
If you’ve followed the project before, or read about it on here, you’ll know that The white feather diaries include rich background material about the diarists, their contemporaries, and the issues they faced, some of it researched here in the Library.
We highlighted some of the Library’s resources for World War I research in a series of Quaker Strongrooms blogposts last year.
Since then World War I interest and work continues to flourish, and the Library welcomes all who want to delve deeper. A wide range of researchers – peace activists, academics, playwrights, curators, novelists, Quaker meetings, local historians, genealogists and others – have been busy using the material highlighted in last year’s blogposts and other World War I resources offered by the Library. We’ve been able to add more archival material from the period to our online catalogue, such as the huge archive of the Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee, and the small but fascinating collection of FAU motor stores records. World War I Friends Ambulance Unit record cards have been digitised and put online for all to see. And Cyril Pearce’s magnificent Register of conscientious objectors, the product of many years research in this Library and elsewhere, has at last been added to the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website, where it can be freely searched.
Quaker Strongrooms blog will return to explore some more World War I themes in 2016, as the anniversary of the introduction of conscription approaches.
Meanwhile, for an insight into the lives of individuals who confronted the horror of World War I a century ago, drawing parallels with our own lives and times, you can follow the latest White feather diaries. Engage with them online on https://www.facebook.com/wfdiaries and @wfdiaries.