Pacifism & conscientious objectors in World War One

Lesson Rationale

The principle behind this activity is to go beyond the surface of conscription and the experience of warfare with students. In order to make an informed judgment as to whether it was braver to object than to fight, students will carry out a thorough enquiry. They will use a selection of sources to elicit information that provides an insight into the conditions and experiences of combat soldiers in the trenches and objectors. They will also begin to understand the social attitudes at the time that shaped these experiences.

Key questions

  • What do wartime recruitment posters indicate about going to war? Why might these posters reflect a particular view?
  • What light do the sources shed on the experience of warfare in World War One? Was the experience the same for everyone? What is missing? Why do you think these photographs were taken and diaries written?
  • What light do the sources shed on social attitudes to those who objected to going to war? Why might this be?
  • How easy is it to find information about conscientious objectors and their experiences? Why do you think this might be?
  • What light do the stories of Horace Eaton and others shed on the experiences of conscientious objectors in World War One?
  • Was it more courageous to object than to fight?