Library resources for researching World War I: Friends Peace Committee

The first of our World War I resources blogposts focuses on the Friends Peace Committee, a committee of Meeting for Sufferings (the standing representative body of Quakers in Britain) that had already been in existence for many years before the outbreak of the War.

What was the Friends Peace Committee?

From its formation in the late 1880s, Friends Peace Committee was a vigorous Quaker committee with a strong outward looking character. Through a network of correspondents in Quaker meetings and active involvement with other peace organisations it aimed to establish local and international links with the wider peace movement.

When war was declared in 1914 the Peace Committee was already actively engaged in publishing and distributing peace literature – books, posters, postcards – campaigning against the growth in armaments and the threat of militarism, promoting arbitration, influencing public opinion and petitioning government.  As the literature being distributed shows, Quakers were ready to speak out on social and economic issues – “The armaments of the world… increasingly enrich the war traders and absorb the earnings and energy of the peoples in unproductive labour. They provoke suspicion and distrust and endanger the outbreak of devastating war” (report of Peace Committee for the year 1913-1914, London Yearly Meeting Proceedings, p.116).

The Peace Committee strongly urged Friends to become involved in other peace organisations and activities, locally, nationally and internationally. Its own publications show a perhaps surprising willingness to appeal to its audience in non-denominational, sometimes purely lay, terms.

Civil liberty (Peace Committee, 1913)

Civil liberty or military despotism, postcard issued by the Peace Committee of the Society of Friends, 1913. Library ref.: Vol. T/218-219i

The Peace Committee was concerned to involve young Friends, and its membership was not limited to those already serving on the Meeting for Sufferings. Women had played an important role in the Committee from the beginning, including some indefatigable campaigners, such as Ellen Robinson (1840-1912), and later, during the War, Marian E. Ellis (1878-1952) and Joan Mary Fry (1862-1955).



What sources does the Library hold on the work of Friends Peace Committee during the First World War?

Peace Committee archives: minutes

Peace Committee minutes 6 Aug 1914

Peace Committee minutes 6 August 1914 ( PE/M5, p.194)

The Library holds the archives of Friends Peace Committee from 1888 to 1965,

when its work was taken over by the new Peace & International Relations Committee. The World War I years are covered by two minute books for the years 1912-1916  and 1916-1921.

In the first year of the War a War Sub-committee was formed, with a membership extending outside the Peace Committee. Its records consist of one minute book recording eight meetings between 2 January and 2 November 1915.

Publication and distribution of peace literature was an important part of the Peace Committee’s activity, and mentioned regularly in its minutes and reports. Its Literature Sub-committee maintained a separate volume of minutes for the years 1912-1915.

Archives of the Peace Committee and its sub-committees during the years of World War I:

  • Peace Committee minutes (1912-1916)  (reference PE/M5)
  • Peace Committee minutes (1916-1921)  (reference PE/M6)
  • Literature Sub-committee minutes (1912-1915)
  •  War Sub-committee minutes and papers (1915)


Peace Committee reports

The Peace Committee’s annual reports to Meeting for Sufferings are published in the printed Proceedings of London Yearly Meeting (the annual gathering of British Quakers, now known as Britain Yearly Meeting).

  • Report for year 1913-1914              Yearly Meeting Proceedings 1914 p.111-117
  • Report for year 1914-1915              Yearly Meeting Proceedings 1915 p.10-16
  • Report for year 1915-1916              Yearly Meeting Proceedings 1916 p.17-21
  • Report for year 1916-1917              Yearly Meeting Proceedings 1917 p.51-55
  • Report for year 1917-1918              Yearly Meeting Proceedings 1918 p. 39-41
  • Report for year 1918-1919              Yearly Meeting Proceedings 1919 p. 57-60

The peace testimony, war and the question of service in wartime were obviously dominant concerns for London Yearly Meeting during the war years. The printed Proceedings record minutes on these subjects sent up for consideration by quarterly meetings around the country, as well as minutes and public statements of the Yearly Meeting itself.

Reports of other Quaker committees are also of interest for understanding the role of the Peace Committee: it would be mistaken to see its work in isolation from that of the new committees which sprang up in response to the needs of the times, sharing both members and interests, such as the Service Committee, the War Victims Relief Committee and the Emergency Committee for the Assistance of Germans, Austrians & Hungarians in Distress (the latter two of which eventually merged).  These organisations will be the subject of future blogposts of their own.

War Sub-committee minute 3, 2 Nov 1915

Extract from War Sub-committee minute 3, 2.ix.1915, referring to service of its members on a “multitude of committees”

An index was issued with each year’s printed Yearly Meeting Proceedings, printed at the front of each year.  The Library also holds a cumulative typescript index covering the period 1907-1932 (unpublished; available in the Library reading room).

Peace Committee membership records

Peace Committee was one of the larger central committees, with an expanded membership varying from 35 to 42 during the period of the First World War. Names of individual members were published in the printed annual lists of members of Meeting for Sufferings and its committees. A month by month record of appointments made by Meeting for Sufferings can be found in the minutes of Meeting for Sufferings. The Library has compiled an index of all Friends who served on the Peace Committee, including birth and death dates and dates of service (unpublished; available in the Library reading room).

Suggestions of Friends to serve on Peace Committee or its sub-committees also came from the Committee itself, and the Committee’s minutes are the main source of information about attendance of other Quakers who weren’t actually members of the Committee. For instance, on 6 August 1914, an emergency meeting of Peace Committee “with other interested Friends” was held, with Thomas P. Newman (in the chair), John Armstrong , J. Marshall Sturge,  F. J. Edminson, Herbert Corder, Mary L. Cooke, J. G. Alexander, Stephen Hobhouse, Marian Matthews (Letchworth), Marian Ellis, Harriet Alexander, Theodora Wilson Wilson, Alfred F. Fox, and E. Claude Taylor.

Peace Committee publications

Publications of the Peace Committee between 1914 and 1919 are included on the Library’s online catalogue, including books, pamphlets, circulars and postcards. To find full details, you can search the catalogue by organisation or by publisher, and limit your search by date.

The Peace Committee also produced a series of posters, some of which survive in our picture collection.

Further sources

Horace G. Alexander. “A nearly forgotten chapter in British peace activity – 1915.” Journal of the Friends Historical Society, vol. 55, no.5 ( 1987), p. 139-143. First hand account of the work of the War Sub-Committee by Horace G. Alexander, who served on it as a young man.

Margaret Glover. Images of peace in Britain from the late nineteenth century to the Second World War. PhD thesis, University of Reading, 2002.

Thomas C. Kennedy. British Quakerism 1860-1920: the transformation of a religious community.  Oxford University Press, 2001. Especially chapter 9, “A ghoulish terror of darkness” p.312-387.

Thomas C. Kennedy. “Many Friends do not know where they are.” Quaker theology, no. 11 (2005).  (Available online here).

Paul Laity. The British Peace Movement 1870-1914. Oxford University Press, 2001.  Origins of the Friends Peace Committee (p. 118-123) and the pre-war peace movement (p. 176-215).

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Library resources for researching World War I

The horror of the First World War made such a profound impact that responses to it a century later are still powerful. Historians, journalists and members of the public are engaging in passionate debate about the war and its causes – and their significance for the 21st century world; libraries, museums and cultural institutions are marking the anniversary with a wave of events and exhibitions; local people are exploring the ways in which events of 100 years ago affected their own towns and villages; schools are commemorating former pupils among the war-dead.

Cotterell, Ambulances at Gizaucourt, winter 1917

Ambulances, Gizaucourt, December 1917. Watercolour by Arthur Cotterell. In: Autograph book of Friends Ambulance Unit members 1917. Reference: MS VOL S 284

Many Quaker meetings around the country are also marking the centenary – as an opportunity to speak out about remembrance, reconciliation and paths to non-violence. To support them, Witnessing for peace on the centenary of World War I: a resource pack for Quaker Meetings has been produced, available online on the Quakers in Britain World War I centenary webpage at the end of February (also available free in hard copy - request a copy by email:, or by post from: WWI Resource Pack, Quaker Centre, Friends House, 173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ).

Twentieth century calamity. Peace Committee 1912

A twentieth century calamity. Postcard issued by the Peace Committee of the Society of Friends, 1912. Reference: Vol. T/218-219d

Among other things, the pack will include an updated Library guide to Quakers and World War I, listing some of the major printed and archival sources held here on Quakers’ peace witness and service during the war and its aftermath.

Use of the Library’s collections by readers and enquirers researching the period has already soared, as might be expected. After all, we hold the records of centrally organised British Quakers’ work for peace and for the relief of wartime suffering. Our collections include:

  • archives of various Yearly Meeting committees that spoke up for peace and      international conciliation and supported the witness of conscientious objectors to military service
  • archives of Quaker organisations set up to provide medical care and relief for the      victims of the conflict
  • personal papers of individual campaigners, conscientious objectors and relief workers
  • contemporary pacifist publications, campaign literature, appeals, reports, published      accounts and histories of the work
  • photographic archives of the Friends Ambulance Unit (1914-1919) and the Friends      Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee (1914-1924)
  • paintings and sculpture depicting and commemorating Friends involvement


FWVRC workers

The first party of Friends ready for service under the War Victims Relief Committee, at Victoria Station. Photograph, FEWVRC archives 1914

As a further aid to researchers, over the coming months this blog will explore some of the Library’s World War I resources in greater detail. Expect to see blog-posts on the Friends Peace Committee, Friends Service Committee and other wartime committees; the archives of the Friends Ambulance Unit (1914-1919); the Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee (1914-1923) cataloguing project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust; unpublished diaries and other papers of conscientious objectors; printed sources and photographic collections. We will also bring you news about World War I collections fully catalogued for the first time.

Together with the forthcoming launch of a new online archive catalogue this spring, we hope these blog-posts will provide valuable guidance for Library users researching all aspects of Quakers and the first global war.

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Horses – bits and bots: the writings of Bracy Clark, F.L.S.

It’s the Chinese Year of the Horse – not much Quaker material there you might well think. If you were researching horses and equine veterinary practice, our Library would hardly be your first port of call. You might – perhaps – have heard of the trouble the Quaker chocolate families got themselves into by owning a “racing  newspaper” which promoted gambling, or come across remonstrations against the sport of horse racing from Quakers like Thomas Cash (To those inhabitants in and about Wilmslow, who have lately been the cause of great uanity and uuickedness … by horse races, 1799), but you’d not think there would be much else.

However, the Library does have in its collections two surprising volumes containing 36 separate and varied works on horses by Quaker Bracy Clark (1771-1860), accessioned in 1925 but presented many years earlier by the author to Friends’ Tea Room and Library (later the Friends Institute, Devonshire House).

Bracy Clark presentation inscription

Volume one of Bracy Clark’s publications on horses, presented to the Friends’ Tea Room and Library – inscription on first title page.
Reference L 076.1 CLA. Copy no. 6788

The individual items in the volumes have recently been added to our on-line catalogue, as part of the retrospective cataloguing project. All told, Bracy Clark wrote around fifty treatises on the history, care, diseases and treatment of horses, published from 1807 to the 1840s.

Bracy Clark (1771-1860) was born to John Clark and Hannah Hitchman of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. His father, a Quaker in the leather trade, died when Bracy was just two. He was educated at the school run by the Quaker Thomas Huntley at Burford, then apprenticed to another Quaker, Joseph Tresher, a surgeon, during which time he studied Greek, chemistry and natural history, and even started the first cricket club in Worcester.

He qualified as a veterinary surgeon at the newly established veterinary school in London, as a pupil of the eminent Scottish surgeon John Hunter FRS (1728-1793). During his lifetime Bracy Clark “devoted an enormous amount of time and labour to the subject of the horse’s foot and the horse-shoeing”.

Bracy Clark, Recommendation to farriers & shoeing-smiths throughout the United Kingdom. 3rd ed (1837)

Clark, Bracy. Recommendation to farriers & shoeing-smiths throughout the United Kingdom. 3rd ed (1837)

He was a member of the Linnæan Society, the Paris Académie des Sciences, the Natural History Society of Berlin and Copenhagen, the Royal Agricultural Society of Stuttgart, and in 1817 was made an honorary member of the Natural History Society of New York. He was one of those many nonconformist contributors to Abraham Rees’s Cyclopaedia (published as a weekly serial between 1802 and 1820), writing on the anatomy of horses, bits, bleeding, blindness, blisters, bots, broken wind, canker, corns, curb and collar (Do all the bad things that go wrong with horses begin with B or C?).

Bracy Clark. An essay of the bots of horses and other animals (1815)

Clark, Bracy. An essay of the bots of horses, and other animals (1815). Title page and frontispiece

He was very concerned with the health of horses’ hooves, the circulation of blood, how to cure cracked hooves and, particularly, new shoeing techniques. For the latter significant discoveries he was ridiculed by many, including members of the Royal Veterinary College.

Bracy Clark, A description of a new horse shoe which expands to the foot invented by Bracy Clark (1827). Front cover

Clark, Bracy. A description of a new horse shoe which expands to the foot invented by Bracy Clark (1827). Front cover

Shortly before his death, his nephew James Hurnard relates, he sold to the Veterinary College of Edinburgh the skeleton of the celebrated, undefeated race-horse Eclipse (“Eclipse first and the rest nowhere”), which he kept in his study. Hurnard went on to write a splendid equine elegy to his uncle – the unsung Hampden of his day:

To Bracy Clark, F.L.S.

Descendent not unworthy of a sire!
The Hampden of the common where he dwelt,
Bracy, this tribute of a deep, heartfelt,
And honest admiration, I desire
To offer to thy name. The world has dealt
Unkindly with thee; and the heart must melt
To see a genius, which could not tire,
Cramped, like the hoof within its iron belt.
But so it is; the dead, whom we admire,
At whose proud tombs past centuries have knelt,
Were, when alive, the men the world could pelt,
And see in chains or banishment expire.
One comfort still remains to gild our earth,
Men cannot crush the consciousness of worth.

What finer tribute to a horse lover?

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Readers’ stories: researching the India Conciliation Group

Sue SmithThe fourth in our series of readers’ stories is from Sue Smith who has recently completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies at the University of Oxford. Sue is a member of Oxford Quaker Meeting and co-clerk and resource person for Quaker Peace & Social Witness Turning the Tide programme.

Sue is especially interested in the history and practice of nonviolence, and other conscience driven forms of resistance to authority and power.

It was the little bits of paper that got me.  Often a couple of inches square, hardly more.  Handwritten by Gandhi, to members of the India Conciliation Group (ICG) on their visits to his ashram.  They were so brief, but they made the wonderful mix of humour, tact and utter honesty that was Gandhi’s hallmark come alive. It was as if he was in the room when I read them.  They are in amongst the ICG papers in Friends House Library.

I came across them while researching for a dissertation on what Quakers were doing in India in the 1930s and 1940s. My parents were in the Friends Ambulance Unit in Bengal during the Second World War, and I wanted to know: what contribution, if any, did Quaker work make to Indian independence?

I had never heard of the India Conciliation Group before, but from my research I learned a lot about  other people’s perceptions of what Quakers do out there in the world, then and now.  The ICG attempted to mediate between British political decision-makers and Indian independence leaders. They made personal contact with everyone they knew with political influence, in Parliament, the Cabinet, in other churches, lobby groups, and women’s organisations. ICG members knew and admired Gandhi and were supportive of his work, although sometimes their worries about his methods speak out from the letters they wrote to him. Horace Alexander, the best known figure in the group, and also the head of the FAU for a period, remarked wryly that he had been “out-Quakered by a Hindu”.

I had imagined that Gandhi had always been a popular figure among Quakers – how could he not be?  He was a practitioner of nonviolent methods, the inspiration for pacifists, a key figure in the India independence struggle.

Many British Quakers welcomed him, but others were uneasy about his use of civil disobedience campaigning as a strategy to hasten Indian independence. Was he not provoking violence in the Salt Marches, and other campaigns, and damaging his own cause? Surely conciliation between the British Raj and Indian nationalists would be a better approach?  Quakers are usually supportive of the value of individual pacifism, but, historically, when nonviolent methods have been used to further political ends, many have become uneasy.

Quakers were seen by all sides in this struggle as a good thing, but not all parties quite understood what they were trying to do.  Some politicians at the time found them irritating.  Some Indian independence leaders were infuriated by their attempt to be even-handed. But when Indian independence was finally achieved in 1947 the new leaders of India courted them assiduously, and towering figures like Nehru (himself a proponent of nonviolence) privately acknowledged their influence in the wave of optimism that accompanied the post-war establishment of the United Nations.

My dissertation, Goody-goody fellows? Quakers and the end of empire in India, is held in the Library at Friends House and is also published online as a British Empire at War Research Group Paper (BEAW research paper number 3). You can find out more about the papers of the India Conciliation Group (TEMP MSS 41-52) from the Library.

For more information about  Friends and nonviolence today, see, or contact Steve Whiting, TTT Programme Manager  in Quaker Peace and Social Witness Department, at 0207 663 1061

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Some new fruits of research in the Library’s collections

snowOver the past year the blog has focused on both well used and less known parts of the collections and reported some of the work we do to preserve and make them better known.

We highlighted a few of the commonplace books in the manuscript collections, a rare early 20th century periodical, the records of not one, but two Quaker sporting teams, an 18th century joke book and some Chinese pamphlets. There was news of two projects relating to 20th century relief work – cataloguing the papers of Quaker Dorothy Henkel and a collaborative microfilming project with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum – as well as the conservation of an outsized tract volume containing a rich trove of anti-slavery campaigning literature. Items from the Library’s picture collection starred in a post about research for the Quaker Arts Network’s 2014 calendar, “Inspired by worship”, and we showed you some of the silhouettes and our own stumbling attempts at “scissors art”.

The blog did also feature some of the wide variety of users of the Library’s collections and services: two of our readers wrote this year about what using the Library has meant for their research (Bill Chadkirk on The Elbow Lane Scandal and Esther Sahle on Eighteenth century London – a foreign country).

The final post of 2013 seems like a good time to celebrate some of the fruits of all this research. Each year there is a great crop of books, chapters, articles, conference papers and theses written by people who have used the Library. Others produce websites, exhibitions, broadcasts, plays and teaching material. And they use images from the collections to illustrate their work. Seeing the broad range of outputs of your research is awe inspiring.

So this is our chance to congratulate and thank you, especially those who present the Library with copies of their work. To all of you – you know who you are – thank you!

Below is just a small selection of works by Library users donated to the Library this year.

Blackheath Quaker Meeting.  Our story: minutes to remember. London: Blackheath Quaker Meeting,   2013
Ellis, Peter and King, Roy.  Extra-churchyard burials at Winchester Street, Andover: excavations in 2002. In: Hampshire studies (2013)
Greenwood, Martin.  Pilgrim’s progress revisited: the nonconformists of Banburyshire 1662-2012. Charlbury: Wychwood Press, 2013
Guibbory, Achsah.  Christian identity, Jews, and Israel in seventeenth-century England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010
Inspired by worship : Quaker Arts calendar 2014. Quaker Arts Network, 2013
Jacobs, Mary.  Manhood and Interregnum: a study of the first Quakers, 1647-1660. Thesis (M.A.) Kings College, 2013
Kramer, Ann.  Conscientious objectors of the Second World War: refusing to fight. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Social History, 2013
Longhurst, Liz.  A Memoir of William Drewett (1834-1900): a memoir of a Victorian Quaker from Luton, a miller and an engineer. Reading: Dreamcatchers, 2013
Marshall, Tim.  Quaker clockmakers of north Oxfordshire. Mayfield, Ashbourne: Mayfield Books, 2013
McMahon, Elisabeth.  Slavery and emancipation in Islamic East Africa: from honor to respectability. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013
Meggitt, Justin.  Early Quakers and Islam: slavery, apocalyptic and Christian-Muslim encounters in the seventeenth century. Uppsala: Swedish Science Press, 2013
Oldfield, J. R.  Transatlantic abolitionism in the age of revolution : an international history of anti-slavery, c.1787-1820. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013
Peters, Kate.  The dissemination of Quaker pamphlets in the 1650s. In: Roeland Harms, Joad Raymond and Jeroen Salman (eds). Not dead things: the dissemination of popular print in England and Wales, Italy, and the Low Countries, 1500-1820. Leiden: Brill, 2013
Pretus, Gabriel.  Humanitarian relief in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Lampeter; Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2013
Smalley, Roger.  Agitate! Educate! Organise!: political dissent in Westmorland from 1880-1930. Kendal; Carlisle: Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2013
Smith, Susan.  Goody-goody fellows?: Quakers and the end of empire in India. Thesis (Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies) University of Oxford, 2013
Sowerby, Scott.  Making toleration: the repealers and the Glorious Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press, 2013
Tusan, Michelle.  Smyrna’s ashes: humanitarianism, genocide and the birth of the Middle East. Berkeley, Ca.: Global, Area, and International Archive; University of California Press, 2013
Tyzack, Charles.  Nearly a Chinese: a life of Clifford Stubbs. Hove, Sussex: Book Guild Publishing, 2013
Vigus, James.  “That which people do trample upon must be thy food”: the animal creation in the journal of George Fox. In: C. Muratori and B. Dohm (eds.), Ethical perspectives on animals in the renaissance and early modern period. Firenze, 2013
Waterson, M. and Wyndham, S.  Constancy & change in Quaker philanthropy: a history of the Barrow Cadbury Trust. The Trust, 2013

Finally, here’s to all our readers and supporters, and to an equally fruitful year to come!

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Chinese translations

Work to add all the Library’s printed materials to our online catalogue continues, reaching into some less visited corners of the collections. In the angle of the reading room gallery sits a collection of Quaker texts translated into foreign languages for use in the mission field. Among them are various volumes of early 20th century Chinese books and pamphlets translated by one Isaac Mason (1870-1939).

Isaac Mason Chinese tracts

Tracts translated into Chinese by Isaac Mason (Library ref. Box 177)

Early Quaker works had been translated into Latin, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Polish and even Arabic, for diffusion throughout Europe and the near East. In the 19th century many works began to be translated into Scandinavian languages, and the Society of Friends’ annual epistle appeared in German translated by the Recording Clerk himself. Isaac Mason was responsible for the earliest  transmission of Quaker writings to a Chinese audience: his career as a missionary and translator is a fascinating one.

Isaac Mason in Sichuan

Isaac Mason in Sichuan. From: Davidson, Robert J. and Mason, Isaac, Life in West China: described by two residents in the province of Sz-chwan (1905) p. 211

Isaac was born in Holbeck, Leeds, in January 1870 and joined Quakers through his connection with the Great Wilson Street Sunday School and Adult School. He proved “headstrong and difficult”, a thorn in the side of the staff, but, on the point of being expelled, he came under the influence of Caroline Southall in the Adult School and became intensely loyal to her. She and other Leeds Quakers offered their service with the Friends Foreign Missionary Association (FFMA) in China. Mason volunteered too, but was only accepted a year later.

Esther Mason

Esther Mason. In: Friends Foreign Mission Association Annual report (1909)

After a further year of working as an iron moulder in Leeds and studying in his free time, he moved to London, where he started work at the Barnet Grove branch of the Bedford Institute, became engaged to Esther L. Beckwith, and finally went out to join the FFMA in Chungking (Chongqing) in 1894. He and Esther settled in T’ung Ch’wan, Szechwan Province (Tongchuan District, Sichuan) and did pioneer work at She Hong and Suining. Together they passed safely through some turbulent times – local riots,  the anti-missionary Boxer Uprising and the Revolution of 1911 (Xinhai Revolution).

Isaac Mason

Isaac Mason. In Friends Foreign Mission Association Annual report (1909)

Isaac Mason or Mei I-seng as he was known in China, mastered the language with unusual quickness. After 22 years in West China, he moved to Shanghai, where his interest in the production of Friends’ literature in Chinese flourished. He translated for the Christian Literature Society of China short lives of Quakers such as William Penn, John Bright, John Howard, Stephen Grellet and parts of John Woolman’s Journal. He also tackled Sir George Newman’s Health of the state, dozens of religious books and pamphlets and helped compile a Chinese dictionary of the Bible. Many of his pamphlets reflect his interest in Islam in China. Among the children’s books are The Swiss family Robinson, and Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.

Like some other contemporary Christian missionaries Isaac Mason had a particular interest in Chinese Muslims, and he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1921. His election proposal stated that “Mr Mason has spent many years in China, travelled in the interior, investigated Chinese Mahommedanism, is the Secretary of the China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, and is in every way eligible for election as a Fellow. He is the author of several books in Chinese and English” (proposed by Zwemer and seconded by Heawood, the RGS Librarian; thanks to the Royal Geographical Society Library for this information).

Life in West China

Davidson, Robert J. and Mason, Isaac, Life in West China: described by two residents in the province of Sz-chwan (1905). Title page

One of the bonuses of this Library’s retrospective cataloguing project has been the opportunity to provide better catalogue entries for foreign language publications – often poorly identified in the former card catalogue, or simply not catalogued at all.  In adding this small collection of Chinese tracts to our online catalogue we faced considerable linguistic challenges. We did have help though – sometimes the original English titles were printed in English on the reverse of the title page, and occasional manuscript notes on the items themselves were invaluable. A few had explanatory notes from Isaac Mason himself.

War as it is

The Library’s copy of War as it is, translated by Isaac Mason, with note by translator and accompanying letter to the Librarian, Norman Penney 23/3/1909

Though cheaply produced, the books and pamphlets are delightfully different from their English equivalents. In many of them, each “leaf” is in fact a single sheet printed on one side only (as was traditional in Chinese book production), to make two “pages” of text with bold black borders, then folded in half to make a double sided page.

Page structure

Sheet printed on one side and folded to make double sided page

More on Isaac Mason and Quaker missionaries in China

Friends in China (Library of the Society of Friends online exhibition, 2008)

Tyzack, Charles Friends to China: the Davidson brothers and the Friends’ mission to China 1886-1939. York: Sessions, 1988

Davidson, Robert J. and Mason, Isaac Life in West China: described by two residents in the province of Sz-chwan. London: Headley Brothers, 1905

Obituary for Isaac Mason in The Friend, vol. 97, no. 14 (April 1939) p.276-7

Travel letters of Isaac Mason 1915. Unpublished journal letters of Isaac Mason to a group of Friends in Leeds and Peckham, 1915, describing a journey to China, including letters from United States, Japan, Shanghai and other Chinese cities. Library of the Society of Friends, Library reference Temp MSS 601

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Quakers, relief and rescue in 1930s and 1940s Europe: a collaborative microfilming project with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Since 2006 the Library has been involved in a collaborative microfilming project with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The Museum, based in Washington DC, is the most comprehensive institution of its type in the world.

Its primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about the tragedy of the Holocaust, to preserve the memory of those who suffered, and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy. The USHMM teaches millions each year about the dangers of unchecked hatred and the need to prevent genocide. It undertakes leadership training, education programmes, exhibitions and commemorations. As a memorial, it works against genocide through its Genocide Prevention Task Force, training foreign policy professionals.

The USHMM also collects archival material relating to the Holocaust from all over the world, and in 2006 it approached the Library of the Society of Friends to request access to British Quaker archive collections. It had already cooperated with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the main American Quaker organisation assisting refugees and war victims, which had provided a considerable quantity of lists, images and data to the Museum, including refugee case files 1933-1958 and records relating to humanitarian work in France.

Facing the second winter

Facing the second winter (London: Germany Emergency Committee, November 1934). With attached appeal dated May 1935

Substantial British Quaker work was done from 1933 onwards in relation to Nazi and Fascist Europe. This work included reporting on conditions inside Germany after the Nazi Party gained power in 1933, particularly in relation to political prisoners and their families, providing assistance to the prisoners and families, supporting the small community of German Quakers, assisting Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Poles and others suffering persecution, prosecution, imprisonment or exile for political, racial and religious reasons, and helping refugees and dependants arriving in Britain with employment, sponsorship, training, education, and re-emigration matters. In the UK there were also Quaker efforts for the welfare of those foreign refugees and UK residents who had been detained as “Enemy Aliens” soon after war was declared.

 This Quaker work was done principally by three committees – Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens (originally known as the Germany Emergency Committee), Friends Relief Service, and Friends Service Council (the international department of the Society of Friends in Britain at the time). 
Wo finden sie eine Ruhestätte?

Germany Emergency Committee of the Society of Friends: wo finden sie eine Ruhestätte? (London: Germany Emergency Committee, December 1936)

During World War II and its immediate aftermath British and American Quakers also assisted civilian populations in many areas of Europe and elsewhere. This work from 1933 into the post-war period was recognized by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 (see our online exhibition at ).
Knitting at the Germany Emergency Committee workroom

Refugees knitting at the Germany Emergency Committee workroom, ca. 1939 (Library ref. Box FRS/1992/9 Germany Emergency Committee photographs)

The Library’s collaborative project with USHMM began with a survey of our holdings and an inspection of large numbers of publications, minute books and file series by the USHMM’s British research assistant. This formed the basis of the ongoing microfilm project to produce master negatives (retained by the Library) and positive microfilm copies (sent to the USHMM for use in its library and research facilities). This long-term project has involved Library staff in the careful preparation of materials for microfilming, checking lists against records, page-counting, checking for filing-order and physical condition, as well as preparation of film titles, specific volume or file titles, headers and other markers.

Refugees at work in the Germany Emergency Committee workroom

Refugees at work in the Germany Emergency Committee workroom, ca. 1939 (Library ref. Box FRS/1992/9 Germany Emergency Committee photographs)

So far at least 20 volumes of minute books and pamphlets, and 14 boxes or part-boxes of archives have been microfilmed. There are approximately 9 boxes (4000-5000 images) still to be filmed.

Among series already microfilmed are -

  • Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens (Germany Emergency Committee) minutes, publications, administrative and correspondence files on conditions and individuals in Germany in the 1930s and assistance to refugees, internees and others during World War II.
  • Friends Service Council annual reports and internal correspondence files on British Quaker workers’ and local Quakers’ activities in assisting refugees and other victims of Nazism in (and from), China, Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Scandinavia from around 1933 onwards.
  • Palestine Watching Committee and Friends Service Council Middle East files material on Palestine and the Middle East, reporting on the pre-war situation there, and undertaking assistance after World War II.

The project will not only make World War II Quaker materials more widely available for public research, but will help to educate people in the prevention of genocide and hatred. The Library looks forward to continuing its work with the USHMM. For more information about the project, please contact the Archivist (

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