Quaker Studies

A Body Divided: British Quakers, Patriotism and War, 1899–1919

Quaker Studies (2016), 21, (2), 159–167.


Two-thirds of young Quaker men did not enlist during the First World War, an illustration of a wartime division within the British Society of Friends between the call of civic duty and adherence to historic peace principles. Those who chose to remain at home actively protested against the war and subsequently against implementation in 1916 of compulsory military service. Other Quakers were unable to decide which way to turn. Early on in the war, alternatives were made available to young Quaker men, such as the Friends’ Ambulance Unit, but imprisoned Quaker absolutists became the saintly heroes of the wartime Society of Friends, following, as they did, in the steps of early Friends who suffered imprisonment for conscience’ sake.


Author details

Kennedy, Thomas C.