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Archives of the Committee of 100 collected by Derry Hannam

Archive reference: GB 0532 Cwl HC

One of the group of Commonweal Archives which give an incredibly rich and detailed picture of non-violent direct action movements in the early 1960s

The Committee | The Archive | Links

The Committee of 100

Derry Hannam was an activist in the Committee of 100, but not an original signatory. The Committee of 100 was founded on the initiative of Ralph Schoenman and Bertrand Russell in October 1960, calling for a mass movement of civil disobedience against British government policy on nuclear weapons. The Committee of 100 aimed to use non violent direct action on a mass scale. Bertrand Russell resigned as president of CND to take on the presidency of the Committee of 100 and Rev. Michael Scott became chairman. Its early campaign tactic was to organise large sit-down demonstrations, the first of which took place on 18 February 1961 outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. 16-17 September 1961 saw successful demonstrations in Trafalgar Square and at the Holy Loch Polaris submarine base. These were preceded by the arrest and trial of 32 members of the Committee for incitement to breach the peace.

With several of its more experienced leaders in prison, the Committee planned to stage simultaneous demonstrations at military bases in Wethersfield, Ruislip, Brize Norton, York, Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester on 9 December 1961. Committee of 100 offices at 13 Goodwin Street, London, were raided by Special Branch officers before the protests and six leading members of the Committee were arrested and charged with conspiracy under the Official Secrets Act. The trial of Ian Dixon, Terry Chandler, Trevor Hatton, Michael Randle, Pat Pottle and Helen Allegranza took place in February 1962; all received jail sentences.

In early 1962 the original Committee of 100 dissolved itself and reformed on a decentralised basis: 13 regional Committees became responsible for organising demonstrations, with the National Committee limited to a co-ordinating role. Of the regional Committees, the London Committee of 100 was the most active and influential. It launched a national magazine, Action for Peace, in April 1963, published under the name Resistance from January 1964.

Demonstrations continued both in London and at military bases during 1962, and a controversial Troops Against the Bomb campaign was also launched, but the year marked the beginning of the movement's decline. An attempt to recreate the Trafalgar Square sit-down, planned for 9 September, was called off at the last moment and led to Bertrand Russell's resignation from the Committee. This reflected a shift within the movement towards greater influence by anarchist activists and supporters of the journal Solidarity for Workers' Power. The most dramatic example of this break with the DAC tradition was the Spies for Peace operation. The revelations at Easter 1963 about plans for Regional Seats of Government in the event of a nuclear attack followed a secret raid on RSG6 at Warren Row, near Reading.

In 1963 the Committee became involved in marches and demonstrations organised under the ad hoc Save Greece Now committee, from the Greek royal visit in summer 1963, through to the invasion of the Greek Embassy on 2 April 1967. As the decade progressed the political initiative passed to the anti-Vietnam War movement and nuclear disarmament shifted down the political agenda. The London Committee disbanded in January 1968 and the National Committee followed in the September.

The Archive

This is a small archive, comprising mainly:

  • Committee of 100 meeting minutes, circulars, reports, policy and discussion documents, leaflets and correspondence.
  • Files of the London Committee of 100, 1962-1967; the London Students Committee of 100, 1962; the Industrial Subcommittee, 1962-1964; the International Subcommittee, 1962-1966; and the Christian Group, 1963-1967.
  • Some papers added by Hannam e.g. as a delegate to the War Resisters' International study conference in Denmark in 1962

Peter Cadogan, who was in post as National Secretary when the organisation disbanded in 1968, also retained his own collection of archives of the Committee of 100. These were consulted by Richard Taylor, author of Against the Bomb (1988), in the 1980s. It is possible (but not confirmed) that Cadogan's collection forms the basis of the Committee of 100 archives donated to the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam by Heiner Becker.

The Archive was catalogued as part of the PaxCat Project, with support from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives.

More detail about the Archive: