Explore Your Archive event: Arnold Rowntree and conscientious objection

Posted on 1 November 2013

The life and beliefs of Arnold Rowntree, nephew of philanthropist and chocolate manufacturer Joseph Rowntree.


As a Quaker and Liberal MP for the city, Arnold championed the cause of the city’s conscientious objectors, young men who - often drawing on Quaker principles - refused to take up arms in support of Britain’s war effort.

The tensions caused by York's history of pacifism and conscientious objection during World War I are laid bare in a fascinating forthcoming afternoon talk and exhibition at the University of York’s Borthwick Institute for Archives.

As the exhibition shows, it was a stance which brought Arnold into direct conflict with politicians, military men and the families of those on the front line. It also created tensions within the Rowntree family when Arnold’s cousin Lawrence opted to go to war.

Dr Bridget Morris, Director of the Rowntree Society, will open the event on 23 November at 1pm with a talk in the Borthwick Institute on the surviving sources of archive and published material relating to Arnold Rowntree and the story of conscientious objection in York.

Following the talk, archive material from the exhibition will be available for the public to study and explore with the help of archive assistants. The exhibition includes family photograph albums, letters and business papers from Quaker institutions in York such as the Retreat Hospital and the Rowntree company . Newspaper articles and letters, many voicing strong criticism of Arnold’s pacifist stance, are also included.

The exhibition is part of a national Explore Your Archive event which aims to encourage people to use archives to discover the stories, events and the people at the centre of our communities.

The event is free but prior booking is required. Anyone interested in attending should contact the Borthwick Institute for Archives on 01904 321166 or email borthwick-institute@york.ac.uk