Friday, 26 June 2015 12:18

Bernal peace library subject guide

John Desmond Bernal died in 1971 after an active life spent as a scientist and political activist.

The Marx Memorial Library had the pleasure of knowing him as its President for over twenty years (1950-71). In 1979 his family donated his collection to the Library.

Being Bernal an important figure within the Peace movement, this archive definitely represents a window through which it is possible to read, analyse and understand the peace movements worldwide. Its richness in terms of primary sources will allow you to understand the peace movements within the historical context when they took place. For example, the wide range of material covering the work of the World Peace Council (WPC), where Bernal became chairman in the mid-1960s, underlines the strong opposition of the institution against the US' role in the Vietnam War. In this regard, the Vietnam War is an extremely rich section. The publications held in the archive vary from personal narrative to pamphlets, from historical books to politics. While the historical records state the use of nuclear weapons under the Nixon administration at the end of 1969, a massive disarmament campaign was advanced by Bernal and WPC.

Disarmament is one of the main and recurring themes in this archive that interested not only Bernal, a pioneer in these terms, but others, too. Just to mention one, Theodor Rosebury, a British-born American bacteriologist. The MML holds part of Rosebury's unpublished works that shape the social responsibility of science. In his writings, he explains the fundamental and ethical obligation that weighs on science and the role of the latter in spreading the awareness of the inhumanity of nuclear, chemical and bacteriologic weapons, openly in disagreement with General J. H. Rothschild's point of view, according to whom "chemical weapons offer about the only means of reducing suffering and loss of life in war" (1970).  In line with the debate about disarmament, the archive provides a great amount of Pugwash Conference reports and journals and many other scientific publications (SANA - Scientifics Against Nuclear Arms; WSFW - World Federation of Scientific Workers; Science for Peace journals, etc.) whose activities have been particularly successful in promoting a world free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction during the Cold War.

To sum up, the Bernal Peace Archive represents a unique source for researchers who are interested in the study and the analysis of the linkage between science and ethic, especially for what concern peace and disarmament; and for the general public who seeks the historical roots of the peace movement here available from World War I to the Nuclear disarmament movement.

To whoever is interested in looking at the Bernal's works in wider terms, then the Cambridge Library is a must-seen as the latter holds his scientific works.

The collection owes its richness to numerous donations from local and national peace movements including those in Newcastle, Bradford, Reading and Surrey and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

At the moment, this archive is in the process of being transferred onto our online catalogue.

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