This project’s central aim is to recover a marginalised history of Scottish disarmament activism as a means of reappraising how international laws on disarmament developed over the long 20th century. While the commitment to disarmament has been an enduring feature of the modern international legal order, there has been perpetual struggle over the scope, definition and goals of disarmament. And while a wide range of actors – states, international organisations, and ‘civil society’ – have been engaged in these struggles, legal scholarship continues to produce historical narratives centring the role of states, and a very limited conception of non-state actors and their influence. This project focuses not only upon traditionally marginalised contributors to international law and legal change – women and transnational social movements – but also on a previously under examined site, Scotland, geographically a global front line for much of the 20th century. A key hypothesis driving this research is that international law is not just contested and made in international forums, summits and conferences; it is also contested and made in specifically local places by participants engaged in multi-level, transnational, legal struggles to shape disarmament agendas. It interrogates the legal actions pursued – including strategic litigation, arrests and prosecution, protests, occupations and encampments – and analyses the ways in which international law has been used in these legal struggles to contest and influence disarmament policy, as well as directly influence legal change at the international level.
The project tracks distinct understandings of disarmament that emerged in Scotland at particular moments of legal struggle. It traces activism by the Peace Crusade women of 1916 through Glasgow’s Red Clydeside and the influence of the Bolshevik Revolution on Scottish internationalists, to Cold War anti-nuclear activism and environmentalist direct actions at the turn of the 21st century. The project’s focus on global connections and marginalised legal struggles draws renewed attention to the entrenched deficits in traditional understandings of legal change and law-making in international law. The project’s methodological engagement with a wide range of materials to inform legal analysis – taking account of, eg, the importance of images, banners and creative artworks alongside lived experience – similarly provokes a rethinking of how to investigate the making and debating of international law. The project draws upon an ‘alternative archive’ for understanding the development of disarmament laws, examining personal diaries, memoirs and local community campaigning materials together with oral testimonies to document and preserve this marginalised history.
The project plans include an international conference on disarmament and edited collection; an in-person and online exhibition ‘Disarming Scotland: Women on a front line’ which will include the oral histories recording activists’ testimonies and commissioned artworks; cataloguing activists’ archives held at GCU, making them more accessible to future researchers; and monograph under contract with Edinburgh University Press ‘Disarmament on the Edge: Scotland, international law and the long struggle for peace’.
If you want to get in touch about the project please contact Charlie Peevers via email.