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Caroline Playne: the Activities and Absences of a Campaigning Author in First World War London

Citation: Espley, Richard (2016) Caroline Playne: the Activities and Absences of a Campaigning Author in First World War London. The London Journal, 41 (3). pp. 249-265. ISSN 0305-8034 (In Press)

Caroline Playne - Richard Espley.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

Caroline Playne (1857-1948) was a committed and influential pacifist and internationalist who dissected the causes of the First World War in four idiosyncratic published histories. Diagnosing the growing bellicosity of the peoples of Europe in the years before the war as a shared mental illness, she espoused many deeply conservative opinions, frequently echoing the moral outrage of contemporary temperance groups and purity crusades, for example. However, Playne was privately wholly absorbed in the charitable support of London’s enemy aliens and their dependents, including unmarried mothers and illegitimate children. Evidence of this work survives in fragments in some archives, but is suppressed from her published works and from the papers she left to the University of London, along with much of the rest of her campaigning life. This article seeks to explore the motivations of Caroline Playne in what emerges as a sustained act of biographical erasure. The image ultimately presented is of a woman who secured a voice in the public life of the city through the suppression not only of her sex, but also her limitless human compassion, and so arguably her very self.

Creators: Espley, Richard (0000-0003-0547-5454) and
Official URL:
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Keywords: Pacifism, First World War, Archive, Enemy Aliens, Gender, Female suffrage
Divisions: Senate House Library
  • 13 July 2016 (accepted)
  • 22 September 2016 (published)


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