International banners carried by supporters on the 1962 March from Aldermaston to London.


The world into which CND emerged was changing rapidly. Worldwide, the colonial empires were being dismantled as national liberation movements achieved the independence of their countries. European colonial power in East Asia had been broken by the Japanese. Britain withdrew from India, partitioning the country into the two states of India and Pakistan amid a bloodbath claiming countless lives. Dutch rule in the East Indies ended. The Chinese Communist Party came to power in the world’s most populous country in 1949. Ghana was the first colony in Africa to gain its independence, named the ‘Black Star of Africa’ in 1957, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. Others followed rapidly. A revolution in Cuba in 1959, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, kicked out the corrupt dictator Batista and engaged in a programme of social and economic reform.

This radical wave alarmed the US and its allies, to the extent that the largest conflicts in the postwar world occurred as the US intervened to try to prevent the colonial revolutions radicalising along the lines that had occurred in China. But major social change was not confined to the former colonies. In Britain, the establishment of the welfare state by the postwar Labour government had brought health and education to all. Full employment brought jobs for all, a real advance in a country where memories of the poverty and hunger of the 1930s were still relatively recent. The great vision of the UN, for a world free of injustice, poverty and war, still held widespread resonance. In many ways there was a new confidence in the ability to build a new world based on science and reason, that social progress and advance for all peoples were unstoppable. This was also the time when ‘youth culture’ emerged as a distinct social and cultural phenomenon, as education and wider opportunities created a more affluent and articulate generation of young people. Indeed, opportunities were improved across all economic classes and social mobility was better than it had ever been before. As Harold Macmillan said, ‘You’ve never had it so good’, and for many people this was genuinely the case.

What is The People’s History of CND?

To celebrate six decades of vibrant and powerful activity, this online exhibition displays photos and memories provided by our members and supporters. They selected the photos that best symbolised a significant memory from the past 60 years. The exhibition shows photos from demonstrations, vigils and blockades; significant sites, like Greenham, Molesworth, as well as photos of artefacts, like favourite badges, banners, and knitting.

The People’s History of CND homepage