Manchester has a long association with anti-war causes. Local Quaker MP John Bright condemned the Crimean War (1853-56) while the Manchester Guardian offered steadfast opposition to the Boer War (1899-1902). The Guardian’s stance attracted both heartfelt praise and bitter condemnation.
Yet little over a decade later, the Guardian broke ranks with the pacifists. Emily Hobhouse, a former Boer War correspondent, and the former Labour Party leader, Keir Hardie, were surprised to find that CP Scott supported the First World War (1914-18) and viewed opposition futile.
Liverpool, 23 Mar 1900
Some readers were supportive of the paper’s stance on the Boer War. The semi-anonymous AWC praises the Manchester Guardian for having ‘real grit’ in opposing the war concluding that ‘truth is a higher thing than personal profit.’
Oswestry, 28 October 1899
Many readers cancelled their subscriptions in response to the Manchester Guardian’s ‘unpatriotic’ stance over the Boer War. This angry reader laments the editor’s ‘invincible prejudice against [his] own country in favour of the Boers.’
Manchester, 19 Dec 1914
Scott explains that he sees no tension in supporting the First World War as it ‘stands on a wholly different footing’ to the Boer War. The Guardian’s support for the First World War was in tune with public opinion.