The history of Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp near Newbury, Berkshire has been well documented in popular history and the media to narrate the development of the camp as an important element of the nuclear disarmament movement.
Missing from this, however, is the ever-expanding ‘web’ that the camp created; first in the UK with women’s support groups in cities such as Manchester working alongside the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Quickly this became an international network with the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp establishing connections across the world, many of which are coming to light with the decolonisation of history both within the public sphere and in the archives, as room within the narrative is afforded to previously ignored countries. The Lynette Edwell Collection at Berkshire Records Office has captured this international nature with communication, newsletters, and posters from across the world that were sent to Greenham Common.
Extensive literature has been collated in this archive concerning the anti-nuclear dumping campaigns that gained significant support in the Pacific, notably in Guam. These home-grown initiatives are illuminated in the collection with leaflets and posters being sent to Greenham Common as part of their ongoing communication. The issue of nuclear dumping by the US military was then picked up by campaigners in the UK, forming the basis of a symbiotic relationship that can be seen across the world as more groups started to communicate with each other to create an international campaigning community.
Nicaragua is also significant in the development of this global ‘web’ with many groups protesting for the removal of American troops and nuclear weapons from South America. For example, Spinsters Against Nuclear Genocide played an important role in highlighting the presence of the American military in South America and the Caribbean as part of the campaign for a ‘Nicaragua Libre’. This further exemplifies the continual expansion and securing of relationships between the Peace Camp in Berkshire and their international partners.
The Lynette Edwell Collection also includes material on the anti-nuclear movement within Europe which maintained strong links with Greenham Common Peace Camp as they became an inspiration across the continent. La Ragnatela [spider’s web] in Italy is one of the most significant camps that worked with Greenham Common and who were subject to various police raids and evictions, the same as the Greenham women. There is also evidence of similar movements and correspondence with camps in France, Belgium, and Denmark, as woman began to organise in protest against nuclear weapons, especially those being deployed by the USA on foreign soil.
These examples are just the start of the international ‘web’ that was created around nuclear disarmament, with Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp becoming the epicentre of a network of protest groups across the world. Their stories and actions, as shown through the Lynette Edwell Collection, are of particular importance in showing the activism that occurred across the world rather than focusing solely on Western states. This exemplifies the fact that anti-nuclear activism allowed women to belong to an international community which was instrumental in challenging nuclear powers across the world.
Amy Longmuir is an undergraduate History student at the University of Reading.