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CUP book

I Don't Believe in Murder: Standing up for peace in World War I Canterbury

16 November 2023

By Margaret Lovell-Smith



July 2023
336pp, including 121 B&W illustrations, softbound
240 x 170mm
ISBN: 978-1-98-850336-3

More than 350 men were imprisoned in New Zealand during World War I for sedition or resisting military service. Among them were numerous Canterbury pacifists, motivated to resist the tide of militarism and imperialism that was sweeping the world.

I don't believe in murder book cover

‘I Don’t Believe in Murder’ is an alternative history of the years before, during and after New Zealand’s involvement in World War I. It depicts the strong response made by Canterbury’s labour, socialist and women's movements to pre-war compulsory military training and wartime conscription. Most importantly, it tells the stories of the people who made Christchurch the leading city in the peace movement, and of the young men who refused to fight, enduring imprisonment, hardships and loss of civil rights – all determined to follow their consciences and take a religious, humanitarian or political stand against war.

Drawing on archives, newspapers and family collections, this is a crucial narrative for understanding the moral dilemmas posed by a country’s participation in armed conflict.

Margaret Lovell-Smith is a Christchurch writer who has previously published on the nineteenth-century women’s movement in Canterbury, women’s biography, local and regional history. She was the lead researcher and writer for the ‘Voices Against War’ website launched in 2016, a project which led eventually to this book. Her previous books include the edited anthology The Woman Question: Writings by the women who won the vote (1992), The Enigma of Sister Mary Leo: The story behind New Zealand's most famous singing teacher (1998), Hurunui Heritage: The develop­ment of a district, 1950–2000 (2000), and Easily the Best: The life of Helen Connon, 1857–1903 (2004).

Listen to Margaret Lovell-Smith being interviewed by Jim Mora on RNZ Sunday Morning

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