Legal Tyranny: Conscientious Objection in the Three Towns 1853-1914

Illustrated Police News 2 October 1886 courtesy (c) British Library Board

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    Devonport Guildhall, Ker Street, Plymouth PL1 4EL

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As part of the 2018 Plymouth History Festival, come and visit this free interactive exhibition curated by staff and students from the University’s School of Law, Criminology and Government and listen to public talks on the theme of social policy initiatives, state intervention and personal choice. 

Displays and apps will explore aspects of the festival themes particularly enlightenment, scientific thought and public health. 

This historical case study will focus on local reactions in the Three Towns to laws compelling parents to have their infants vaccinated against smallpox before the age of six months. If you were poor the health implications of vaccination could be dangerous and even fatal. 

Participants and audiences will be invited to consider the personal moral choices they would make when presented with real life historic dilemmas about their family's health and wellbeing and the effect their decisions would have on both themselves and their communities. 

Questions to consider include: 

  • What would it take to make you resist the law? 
  • Would you be a conscientious objector? If so, why? 
  • Would you be willing to be imprisoned for your principles? 

Those who objected to having their children vaccinated created a group of people known as 'conscientious objectors'. 

The presentation will explain how the concept of 'conscientious objection' later came to be associated with the Great War and the Military Act 1916. It will also highlight some of the powerful modern echoes with the contemporary resistance from some parents to the MMR vaccine. 

The exhibition is open from Monday - Saturday, 09:00 - 15:00.

More information about this event will be available nearer the time.

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