What were the reasons for conscientious objection? How was it possible to avoid military service? What were the punishments and how did they differ across Europe?

This section has been put together by our European researchers, who pooled their historical findings to provide a backdrop to the motivation of conscientious objectors.

Conscientious objection in France

At the outbreak of the First World War conscientious objectors broadly formed two social groups: ‘Politically active’ and ‘Religiously active’.

Learn more, in this exploration of French conscientious objection in the First World War: motivations, politics, party support & context.

Written by our French researcher Daisy Gudmunsen.

Conscientious objection in Germany

At least 200,000 soldiers refused their military “duty” and without soldiers, there was no war.

Find out why people refused to serve their country, how they avoided military service and what punishments were issued for disobedience.

Written by our German researcher Kristin Winkler.

Research gallery

Browse photos and documents from Blast Theory’s research online and in the archives at the Imperial War Museum [London], Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr [Dresden], Bundesarchiv [Berlin] and Bibliothèque Nationale de France.