From the Archives Blog

From the Archives allows us in the Humanist Library and Archives to share some of our wonderful items and our learning with you!

It also includes entries from the former A2R (Alternatives to Religion) blog, a collaborative project between Conway Hall and Bishopsgate Institute which sparked exploration of some of the ways people have tried to make sense of the world and live together ethically without the need for faith in a God or gods. The key themes linking this broad movement are Freethought, Ethics, Humanism, Rationalism and Secularism. Material for these entries came from the British Humanist Association, The National Secular Society and Conway Hall Ethical Society. Posts were written by archivists, Nicky Hilton and Carl Harrison.


This collection of photographs were taken during a protest against British Transport’s decision to remove Family Planning Association adverts from London Underground in 1961.

Charles Bradlaugh

Next month will see the 181st birthday of Charles Bradlaugh, a committed atheist and political activist. Bradlaugh was the founder of the National Secular Society, bringing together localised secular societies to campaign for the separation of Church and State.

National Secular Society members

National Secular Society members in Nottingham on 5 June 1949 attending the Society’s Annual Conference.

Letter written by Bertrand Russell

The National Secular Society has a long history of campaigning for secular education in the UK.

NSS meeting, 1926

Throughout the 20th century the National Secular Society kept records of local secular society branches and affiliated groups. This included organisations both in the UK and abroad. From the National Secular Society archive, this photograph captures the Birmingham Branch on their annual outing in 1926.

The English Voltaire

Thomas Paine, the political activist, philosopher, author, political theorist and revolutionary, is one figure who appears in all three archives of the Alternatives to Religion Project – National Secular Society, British Humanist Association and Conway Hall Ethical Society.

The Grecian Club

Hidden within the archives of the National Secular Society were the minute books and attendance records for a small but influential society called The Grecian Club.

View The Grecian Club

Thu, 3rd Jul, 2014
National Secular Society members and Humanists protesting

National Secular Society members and Humanists protesting on Easter Monday in Hyde Park, c.1970.

View Humanists Are Marching!

Thu, 26th Jun, 2014
Campaign against the ‘misrepresentation’ of Pius XII, 1958

With the death of Pope Pius XII on 9 October 1958, British news published and broadcast a wave of positive eulogies for the Catholic leader. Celebrated nationally as the ‘Pope of Peace’, the National Secular Society were alarmed by the uncritical reporting of Pius’ leadership.

NSS Outing c.1970

This orphaned photograph from a National Secular Society annual outing c.1970 shows the broad appeal of the Society, with men and women of all ages.

View NSS Outing c.1970

Fri, 13th Jun, 2014
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