1926 – when Aberystwyth hosted the League of Nations International Peace Congress

Paris, London, Brussels (1919), Milan (1920), Geneva (1921), Prage (1922), Vienna (1923), Lyon (1924), Warsaw (1925)…

Aberystwyth (1926)

Berlin (1927), The Hague (1928), Prague (1928), Madrid (1929), Brussels (1934), Geneva (1936)

Portrait of the International Delegations attending the IFLNS Peace Congress in Aberystwyth, July 1926 – photographed on the bowling lawns adjacent to North Road today, with David Davies to RH of centre (in slacks and bowler hat). A list of the delegates can be viewed in the Meetings Schedule pamphlet (below).

Between June 25th and July 3rd 1926, the West Wales University town of Aberystwyth briefly became the centre of the world, as it hosted a gathering equivalent to today’s United Nations General Assembly – welcoming international delegates from 40 nations worldwide, from the US and Japan to German and Italian deputations, all working towards a common goal: no less than World Peace in the aftermath of World War. But why Aberystwyth?

Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU) President Annie Hughes Griffiths accompanies German delegate (and former US Ambassador) Count Bernstorff from Aberystwyth Railway Station – from WLNU / Temple of Peace Press Cuttings.

The International Federation of League of Nations Societies was established in 1920 as the civil society support body (popularly considered the ‘third arm’) of the League of Nations in Geneva, and was the “leading international nongovernmental organization for the promotion of peace between the world wars” (Thomas Davies, 2012). IFNLS was headquartered in Brussels 1920-34, then Geneva, Switzerland 1934-46, after which it was succeeded by the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA); the IFNLS Archives are held in Brynmawr College, US, and UN Archives, Geneva.

The IFLNS Congress for 1926 had been intended to be hosted by Dresden in Germany, following their admission to the League after signing of the 1925 Locarno Treaties. However, post-WW1 opposition to German reintegration into the apparatus of international diplomacy led to withdrawal of Dresden’s hosting candidature.

With just 3 months to go, Welsh peacebuilder and philanthropist David Davies – who was not only founder of the Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU), but also IFLNU Controller and a Director of the Great Western Railway – used his influence (and financial support) to enable Wales to step in to the breach. Alongside WLNU President Annie Hughes Griffiths – whose brother John Humphreys Davies was Principal of Aberystwyth University – the whole congress was relocated to West Wales.

The story of ‘how’ was pieced together by Aberystwyth University Librarian and Author Elgan Phillips, for an exhibition in partnership with ‘Wales for Peace’ staged in the Hugh Owen Library in 2016 to mark the 90th Anniversary of the Peace Congress coming to town. The exhibition used a number of artefacts from WCIA’s Collections at the Temple of Peace, which remain on view in the Temple’s Council Chamber, and can be explored digitally via the links below.

Read Elgan’s feature article, and explore the WLNU materials since digitised, to discover more about when the interwar world came to Wales.