International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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1847-1981 :

A thesis presented to the London School of Economics, University of London,
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Julia Twigg
©AUTUMN 1981 - Thesis Index

The author is now Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at Kent University, England, and has given permission for this previously unpublished thesis to be published on the IVU website. The ownership and copyright remain hers and no part of this thesis may be used elsewhere without her express permission.


[Numerical links are to the author's footnotes, use your back button to return to the same point in the text. Text links are to relevant items on the IVU website, all open in new windows]


Vegetarianism was marked by a strong internationalist tone; (1) in part this was a product of the general aspirations and mood of the period, though it relates also to vegetarianism's own commitment to universalist moral principles. (2) The link with esperanto provides one example of this.

An Esperanto Vegetarian Society (Tutmondo Esperantista Vegetara) had been founded as early as 1908 under Tolstoyan influence, and In 1909 the [IVU] International Vegetarian Congress had called on vegetarians to learn esperanto. (3) In the Interwar period - as indeed today - many esperantists were vegetarian.

Though esperanto had been invented in 1887 by the Polish Dr Zamenhof, Its progress was slow and obscure until the early years of this century, when It made rapid advances in France. A series of international congresses were held and Its popularity grew; It was in the immediate post-war years that it had its greatest success and widest aspirations. Though it failed in its attempt to be adopted as the official language of the League, it was closely associated with the internationalist sentiment of the period, especially at the grass roots level, and Guérard, writing In 1922, believed that Esperanto was 'profiting from this new state of mind'. (4) One of the aims and appeals of esperanto was the provision of the basis for personal contacts between people of different nations in ways that would make the possibility of war repugnant and ultimately impossible; and the report of the League stressed its great potential 'from the point of view of the moral unity of the world'. (5)

In scientific, commercial, philanthropic, tourist and even more, in working class circles, there is a feeling that it is urgently necessary to escape from the linguistic complications which impede international relations and particularly direct relations between people. (6)

The vegetarian esperanto link owes something also to the earlier tradition of shorthand writing and reformed spelling. There is a sense in which all of these appeal to the desire for conscious deliberation and for reforming language according to ordered and rational principles; and they draw on a general tendency within vegetarianism towards the tidying up of social reality that we have noted in other contexts. Edward Sapir, writing in 1931, touches on this aspect when he notes the belief that a constructed language, unlike the old organic languages, would correspond to the 'analytic and creative spirit' of modern times, and would free us from the tyranny of language by making us its masters and not Its products. This he felt would have an important psychological effect on our attitude to society. (7)

  1. 124. During the First World War, despite the bitterness of the conflict, the vegetarian societies kept in contact with their German counterparts, and soon after the peace, plans were under way for an International Conference, VM, Aug 1923, p121. [1923 IVU Congress]
  2. 125. See Chapter 9g.
  3. 126. VM, April 1914, p135.
  4. 127. A.L. Guérard, A Short History of the International Language Movement, 1922, p123.
  5. 128. Esperanto as an International Auxiliary Language, League of Nations, Report of General Secretariat, Geneva 1922, p13.
  6. 129. Ibid., p2. In the section devoted to esperanto in England, it is reported that the majority of classes were in evening institutes (about ninety-two groups in 1922), though it was also taught in thirteen elementary schools and. five secondary. The distribution of these schools - the primary schools were in Barry, Eccles, Huddersfield, Leigh, Liverpool and a 'very poor' area of Worcester - though no doubt reflecting personal enthusiasms, does give some support to the rather unexpected statement concerning working-class association, probably better understood as broadly socialist. Not surprisingly, esperanto was taught at the school at Whiteway, and Gassy Marin, a noted member of the community, was a keen supporter. (I am indebted to Hilda Gustin for information about Mann and esperanto at Whiteway).
  7. 130. Psyche, April 1931, p4.

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