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Study Circle, Glasgow
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The Study Circle was a Christian Fellowship established by the pacifist, Christian reformer and political activist, Robert Shanks (1870-1921). Shanks was born in Bridgeton and brought up in the East End of Glasgow. He was President of the Glasgow Eastern Branch of the Young Scots Society, which met in the Liberal Association Rooms in Whitevale Street. When the Great War broke out in August 1914, the Society temporarily ceased its activities, but Shanks and several of his fellow members wished to continue. Utilising the same venue, Shanks took it upon himself to deliver a series of addresses on ‘The War and Foreign Policy’. This initiative developed into a regular weekly meeting held under the name of the Eastern Study Circle ('Eastern' was subsequently dropped from the title). The weekly meeting was rescheduled to Sunday morning so that more people might attend and, at Shanks’ behest, a religious service was also incorporated.
The Study Circle proved so successful that it moved to progressively larger venues: a hall in Hillfoot Street in September 1916, the Central Halls in Bath Street in April 1917, and in December 1917, the Masonic Hall at 100 West Regent Street, with a capacity of 400. The primary purpose of the meeting, which now attracted people from all over Glasgow and the surrounding area, was to discuss the principles and problems of national and international life and the pressing social and political issues of the day, in the light of Christianity. A charismatic speaker and inspiring personality, Shanks delivered addresses and conducted the Study Circle's services for six years until his death in 1921. He also invited a variety of distinguished local, national and international guest speakers to address the meetings, which were always informal, non-sectarian, tolerant and humanitarian in tone. The Study Circle established its own Sunday School, a Current Topics Club and a Country Rambles Club for young people, and held occasional special lectures and an annual Peace Demonstration. It also instituted sewing parties, prison visiting and regular Sunday collections of clothing and food for the relief of distress both at home and abroad. After Shanks' death, William Niven, a Glasgow businessman who was one of the original members of the Study Circle, took charge of its weekly meeting, which continued until at least 1942.
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ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2003); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).
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Created by Anne Cameron, January 2019.
'Robert Shanks: Christian Reformer, Pacifist, Internationalist 1870-1921' (Glasgow: The Study Circle, 1921)