‘A Poisonous Doctrine Entrenched?’ A Study of the Evolution of Proto-Fascism and Fascism in Britain between 1900-1939

  • Samuel Jennings

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Britain did not succumb to fascism between 1900 and 1939 unlike Italy, Germany and Spain. Indeed, there was a wave of fascism which engulfed several European nations in this period, nonetheless, British fascism was one of the least successful variants of European fascism. There were, however, several proto-fascist and fascist movements in Britain before the Second World War. Although, they were always minority movements, their existence alone provides insight into the political culture in Britain.

This dissertation researches the evolution of proto-fascism and fascism in Britain between 1900 and 1939 and focuses on the British Brothers League (BBL), the British Fascists (BF) and the British Union of Fascists (BUF). It is a comparative study of the three movements and the first to adopt such an approach. Although, the three movements should not be understood as consecutive manifestations of fascism, this study aims to reinstate the BBL and the BF as precursors to the BUF.

The parallels between the three movements shall be explored. Each movement expounded a discourse of national decline whereby Britain was suffering alarming and irreversible decline. Furthermore, each movement upheld a form of ‘anti-alienism’ and progressed to an obsessional and conspiratorial form of antisemitism which had immediate and lasting consequences.

The study will explore the historiographical understandings of proto-fascism and fascism and explore the nature, policy and impact of the three movements and question how ‘fascist’ each truly were. This study will also question how discourses of national decline and anti-immigration rhetoric is deployed in contemporary politics and discusses the extent this rhetoric can gain ground in British politics.

Date of Award15 Mar 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAlexander Von Lunen (Main Supervisor) & Barry Doyle (Co-Supervisor)

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