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A.K. Chesterton and the problem of British fascism, 1915-1973

LeCras, Luke (2017) A.K. Chesterton and the problem of British fascism, 1915-1973. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Fascist and extreme right-wing political movements in Britain have been the subject of enduring interest to historians since 1945, with the majority of works centring on the British Union of Fascists (BUF), a political party founded and led by Sir Oswald Mosley between 1932 and 1940. Despite the BUF’s failure to achieve levels of support on par with many fascist movements in continental Europe, there is now a sizeable body of historiography dealing with the party as a minor case within the study of European fascism and as a unique phenomenon of radical politics in interwar Britain. By comparison, little interest has been devoted to aspects of British fascism not connected to Mosley or the BUF. Moreover, extreme right movements operating in Britain since 1945 have largely been characterized as either a direct legacy of the interwar movement or an attempt to reform British fascism under a different guise.

This thesis re-examines the continuity between the interwar and the post-war iterations of the extreme right in Britain by focusing on the ideas and activism of Arthur Kenneth (A.K) Chesterton. A high-ranking member of the BUF who made substantial contributions to the party’s propaganda, Chesterton split with Mosley in 1938 to pursue an independent career in extreme right-wing politics that persisted until his death in 1973. Outside of his role in the BUF, Chesterton is best known as a prolific author of conspiratorial nationalist literature, as the head of the League of Empire Loyalists (a small right-wing pressure group active from 1954 to 1967), and as the chairman of the National Front between 1967 and 1971. Using Chesterton as a focal point, this study examines the problems encountered by Britain’s extreme right in attempting to reconcile the nature and methods of fascism with the prevailing conditions of British politics across seven decades of the twentieth century. While the primary contribution is to the historiography of extreme right-wing movements in Britain, it also expands ongoing theoretical debates regarding the nature and definitional limits of fascism itself.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Webster, Andrew
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