‘Ye Olde Englishe Communists’: Popular Front Historians and the Left, 1936-1940

  • Gareth Bryant

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This thesis examines the historical practices of the left-wing Popular Front cultural movement in Britain in the late 1930s, as well as their relationship to more established British historical traditions. To achieve this, it draws on a collection of written historical works, public performances and other media that demonstrate the varied aspects of this relationship. The authors and creators of these works existed within a shift toward a more national focus within the cultural expression of the socialist and communist movements, enacted to engage with the growing threat of fascism. These writers and performers reinterpreted the cornerstones of British national myth, from Alfred the Great to Adam Smith, to support notion of a progressive and egalitarian lineage for modern Britons. In doing so, these ‘Popular Front historians’ also revealed the deep rooted Anglocentrism within both the British historical tradition and its socialist movements. At a time when movements for national independence were beginning to stir in Scotland and Wales, the Popular Front historical narrative attempted to cement a notion of a unified, London-centred socialist Britain. This progressive nationalism made its way into the political and cultural mainstream during the Second World War and informed the work of the first post-war generation of Marxist historians centred on the Communist Party Historians Group. This thesis explores the composition, processes and cultural pathways of the Popular Front historical tradition and the contribution these works made to the progressive nationalism of post-war Britain.
    Date of Award25 Jul 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorChristopher Hill (Supervisor) & Chris Evans (Supervisor)

    Cite this