British Extremism and Radical Politics: Collections

Make new connections in European political history and British politics while exploring the British Extremism and Radical Politics CollectionsBritain, in particular, has a long and complex history with extremist groups and radical political parties, on both the far-left and the far-right. Perhaps the most well-known extremist organisations include the UK's British National Party (BNP), led first by John Tyndall and then by Nick Griffin; the UK based English Defence League (EDL), an organization founded by former BNP member Tommy Robinson that uses street demonstrations as its main tactic against Muslims; and the British Union of Fascists whose extremist supporters were famously known as "Blackshirts". Materials from these extremist parties are contrasted with those exploring the ideology of far-left parties in the United Kingdom, such as the Communist Party of Great Britain or the British National Socialist Movement, and anti-fascist organisations, such as Searchlight Associates and the 43 Group.

From oral histories, such as that of an ex-BNP mole, to extremist literature, to the private files of radical leaders, including BUF leader Sir Oswald Mosley, this collection gives researchers a broader view of the groups and individuals whose influence and extremism still affects the UK government, political parties and voter mindsets in Britain to this day. 

  • British Home Office Defence Regulation 18B Advisory Committee Papers Regarding the Detainment of Oswald Mosley, Leader of the British Union of Fascists

    Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats, was a British politician and Member of Parliament. In 1932, Mosley formed and became the leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF). The political party was renamed the National Socialists in 1936, and British Union in 1937, and was said to be modelled after Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers' Party. After the Second World War broke out, the British Security Service and Special Branch became increasingly worried that the BUF was gathering public support that could undermine the war effort. Due to his ideology, Mosley was interned by the government under Defence Regulation 18B, just two weeks before Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. He was detained at Holloway Prison in London for the majority of the war, along with his wife who was also a strong supporter of British fascism.

    Papers of the Advisory Committee on Defence Regulation 18B is comprised mainly of government transcripts from the hearings of individual detainee cases. This collection concerns Mosley's appeal against his detention during the Second World War and includes the papers of Norman Birkett, KC, concerning the BUF.

    The government records in this collection provide unique insight into the founding and strategy of the BUF and how it operated within Britain's political system.

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  • British Home Office Registered Papers Regarding British Fascists and Suspected Nazi Sympathisers

    This collection comprises of Home Office papers on individuals detained during the Second World War who were known to be associated with fascism or were suspected nazi sympathisers because of their involvement with radical right groups such as the British People's Party, the British Union, the Fascist January Club, the Imperial Fascist League, the Link, the National Socialist League, the Nordic League, and the Right Club.

    Defence Regulation 18B was one of the Defence Regulations used by the British Government during the Second World War that allowed the internment of people suspected of being Nazi sympathizers. Individuals could be detained without being formally charged with a crime or going to court.

    This collection is essential for researchers examining Second World War Britain and twentieth-century political movements.

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  • British Security Service Personal Files. Subseries on Right Wing-Extremists, Communists and Suspected Communists, and Soviet and Other Communist Front Organisations

    The Security Service: Personal (PF Series) Files series contains selected files from the First and Second World War periods and the inter-war years having to do with suspected spies, renegades, communist sympathizers, right-wing extremists, and other groups in which the British Security Service took an interest, including pacifist and anti-conscription groups.

    The records of the Security Service, better known as MI5, are grouped by topic. This collection provides access to the 'Right Wing Extremists'; 'Soviet and Other Communist Front Organisations'; and 'Communists and Suspected Communists, including Russian and Communist sympathisers' subseries. These series cover a period of roughly 50 years (1910s–1960s) and details the surveillance of several notable groups (British Union of Fascists (BUF), Imperial Fascist League, and the Communist Party of Great Britain) and individuals (Oswald Mosely, Arnold Leese, George Orwell, Alan Nunn May, Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin, Sylvia Pankhurst, Doris Lessing, and Unity Mitford) who were considered a threat by the British government.

    The records cover a variety of subjects that span the Second World War and post-war era up to the mid–1960s. Since these files are personal files on private individuals, they were closed for an obligatory time period but are now available to the public.

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  • Fascist and Anti-Fascist Booklets

    This collection contains booklets from both fascist and anti-fascist or anti-Nazi activist groups from as early as 1918. Coverage includes a broad spectrum of political propaganda penned by notable individuals, such as Arnold Leese and William Joyce, as well as the output of their opposition, such as the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

    The collection is vital for those researching extremism, far-right movements, activism against fascism, racism, anti-racism, Anti-Semitism, and radical politics as well as British and European history in general throughout the twentieth century.

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  • Leaflets, Stickers, Posters, Electoral Ephemera from Fascist and Anti-Fascist Groups

    This collection contains leaflets, stickers, posters, and electoral ephemera from far-right groups, such as the British Movement, British National Party (BNP), Combat 18, England First, International Third Positionists, National Front, National Socialist Movement, and the National Socialist Party of Australia. These materials offer unique insights into the beliefs, demonstrations, and political campaigning strategies of several fascist, terrorist, and racist groups, as well as mapping the evolution of extremism and far-right movements throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century.

    This collection is highly important, not only for those interested in the history of extremism and far-right movements in London and abroad, but for any researcher trying to understand global politics in the twentieth century.

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  • Searchlight Magazine

    Searchlight was founded in 1964 as an occasional newspaper publication against fascism, but from 1975 to present it has been published as a monthly magazine. Its primary purpose is to investigate and publish exposés on fascist, anti-Semitic, racist and extremist groups operating both in Britain and abroad.

    The 62 Group, a coalition against the fascist movement set up in 1962 in response to the resurgence of radicalism and fascism in the UK, appointed Gerry Gable to work with their intelligence operation. In 1964, he established a press agency to make the information that they were gathering available to the public in the form of the Searchlight newspaper, under the government of Reginald Freeson MP. It was relaunched as a monthly magazine in 1975 and continues to publish today.

    Coverage has included a number of far-right groups from the UK, including the British National Party (BNP), Combat 18, and the English Defence League (EDL), as well as international fascist, terrorist, and racist organizations, such as the Norwegian Nazi Party and the Australian National Socialist Party. Searchlight’s network includes several anti-racist organizations from around the world and it has published many notable journalists, including Stieg Larsson, author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, whose magazine Expo is often considered Searchlight’s sister publication.

    Researchers interested in the evolution of extremism and far-right groups around the world in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century will find this publication indispensable for its coverage of a wide range of groups, individuals, and topics.

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  • Searchlight Oral Histories Collection

    In 2015, in collaboration with Gerry Gable and using Searchlight’s network, researchers from the University of Northampton (UK) recorded interviews with anti-fascist activists active from the 1940s–1990s. These are exclusive recordings about their experiences opposing fascism, discussing the post-war history of anti-fascism and what instigated their involvement in the movement.

    The oral history project’s collection includes recordings taken during interviews with members of the original 43 Group, who opposed Mosley after the war. These include the testimony of an informant who acted as a mole infiltrating the British National Party (BNP), a political party which was led first by John Tyndall and then by Nick Griffin, as well as stories told by activists who held demonstrations against the group. Also featured are the voices of anti-racist campaigners who formed advocacy groups in response to racial violence and terrorism, like the Stephen Lawrence murder in London.

    This collection is an important resource for researchers of British history, politics, fascism and anti-fascism in the twentieth century and for fostering new research into Britain’s current multicultural society and extreme right politics.

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