The British Left Intelligentsia and France: Perceptions and Interactions 1930-1944

Alison Appleby

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis is concerned with the ways in which the non-communist British left interacted with their French counterparts during the 1930s and the Second World War and described France in their writings and broadcasts. It challenges existing accounts that have portrayed British attitudes to France as characterised by suspicion, ill-feeling or even contempt. It draws on a range of sources, including reportage, private papers, records of left-wing societies and other publications from the period, as well as relevant articles and books. The thesis explores the attitudes of British left-wing intellectuals, trade unionists and politicians and investigates their attempts to find common ground and formulate shared aspirations.
The thesis takes a broadly chronological approach, looking first at the pre-1939 period, then at three phases of war and finally at British accounts of the Liberation of France. In the 1930s, British left-wing commentators sought to explain events in France and to work with French socialists and trade unionists in international forums in their search for an appropriate response to both fascism and Soviet communism. Following the defeat of France, networks that included figures from the British left and French socialists living in London in exile developed. In addition to print media, broadcasting provided a space in which the left intelligentsia could promote a version of current events that emphasized solidarity between a determined Britain and defiant French resistance, united in a common endeavour. Contributors showed continued interests in French affairs, discussing issues such as communism, social and economic reform, colonialism, the future of Europe and how France might best be governed.
The analysis of the primary sources presented in this thesis provides a counter narrative to a more orthodox position which has emphasised enmity and hostility between the Britain and France during this period and makes a contribution to a more complete understanding of cross Channel relations before and during the Second World War.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Award date1 Jan 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013

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