Josiah Wedgwood (1872-1943) was in many ways a misfit in British politics, ‘an exotic bloom’ on the rather dour Labour benches, according to his political biographer, Paul Mulvey. A Radical Liberal and individualist, he had moved to the Labour party in the aftermath of the First World War in 1919, becoming one of the party’s most vigorous voices in the House of Commons. This was in spite of the fact that his political enthusiasms – home rule for India; for the creation of a British Commonwealth based on shared principles of democracy and equality; for the taxation of land value, according to the theories of Henry George – had led nowhere by the early 1930s. At the same time his hobbyhorse of creating a biographical dictionary Members of Parliament had become mired in arguments between Wedgwood and professional historians. But by then, Wedgwood had a new cause to fight. He would become one of the most determined opponents of Fascism and of the government’s foreign policy in the House of Commons, while he vigorously pursued a campaign for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine as part of a British Commonwealth and supported refugees from Nazi Germany.
Wedgwood’s determined campaign against appeasement placed him at the centre of one of the key debates of British politics in the 1930s. The conference will be hosted by the School of Humanities at Keele University, close to Wedgwood’s constituency of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and organised by the University in partnership with the History of Parliament Trust, which Wedgwood founded, and the Remembering Eleanor Rathbone Group. It will take Wedgwood as the starting point for an exploration of the British political reaction to Hitler, Mussolini and anti-Semitism. We welcome papers on Wedgwood during the period concerned, and on British politics in response to domestic or foreign fascism.
Please send abstracts of c.250 words and biographies of not more than 100 words to Sammy Sturgess at SSturgess@histparl.ac.uk by 31st May 2018. Please expect a formal reply within a month of submission.
Any queries may also be sent to the email address above.