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The limits of pro-Fascism and anti-Fascism : G. K. Chesterton and Arthur Bryant.

Stapleton, Julia (2010) 'The limits of pro-Fascism and anti-Fascism : G. K. Chesterton and Arthur Bryant.', in Varieties of anti-fascism : Britain in the interwar period. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 224-244.


This chapter explores the equivocation that could mark sympathy with fascism in Britain, the contingent nature of a good deal of the support it received and the repudiation of certain forms of fascism while others were tolerated, even extolled. The degree of opposition that fascism encountered at this level was variable, as were the grounds. Nevertheless, the qualms experienced by some who showed early goodwill towards fascism merits close attention, especially when distancing themselves from it subsequently. What were the circumstances in which such retreats took place and the underlying motivations? A number of figures might serve to illustrate this highly problematic ‘variety of anti-fascism’, for example the historians Herbert Butterfield and Charles Petrie and the writers, Philip Gibbs and Evelyn Waugh. But the chapter confines its attention to the novelist, poet and journalist, Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874–1936) and the popular historian, Arthur Bryant (1899–1985). They have been chosen because they well capture the ambivalence that was typical of many who welcomed fascism; in addition, they emphasise that receptivity to fascism often owed as much to political conflict at home as admiration for the achievements of fascism abroad. Chesterton’s hesitancy never evolved fully into anti-fascism, as might be expected had he not died suddenly in June 1936; as an ideological weapon against domestic foes, his refusal to condemn Italian fascism unambiguously had already become a blunt instrument at the time of his death. But Bryant witnessed another world war, this time engendered by fascism, and changed his stance accordingly, if belatedly. I am extremely grateful to Reba Soffer for her helpful comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. I would also like to thank staff at the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives in making available material from the Bryant Papers and granting permission on behalf of the Trustees to publish extracts from manuscript documents.

Item Type:Book chapter
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Date of first online publication:2010
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