Anti-semitic journalism and authorship in Britain 1914–21
thesisposted on 22.05.2018 by David Beeston
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This thesis illustrates how anti-semitism has found favour, comparatively recently, among influential sectors of the journalistic and literary establishment, and also how periods of intense national and international crisis can create the conditions in which conspiratorial explanations of major events will surface with relative ease. During the seven years following the outbreak of the First World War (August, 1914), anti-semitism was fuelled by the recurring crises created by a total war and its immediate aftermath. These included, the call for national unity, with its attendant criticisms of enemy aliens, sympathisers, and collaborators; the need to introduce and enforce conscription; the fear of defeat; the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the spectre of Bolshevism as an international force; the effects of the Versailles Settlement and the League of Nations on Britain's national interests; and the beginning of Britain's decline as an imperial power. The rapid development of anti-semitic literature during those years, reached its high-water mark with the publication of two pernicious books—The Jewish Peril (an English translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion) and The Cause of World Unrest—both of which transmitted a similar message of World Jewish domination. In the immediate aftermath, even the Spectator called for a Royal Commission to investigate Jewish involvement in revolutionary activity. The following year an expose in The Times (August 1921) proved that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was closely-modelled on a book written by a French author, Maurice Joly, published in Brussels in 1864. This disclosure dealt a devastating blow to the intellectual armoury of anti-semites, prevented the British establishment from becoming seriously entangled in the ideological upsurge of Fascism, and helped foster a spirit of reason and enlightenment in which conspiracy theories had far greater difficulties in being re-established.
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