This book provides a comprehensive history of the ideas and ideologues associated with the racial fascist tradition in Britain. It charts the evolution of the British extreme right from its post-war genesis after 1918 to its present-day incarnations, and details the ideological and strategic evolution of British fascism through the prism of its principal leaders and the movements with which they were associated.
Taking a collective biographical approach, the book focuses on the political careers of six principal ideologues and leaders, Arnold Leese (1878–1956); Sir Oswald Mosley (1896–1980); A.K. Chesterton (1899–1973); Colin Jordan (1923–2009); John Tyndall (1934–2005); and Nick Griffin (1959–), in order to study the evolution of the racial ideology of British fascism, from overtly biological conceptions of ‘white supremacy’ through ‘racial nationalism’ and latterly to ‘cultural’ arguments regarding ‘ethno-nationalism’.
Drawing on extensive archival research and often obscure primary texts and propaganda as well as the official records of the British government and its security services, this is the definitive historical account of Britain’s extreme right and will be essential reading for all students and scholars of race relations, extremism and fascism.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – Arnold Leese: The ‘Anti-Jewish’ Camel Doctor
Chapter 2 – Sir Oswald Mosley: From ‘Britain First’ to ‘Europe-a-Nation’
Chapter 3 – A. K. Chesterton: From ‘Fascist revolutionary’ to ‘Jew-wise’ conspiracy theorist
Chapter 4 – Colin Jordan: Dreaming of the Nazi ‘Vanguard’
Chapter 5 – John Tyndall: In pursuit of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Reich’
Chapter 6 – Nick Griffin: From the ‘Third Position’ to anti-Muslim ‘populism’... and back again
Graham Macklin is Assistant Professor/Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) at the University of Oslo, Norway. He has published extensively on extreme right-wing and anti-minority politics in Britain in both the inter-war and post-war periods including Very Deeply Dyed in Black: Sir Oswald Mosley and the Resurrection of British Fascism after 1945 (2007), British National Party: Contemporary Perspectives (2011), co-edited with Nigel Copsey, and Researching the Far Right: Theory, Method and Practice (2020) co-edited with Stephen Ashe, Joel Busher and Aaron Winter. Macklin co-edits the journals Patterns of Prejudice, and Fascism and the ‘Routledge Studies in Fascism and the Far Right’ book series.
'This is an original, deeply researched and very readable book by the leading scholar of British fascism. It makes an extremely valuable contribution to our understanding of the British fascist tradition.' — Professor Roger Eatwell, University of Bath, UK
'By introducing a biographical approach to reveal the diversity of the visions of national rebirth adopted by six British fascists over nearly a century, Graham Macklin puts welcome flesh on the abstract formula and abstruse generalisations that have too often plagued fascist studies in the past, and simultaneously reveals the transnational nature of the fascist project in the minds of its most ardent believers. Hopefully, Macklin’s impressively researched and thoughtful biographical study will inspire a new genre of fascist studies.' — Professor Roger Griffin, Oxford Brookes University, UK.
'Failed Führers offers us something remarkable, a synoptic overview of the British far right firmly rooted in the granular detail of narrative biography. A maestro of British archives, Macklin brilliantly illuminates the shady saga of a rogues gallery of fanatics from Arnold Leese and Oswald Mosley to Colin Jordan and Nick Griffin. Failed Führers is a must read for anyone concerned about fascism, past, present, . . . and future?' — Kevin Coogan, author of Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International
"This is a readable and well-researched book from one of the leading scholars of British fascism. Dr Macklin’s thesis centres on six meticulous case studies of leading British fascists, usefully setting their stories in a wider international context. With neo-fascism and the authoritarian and exclusionist populist right on the rise across the globe, this is an engaging and timely reminder to keep our eyes on the past, in order to better understand the unstable present." — Dr David Baker, Warwick University, UK (Retired)
"With spectacular archival depth, Failed Führers convincingly shows how continuities in far right ideologies and movements are constructed and sustained as each generation’s ideologues are shaped by trajectories of influence from key mentors to emergent proteges. A brilliant intervention into understandings of the historical and contemporary extreme right." — Cynthia Miller-Idriss, American University, USA
"Failed Fuhrers provides an important and timely contribution for historians, social scientists, and the general public by offering a comprehensive account of the historical evolution of the far right in Britain. His account is layered and nuanced reflecting a deep understanding of the topic. Macklin’s manuscript is an important accomplishment and I highly recommend this book for anyone serious about understanding the far right." — Peter Simi, Chapman University, USA
"The history of British fascism is a history of failure. In a new book, Failed Führers, the historian Graham Macklin retells that story through biographies of six fascist leaders. British fascism is a story as much of continuity as of change – an ever-present obsession with racial purity, venomous antisemitism and the undertow of violence. It is also, for all the political irrelevance of British fascists, a story whose lessons are worth pondering." - Kenan Malik, The Guardian.
"This book recounts the lives and work of six of Britain’s most important fascists, from Arnold Leese in the 1920s to Nick Griffin, and through their lives, tells the story of fascism in Britain. Macklin is an academic, but he writes clearly and simply. His method is not to make judgments, but to report what is said and done and let the facts speak for themselves, which they do." - Francis Beckett, The Spectator.
"This is always going to be my generation's 'big book' on British fascism. Failed Führers deserves to be presented to students as the new standard study of British fascism. This is a superbly researched book and an important one. No-one is going to surpass Macklin's treatment of these six leaders." - David Renton, author of Fascism and The New Authoritarians.
"The story of the British extreme right, as told in Failed Führers, is, as the title suggests, one of perpetual disappointment, only lightened by occasional, fleeting moments of comparative success....Macklin’s study is the product of exhaustive research. He has a light touch, however, and often gives, by a simple acerbic remark, a sign of the distance he keeps between himself and his subject." - Richard Griffiths, The Critic.
"Macklin’s Failed Führers is essential reading for any student of British fascism...Macklin’s work explores the peaks and valleys in a well-referenced work that is unlikely to be matched in terms of research and detail anytime soon. It is a highly recommended benchmark study for anyone interested in British fascism." - Ryan Schaffer, Terrorism & Political Violence.
"All in all, this is a superbly executed study. Macklin has more than fulfilled his promise to illuminate the ideological and strategic evolution of Britain’s fascist tradition, and has also skilfully utilised a transnational lens with which to open up new areas for future scholarship....The book will speedily take its place as a ‘classic’ and must-read study in the main historiography on the topic of Britain’s extreme right, and deservedly so." Steve Woodbridge, Kingston University.
"Graham Macklin’s Failed Führers is a major new study of the British fascist movement, and will likely be the central reference point for scholars of that movement for the foreseeable future." Spencer Sunshine, Three Way Fight.
"Macklin has produced an expansive history of fascism in Britain, which demonstrates a breadth of archival research that must have taken many years to undertake. The extensive endnotes for each chapter will surely make other researchers envious. Failed Führers provides the most in-depth and far-reaching history of fascism in post-war Britain since Richard Thurlow’s book, which was last published 20 years ago." - Evan Smith, New Historical Express.
"The definitive book on British fascist leaders...each chapter offers a well-crafted, expert and extensively referenced analysis of a key figure in British fascism....For any serious academic working in this area, this is certainly essential reading." - Paul Jackson, Searchlight.
"Containing new material on nearly every one of its subjects and featuring some of the first substantial biographical studies of others, this is as near to an encyclopaedia of the British extreme right as has yet been written. There is little doubt that Failed Führers will become a key reference book for scholars researching in this area for years to come." Liam Liburd, Twentieth Century British History.
"A monumental new study of British fascism that commands respect across diverse levels: for its sheer archival stamina, its firm grasp of both overview and detail and – not least – for its sheer readability and accessibility....Unlike its subjects, Failed Führers succeeds triumphantly." Tim Wilson, Irish Political Studies.
"A major tour de force...Each of these chapters is a thorough biography of the political activities of these respective ‘failed Führers’, copiously referenced after each chapter by a plenitude of endnotes, both substantive ones and mere references." Christopher Husbands, Ethnic and Racial Studies.