Return to Albion: Intellectuals in Wartime Britain

Richard Weight charts how the threat from Hitler galvanised opinion-formers into embracing a past and culture they had previously scorned.

On February 9th, 1933, the Oxford Union passed a motion that 'this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country'. The event scandalised the establishment for it revealed a hostility to accepted notions of patriotism among the young men who were expected in time to govern Britain and prosecute any future wars to defend the status quo. Winston Churchill, in a speech on St. George's Day a few weeks later warned that:

the worst difficulties from which we suffer ... come from the unwarrantable mood of self-abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals.

A dislike of intellectuals is supposed to be a perennial element of the British character. But Churchill's belief that they were responsible for the events in Oxford was very much a reaction to the intellectual climate of inter-war Britain.

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