Creating reading communities and politicising citizens : the Left Book Club in 1930s and 1940s Britain - Université Paris 8 Vincennes - Saint-Denis Access content directly
Conference Papers Year : 2020

Creating reading communities and politicising citizens : the Left Book Club in 1930s and 1940s Britain

Elen Cocaign

Abstract

In 1936, British publisher Victor Gollancz created the Left Book Club in order to « help in the struggle for world peace and against fascism ». At odds with the traditional « gentlemen » publishers of his time, Gollancz strove to make political and topical books accessible to the « new reading public » generated by mass education. The club was initially designed as a means of securing a set number of readers in order to print a monthly book at a reduced price. The publisher was surprised when some of the club members spontaneously formed groups to discuss the books but he encouraged them and soon, the network of Left Book Club groups spread across Britain. This paper focuses on these reading communities, looking at the way they appeared and functioned and it argues that being a Left Book Club member became a way of life, characterised by intense sociability fully intertwined with complex politicisation processes. But did the club become a political movement? Or even a proper party? Victor Gollancz was a member of the Labour Party, but he was also very close to the Communist Party, and the Left Book Club can be seen as an embodiment of the Popular Front spirit in Britain. Its members took part in many local and national campaigns throughout the 1930s. The club has even been presented as one of the driving forces behind the 1945 Labour victory and this paper assesses and questions this narrative.
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Dates and versions

hal-04064812 , version 1 (11-04-2023)

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  • HAL Id : hal-04064812 , version 1

Cite

Elen Cocaign. Creating reading communities and politicising citizens : the Left Book Club in 1930s and 1940s Britain. Social History Society 2020 Conference, Jun 2020, Lancaster, UK, United Kingdom. ⟨hal-04064812⟩
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