The Labour Party, Nationalism and Internationalism, 1939-1951

Front Cover
Psychology Press, 2004 - Political Science - 299 pages
The Second World War was a watershed moment in foreign policy for the Labour Party in Britain. Before the war, British socialists had held that nationalism was becoming obsolete and that humanity was steadily evolving towards the ideal of a single world government. The collapse of the League of Nations destroyed this optimistic vision, compelling Labour to undertake a fundamental review of its entire approach to foreign affairs during a period of unprecedented global crisis.

This book traces the controversy that ensued, as the British democratic left set about the task of defining the principles of a radically new international system for the postwar world. The schemes proposed by Labour policymakers during these years encompassed a wide variety of political institutions aiming at the restraint or supersession of the sovereign nation-state. What they shared in common, however, was a reconceptualization of British identity, in which the hyper-patriotism of the wartime period blended with the left's traditional internationalism. This new 'muscular' internationalism was to have a major impact upon the evolution of entities as diverse as the United Nations Organizations, the British Commonwealth and the accelerating campaign in favor of European unity after Labour assumed the reins of government in 1945.

Breaking with the traditional accounts that place Cold War tensions at the centre of the Attlee government's activities in the immediate postwar years, R.M. Douglas's book provides an entirely new framework for reassessing British foreign policy and left-wing concepts of national identity during the most turbulent moment of Britain's modern history.

This book will be essential reading for all students and researchers of British foreign policy, the Labour Party and international relations.

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About the author (2004)

R.M. Douglas is Assistant Professor of History, Colgate University, New York. He was awarded a PhD in History by Brown University in 1996. He is the author of Feminist Freikorps: The British Voluntary Women Police, 1914-1940 (1999) and Imperialism on Trial: International Oversight of Colonial Rule in Comparative Perspective (forthcoming)

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