Document Type

Article

Abstract

The Left Book Club, which existed from 1936 to 1948, was the first modern book club in Britain. It distributed left-wing political books aimed at the political education of the mass public It attempted to mobilize British opinion against Hitler and agitated for a Popular Front and a collective security alliance. The Left Book Club was founded and directed by the publishe Victor Gollancz, who remained the most important influence on the club throughout its history. The Left Book Club was a highly successful publishing enterprise, and it developed into the leading left-wing political movement of the 1930s in Britain. It attracted wide-ranging support, from Communists to left-wing Labourites and many Liberals.Its selections document the outlook of most of the British Left of the 1930s and indicate the range of its interests. The author outlines the history of the club. The club is placed in the context of the political events of the 1930s and in the context of Gollancz's publishing career, his political beliefs, and his concern for political education. Its organization as a book club is described and the range of its selection and activities is indicated. The last years of the Left Book Club, although of declining influence, illustrate the course of the British Left from the disillusionment following the Nazi-Soviet Pact and the split with the Communists to the concerns of the non-Communist Left during World War II and the election of the Labour government in 1945. Although it failed in its original goals, the Left Book Club helped shape the political thinking of a generation of British leftists. The article is based on a variety of sources,especially detailed records of the club's activities in its monthly publication Left News.

Disciplines

Library and Information Science

Comments

This article is the publisher's PDF version previously appearing as “Victor Gollancz and the Left Book Club,” Library Quarterly 41 (July 1971): 197-215.