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Fenner Brockway, Baron Brockway

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Title: Fenner Brockway, Baron Brockway  
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Subject: Westminster Abbey by-election, 1924, Westminster Abbey (UK Parliament constituency), Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Independent Labour Party MPs, William Crawford Anderson
Collection: 1888 Births, 1988 Deaths, British Anti-War Activists, British Conscientious Objectors, British Humanists, British People of the Spanish Civil War, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, English Anti-Fascists, Government and Politics of Slough, Independent Labour Party Mps, Labour Party (Uk) Life Peers, Labour Party (Uk) Mps, Members of the Executive of the Labour and Socialist International, Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for English Constituencies, People Educated at Eltham College, People from Kolkata, People from Slough, Place of Death Missing, Recipients of the Padma Bhushan, Uk Mps 1929–31, Uk Mps 1950–51, Uk Mps 1951–55, Uk Mps 1955–59, Uk Mps 1959–64
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Fenner Brockway, Baron Brockway

Portrait of A. Fenner Brockway, circa 1910–1915.

Archibald Fenner Brockway, Baron Brockway (1 November 1888 – 28 April 1988), was a British anti-war activist and politician.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Political activities, 1924–35 2
  • Spanish Civil War 3
  • After World War II 4
  • House of Lords 5
  • Last years 6
  • Writings 7
  • Tribute 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life and career

Brockway was born to W. G. Brockway and Frances Elizabeth Abbey in Calcutta, British India.[1] While attending the School for the Sons of Missionaries, then in Blackheath, London (now Eltham College) from 1897 to 1905 he developed an interest in politics. Around 1908 Brockway became a vegetarian. [2]

After leaving school he worked as a journalist for newspapers and journals including The Quiver, the Daily News and the Christian Commonwealth. In 1907, Brockway joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and was a regular visitor to the Fabian Society. He was appointed editor of the Labour Leader (the newspaper of the ILP, later called the New Leader) and was, by 1913 a committed pacifist. He opposed British involvement in the First World War and, through his position as editor of the Labour Leader, was outspoken in his views about the conflict. On 12 November 1914 he published an appeal for men of military age to join him in forming the No-Conscription Fellowship to campaign against the possibility of the government attempting to introduce conscription in Britain. The offices of the Labour Leader were raided in August 1915 and Brockway was charged with publishing seditious material. He pleaded not guilty and was acquitted in court. In 1916 Brockway was again arrested, this time for distributing anti-conscription leaflets. He was fined, and after refusing to pay the fine, was sent to Pentonville Prison for two months.[3]

Shortly after his release Brockway was arrested for a third time for his refusal to be conscripted, after being denied recognition as a conscientious objector. He was handed over to the Army and court-martialled for disobeying orders. As if a traitor, he was held for a night in the Tower of London, in a dungeon under Chester Castle and in Walton Prison, Liverpool, where he edited an unofficial newspaper, the Walton Leader for conscientious objectors in the prison. This led to his being disciplined, which in turn led to a 10-day prison strike by conscientious objectors before he was transferred to Lincoln Jail, where he spent some time in solitary confinement until finally released in 1919. In October 1950 he revisited the jail with Eamon de Valera, the Irish statesman.[4] Following his release he became an active member of the India League, which advocated Indian independence. He became secretary of the ILP in 1923 and later its chairman. Years later, the Government of India honoured him with the third highest civilian award of the Padma Bhushan in 1989.[5]

Political activities, 1924–35

Brockway stood for Parliament several times, including in 1924 in Westminster Abbey against Winston Churchill. In 1926, he became the first chairperson of War Resisters' International, serving in this post until 1934.[6] Brockway was a member of the League against Imperialism created in Brussels in 1927.

In 1929, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Leyton East as a Labour Party candidate. He polled 11,111 votes and, immediately after the election, the Liberal candidate announced that Brockway had converted him to socialism. His convictions brought him into difficulties with the Labour Party. He was also outspoken in Parliament, and was once "named" (suspended) by the Speaker while demanding a debate on India at Prime Minister's Question Time.[7]

In 1931 Brockway lost his seat and the following year he disaffiliated from the Labour Party along with the rest of the ILP. He stood unsuccessfully for the ILP in the 1934 Upton by-election (Upton was a division of West Ham), placed a remote third with only a 3.5% share of the votes cast, and in Norwich in the 1935 election. He also wrote a book on the arms trade, The Bloody Traffic, published by Gollancz Ltd in 1934. According to David Howell, after 1932 Brockway "sought to articulate a socialism distinct from the pragmatism of Labour and the Stalinism of the Communist Party".[8]

Spanish Civil War

With the rise of fascism in Spain, Brockway began to believe that it might be necessary to fight to preserve the peace in the long run. Despite his previous pacifist commitment, he resigned from War Resisters' International, explaining:

He assisted in the recruitment of British volunteers to fight the fascist forces of Barcelona. Following the Spanish Civil War, he advocated public understanding of the conflict. He wrote a number of articles about the conflict and was influential in getting Orwell's Homage to Catalonia published.[11]

Notwithstanding his support for British participation in the Second World War, he served as Chair of the Central Board for Conscientious Objectors throughout the war, and continued to serve as Chair until his death.[12]

After World War II

Following the war Brockway rejoined the Labour Party. After the 1950 general election he returned to the House of Commons, following an absence of nearly 20 years, as the MP for Eton and Slough.

In 1951 he was one of the four founders of the charity

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Ernest Edward Alexander
Member of Parliament for East Leyton
Succeeded by
Frederick Mills
Preceded by
Benn Levy
Member of Parliament for Eton and Slough
Succeeded by
Anthony Meyer
Political offices
Preceded by
James Maxton
Chairman of the Independent Labour Party
Succeeded by
James Maxton
Preceded by
John Paton
General Secretary of the Independent Labour Party
Succeeded by
John McNair
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
New position
Chair of War Resisters' International
Succeeded by
Arthur Ponsonby
Media offices
Preceded by
J. T. Mills
Editor of the Labour Leader
Succeeded by
Katharine Glasier
Preceded by
H. N. Brailsford
Editor of the New Leader
Succeeded by
John Paton
Preceded by
John Paton
Editor of the New Leader
Succeeded by
George Stone and
F. A. Ridley
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Fenner Brockway
  • Biography at Peace Pledge Union

External links

  1. ^ "The Papers of Fenner Brockway". Janus. Cambridge University. 
  2. ^ "House of Lords Debate: Live Food Amimals for Slaughter".  
  3. ^ Fenner Brockway during World War I
  4. ^ Lincolnshire Echo, 9 October 1950.
  5. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  6. ^ Fenner Brockway during World War I, ibid.
  7. ^ The Manchester Guardian 18 July 1930, page 11
  8. ^ David Howell, "Brockway, (Archibald) Fenner, Baron Brockway" in H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds.) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: From the earliest times to the year 2000. ISBN 019861411X (Volume Seven, pp. 765-6)
  9. ^ Prasad, Devi, War is a Crime against Humanity: the story of War Resisters' International, London: War Resisters' International, 2005
  10. ^ National Archive; Spanish Civil War files
  11. ^ a b c Spartacus Educational: Fenner Brockway profile
  12. ^ Kramer, Ann, Conscientious Objectors of the Second World War, Barnsley, Pen & Sword Books, 2013
  13. ^ Howell, David. "‘Brockway, (Archibald) Fenner, Baron Brockway (1888–1988)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 
  14. ^ Brockway, Fenner (1955). African Journeys. London: The Bodley Head. 
  15. ^ MacKillop, I. D. (1986) The British Ethical Societies, Cambridge University Press, [online] Available from: (Accessed 13 May 2014).
  16. ^ Bob Armstrong, Labour Party Aid to Fenner in the 1964 election
  17. ^ "World Disarmament Campaign". 
  18. ^ Sue Young Histories: Rosa and Stephen Hobhouse and Homeopathy
  19. ^ Fenner Brockway at WorldCat
  20. ^ Fenner Brockway at The Open University


A close in the town of Newport in South Wales is named after him.

His life and legacy are celebrated in his old constituency of Slough with the now annual FennerFest, a community arts and culture festival. A statue of Brockway stands at the entrance to Red Lion Square Park in Holborn, London; it was funded by many involved in the Commonwealth independence movements he supported and was expected to be unveiled after his death. However, he achieved such longevity that it was likely that the original Planning Permission to erect it would run out, causing problems to renew the process. It was decided to ask him to unveil it, he being one of the few private individuals, as opposed to Heads of State to do so. It was damaged (an arm was broken off) by a falling tree in the Great Storm of 1987. The refurbished and insured statue was installed shortly after his death.


  • 1915 The devil's business; a play and its justification
  • 1915 Is Britain blameless?, with letter from G. Bernard Shaw
  • 1916 Socialism for pacifists
  • 1918? All about the I.L.P.
  • 1919 The recruit: a play in one act
  • 1927 A week in India
  • 1928 A new way with crime
  • 1930 The Indian crisis
  • 1931 Hands off the railmen's wages!
  • 1932 Hungry England
  • 1934 Will Roosevelt succeed? A study of Fascist tendencies in America
  • 1934 The bloody traffic
  • 1935 Purple Plague: A Tale of Love and Revolution (fiction)
  • 1937 The truth about Barcelona
  • 1938 Pacifism and the left wing
  • 1938 Workers' Front
  • 1940 Socialism can defeat Nazism: together with Who were the friends of fascism, with John McNair
  • 1942 The way out
  • 1942 Inside the left; thirty years of platform, press, prison and Parliament
  • 1942? The C.O. and the community
  • 1944 Death pays a dividend, with Frederic Mullally
  • 1946 German diary
  • 1946 Socialism over sixty years: the life of Jowett of Bradford (1864–1944)
  • 1949 Bermondsey story; the life of Alfred Salter
  • 1953? Why Mau Mau?: an analysis and a remedy
  • 1963 Outside the right; a sequel to 'Inside the left.', with George Bernard Shaw
  • 1963 African socialism
  • 1967 This shrinking explosive world: a study of race relations
  • 1973 The colonial revolution
  • 1977 Towards tomorrow: the autobiography of Fenner Brockway
  • 1980 Britain's first socialists: the Levellers, Agitators, and Diggers of the English Revolution
  • 1984 Bombs in Hyde Park?
  • 1986 98 not out

While he was in prison, Brockway met the prominent peace activist Stephen Henry Hobhouse, and in 1922 they co-authored English prisons to-day: being the report of the Prison system enquiry committee, a devastating critique of the English prison system which resulted in a wave of prison reform which has continued to this day.[18] Brockway wrote over twenty other books on politics and four volumes of autobiography.[11][19][20]


Brockway died on 28 April 1988, aged 99. He was some six months shy of his centenary.[11]

Brockway continued to campaign for world peace and was for several years the chairman of the Movement for Colonial Freedom. Other important posts held by him include the Presidency of the British Council for Peace in Vietnam, and membership of the Advisory Council of the British Humanist Association. The World Disarmament Campaign was founded by Brockway in 1979, together with Philip Noel-Baker, to work for the implementation of the policies agreed at the 1978 Special Session on Disarmament of the UN General Assembly.[17]

Last years

Statue of Fenner Brockway in Red Lion Square near Grays Inn Road, London

He narrowly lost his seat in the House of Commons at the 1964 election, despite the national swing to Labour at that election, as he was portrayed by his opponents as being the principal cause of immigrants from the West Indies settling in Slough.[16] He subsequently accepted a life peerage as Baron Brockway, of Eton and Slough in the Royal County of Berkshire, and took a seat in the House of Lords.

House of Lords

Brockway was a prominent member of the British Humanist Association and South Place Ethical Society where he became an Appointed Lecturer during the 1960s.[15] He gave the 1986 Conway Memorial Lecture on 21 May 1986. The Lecture was titled M D Conway: His Life and Message For Today and was chaired by Michael Foot. The Brockway Room at Conway Hall is named after him.

. Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament by any nation and was a founding member of the nuclear weapons, only to be defeated each time. He strongly opposed the use or possession of racial discrimination. From the late 1950s he regularly proposed legislation in Parliament to end Movement for Colonial Freedom In this area, he was a part of the larger [14] events in Kenya during this period.Mau Mau Uprising His activities there included protesting against the response of the colonial government to the [13]

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