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Title: The cultural politics of Englishness : John Gordon Hargrave, the Kibbo Kift and Social Credit, 1920-1939
Author: Qugana, Hana Fe
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 737X
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores the idea of Englishness in the context of a social movement that lasted from 1920 to 1951, known as the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift and later, the Green Shirts and Social Credit Party. It is primarily a study of the movement’s founding leader John Gordon Hargrave (1894-1982), who sheds light on the reinvention of English identity, politics and culture in interwar Britain. It surveys how Hargrave and his Kindred constructed their Englishness against the backdrop of cultural change in the 1920s, before assessing their engagement with young, likeminded national movements on the European continent. It concludes with an appraisal of Hargrave’s attempts, after he adopted the ideology of Social Credit in 1925, to translate his movement’s cultural sensibilities into a mainstream political directive, positioning it against (and at times within) contemporaneous projects elsewhere, including European fascism. Assessing these thematic treatments collectively, I argue that the Kibbo Kift was an innovative expression of Englishness that embodied a libertarian impulse to ‘decolonise’ the metropole, before turning in on itself and finally fragmenting. This study seeks specifically to interrogate cosmopolitan Englishness—a patriotic sensibility associated with the breakdown of the imperial system and premised on notions of cultural relativism. Many of its proponents have posited it as a means of bridging class, gender and ethnic divisions at home and abroad. This concept elucidates, in the first instance, the logic of Hargrave and his followers in blending professed traditions of colonised and so-called primitive peoples with those of England’s pre-imperial past. They domesticated these elements in various ways, thereby conveying a compelling response to Britain’s perceived decline following the Great War of 1914-1918. Concurrently, the Kindred’s utopian proposals, which resonated most profoundly with the literary and artistic intelligentsia, former Suffragists and European youth movements, alluded to an alien, totalitarian quality that became more pronounced, distorted and inhibiting as the group ventured into British mass politics in the guise of the Social Credit Party. It was not merely political extremism and violence that limited the SCP’s success, however. This thesis attributes the decline of the movement to tensions inherent to its cultural politics—between intellectualism and activism, and cosmopolitanism and Englishness.
Supervisor: Collins, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available