British fascism and perceptions of Australia


Despite the centrality of the British Union of Fascists’ pro-imperialism, there has been little written on the BUF and its imperial policy (possibly with exception to the party’s attitude towards India). The attitude of the BUF towards the Dominions (in particular Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia) has not been explored in any detail by scholars. On the subject of Australian fascism and paramilitarism in the inter-war period, there have been several studies which analyse the influence of the BUF upon Australian fascist groups, most prominently the New Guard (see the Australian/British intelligence files on the BUF’s supposed influence in Australia here). But there is an absence of studies that look at how the BUF perceived Australia and its place within the British Empire.

After our university recently had a trial subscription to a historical newspaper database that included BlackshirtFascist Weekly and Action (the three weekly papers of the BUF), I became interested in how Australia (and to a lesser extent, the other Dominions) was portrayed in the BUF press. I was able to print off a lot of material, but after coming back from South Africa, I have not had the chance to go through the stuff downloaded.

I was especially interested in seeing whether the BUF had any commentary on the ‘White Australia Policy’ which was in effect during the inter-war period. In Australia, proponents of the ‘WAP’ argued that outposts of the British Empire, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, were preserving the ‘white race’ – even improving it by ‘flourishing’ within the new hostile environments. I am keen to see whether the BUF, with its pre-occupation with empire and ‘the British race’, held similar views. Although stuff keeps getting in the way, I hope to have perused the BUF material I downloaded before I leave for the UK in mid-June.

While I have been able to access the weekly papers of the BUF, the organisation’s ‘theoretical’ journals, Fascist Quarterly and British Union Quarterly, are not available in Australia. They are available in several UK libraries and I hope to have a browse of them while in the UK – they are at the British Library, LSE and Cambridge, for example, if anyone wants to have a quick gander for me! I am also half thinking about visiting the BUF archive at the University of Sheffield, but a look through their catalogue doesn’t promise much on the topic of Australia. Has anyone been through the BUF papers (and remember stuff about Australia and the other Dominions)?

This project is very much in the early stages, so any suggestions, comments or criticisms would be most welcome.



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