H. N. Brailsford

H. N. Brailsford

Henry Noel Brailsford (1873 - 1958) was the most prolific British left-wing journalist of the first half of the 20th century.

The son of a Methodist preacher, he was born in Yorkshire and educated in Scotland, at the High School of Dundee. He abandoned an academic career to become a journalist, rising to prominence in the 1890s as a foreign correspondent for the "Manchester Guardian", specialising in the Balkans, France and Egypt.

In 1899 he moved to London, working for the "Morning Leader" and then the "Daily News". He led a British relief mission to Macedonia in 1903, publishing a book, "Macedonia. Its Races and Their Future", on his return.

In 1907 he was convicted of conspiring to obtain a British passport in the name of one person for another person to travel to Russia. [Brailsford's appeal is reported in the Law Reports of the Court of Kings Bench as "R v Brailsford" [1905] 2 KB 730]

Brailsford joined the Independent Labour Party in 1907 and resigned from the "Daily News" in 1909 when it supported force-feeding of suffragette prisoners. Over the next decade he wrote several books, among them "Adventures in Prose" (1911), "Shelley, Godwin and his Circle" (1913), "War of Steel and Gold" (1914), "Origins of the Great War" (1914), "Belgium and the Scrap of Paper" (1915) and "A League of Nations" (1917).

In 1913-14 Brailsford was a member of the international commission sent by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to investigate the conduct of the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. He co-authored its report.

He was a prominent member of the Union of Democratic Control during the first world war and stood unsuccessfully as a Labour candidate in the 1918 general election. He subsequently toured central Europe and his graphic accounts of life in the defeated countries appeared in his books "Across the Blockade" (1919) and "After the Peace" (1920).

Brailsford went to Soviet Russia in 1920 and again to the USSR in 1926, publishing two books on the subject. He was editor of the "New Leader", the ILP newspaper, from 1922 to 1926. He left the ILP in 1932 and through the 1930s was a regular contributor to "Reynolds News" and the "New Statesman".

His books in the 1930s include the anti-colonialist classic "Rebel India" (1931) and the anti-militarist "Property or Peace?" (1934). In the late 1930s, he was one of the few writers associated with the Left Book Club, the New Statesman and Tribune who was consistently critical of the Soviet show trials.

Brailsford continued to write books during the second world war, the most important being "Subject India" (1943) and "Our Settlement with Germany" (1944). After his retirement from journalism in 1946, he wrote a history of the Levellers, which was unfinished at the time of his death.


*F. M. Leventhal, "The Last Dissenter: H. N. Brailsford and His Times" (OUP, 1985) is an excellent biography.

Online books

* [http://www.promacedonia.org/en/hb/index.html Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future (1906)]
* [http://www.promacedonia.org/en/carnegie/index.html Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars (1914)]
* [http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/comment/Brailsford/APTC.htm The War of Steel and Gold: A Study of the Armed Peace (1918)]
* [http://www.marxists.org/history/archive/brailsford/1927/soviets-work/index.htm How the Soviets Work (1927)]
* [http://www.federalunion.org.uk/archives/brailsford.shtml The Federal Idea (Federal Union, 1940)]


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