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'Ambulant amateurs': the rise and fade of the Anglo-German Fellowship

Citation: Spicer, Charles (2018) 'Ambulant amateurs': the rise and fade of the Anglo-German Fellowship. Doctoral thesis, University of London School of Advanced Study.

FINAL_Ambulant Amateurs Charles Spicer IHR Ph D thesis August 2018.pdf

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This thesis chronicles the fortunes of the Anglo-German Fellowship, the British society founded in 1935 that advocated friendship with Hitler’s Germany up to its suspension in October 1939 following the outbreak of war. Drawing on newly discovered and previously overlooked primary sources, thematic and chronological methods are combined to explore how the Fellowship’s leaders played a bigger role in the diplomatic crises of the late 1930s than previously acknowledged. Supported by its sister organisation in Germany, the Fellowship attracted support from British royal, political, diplomatic, aristocratic, business, financial, military, sporting and intelligence elites with its membership reaching nine hundred by 1938. Funded by business and financial interests and patronised by Anglo-German royalty, it was influenced by the German high command, welcomed by elements of the British establishment and infiltrated by British, German, Russian and Jewish intelligence agents. To the extent it has been covered in the secondary literature, those assessing the Fellowship have classed it alongside the nasty, the eccentric and the irrelevant within ‘the Fellow Travellers of the Right’ tradition. This thesis challenges those stereotypes, arguing that it has been consequently misinterpreted and underestimated both by scholars and in popular culture over the last eighty years. Using primary sources to build an objective prosopography of its membership, evidence is offered that the Fellowship was more than a fringe pressure group and dining club and achieved international credibility as a lobbying body, diplomatic intermediary and intelligence-gathering tool. Having surveyed the heritage of earlier transnational friendship societies, this thesis examines the business and economic motives, on both sides of the North Sea, in founding the Fellowship, before charting how it then recruited support from across the political spectrum. Arranging landmark meetings between British politicians and the National Socialist leadership, it proved itself as a conduit for diplomatic dialogue with Germany. The central chapters probe the prosopography to highlight the Fellowship’s penetration of the British Establishment before lifting the lid of respectability to measure the extent to which it harboured pro-fascist and anti-Semitic enthusiasts for Hitler’s Germany. As the narrative moves into the final three years before war, two chapters explore how the Fellowship accessed the central political and diplomatic bodies in both countries including Downing Street, the houses of parliament, British political parties, Hitler’s Chancellery, the NSDAP, both foreign ministries and their embassies while simultaneously establishing dialogue with those opposing Hitler’s regime and challenging the wisdom of appeasement. Finally, the organisation’s legacy is examined to ask whether, by developing a different flavour of appeasement to Chamberlain’s, it offered a real alternative to war and whether this contributes to the continuing discourse surrounding inter-war appeasement.

Creators: Spicer, Charles and
Subjects: History
Keywords: Anglo-German Fellowship, appeasement, Germany, Britain, prosopography, National Socialists, NSDAP, fascist, anti-Semitic, Hitler
Divisions: Institute of Historical Research
Collections: Thesis
Theses and Dissertations
Dates:
  • 1 August 2018 (submitted)
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