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The British Labour Party, penal politics and the Soviet Union, 1880-1939

Hodgson, M. (2018) The British Labour Party, penal politics and the Soviet Union, 1880-1939. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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This thesis presents a critical examination of the British Labour Party’s approach to the issues of crime, punishment and penal reform in the inter-war years. Specifically, the study examines the development of Labour’s penal politics in relation to the ‘socialist’ exemplar of the Soviet Union. At present, little is known about the attitudes of the Labour Party to penal politics and its relation to socialism prior to the Second World War. Through a series of inter-related themes and enquiries that engage with the contemporary inter-cultural, transnational, political and economic conditions, an analysis of the Labour Party’s approach to criminality provides an opportunity for a re-evaluation of British socialism, Labour policy and the party’s relationship with the Soviet Union from a novel perspective. The thesis presents three principal arguments. First, in contesting the limited historiography that has been established on British socialism and criminality, it argues that the Labour Party failed throughout the inter-war period to develop a cohesive and unified approach to penal politics. Secondly, the thesis presents a re-assessment of the relationship between the Labour Party and the Soviet Union. In its analysis of British admiration for the developing Soviet penal system and the extent to which the labour movement was willing to indulge or tolerate ostensibly ‘communist’ ideas, it is argued that a focus on crime highlights in new ways how the Soviet Union influenced the Labour Party’s ideological development. Finally, it is contended that the themes of criminality and the Soviet Union together provide a window through which to examine the type of socialism to which the labour movement aspired, and the extent to which this changed over time.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Worley, M. and Thorpe, A.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Humanities
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:79979
Date on Title Page:2017

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