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‘Partly made politicians’: The youth wings of the British political parties, 1918-1939

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date7/12/2020
Number of pages254
Awarding Institution
Award date7/12/2020
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis is a comprehensive study of the youth wings of the major political parties between the wars. It examines the Conservative Party’s Junior Imperial League, the Labour Party’s League of Youth, the Liberal Party’s National League of Young Liberals, and the Communist Party of Great Britain’s Young Communist League. This thesis makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how the 1918 and 1928 Franchise Acts changed British political culture, and how young people were inducted into the British political system.
The central premise of this thesis is that it is only by looking at these groups comparatively that we can get the full story of politicised youth. It will argue that, while their primary purpose was to recruit activists and party workers, these organisations were far more than insular, narrow interest groups. Rather than operating in isolation, these organisations learned from one another, adapted and reacted to each other’s activities, and actively sought to cast their recruiting nets as wide as possible to counter each other’s influence.
Whereas studies of the class and gender dynamics of interwar politics abound, this thesis brings youth to the forefront of its examination of political culture between the wars. This thesis uses youth as a new lens through which to explore the themes of citizenship, the relationship between people and politicians, the blurring of the boundaries between public and private lives, and how mass democracy changed the practice of politics. By looking at youth in this way, this thesis paints a picture of a political culture which sought to integrate as many people as possible.