Nesta Webster

Nesta Webster

Nesta Bevan was the daughter of Robert Bevan, a successful businessman. She was educated at Westfield College and later married Captain Arthur Webster, the Superintendent of the English Police in India. Nesta Webster took an interest in history and several of her articles appeared in the Morning Post. These articles impressed Lord Kitchener who described her as the country's "foremost opponent of subversion".

In 1919 Webster published The French Revolution: a Study in Democracy. In the book she claimed that the Jews had prepared and carried out the French Revolution. Winston Churchill was convinced by this theory and in 1920 wrote: "This conspiracy against civilization dates from the days of Weishaupt ... as a modern historian Mrs Webster has so ably shown, it played a recognisable role on the French Revolution."

However the book was poorly received by the critics and she claimed that this was part of a conspiracy against her by left-wing forces. In her autobiography, Spacious Days, she argued that there was an "attempt to boycott my books in those quarters where the plan of world revolution was secretly entertained."

Webster also published World Revolutions: The Plot Against Civilisation (1922), Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (1924), The Need for Fascism in Great Britain (1926) and The Origin and Progress of the World Revolution (1932). In her books she argued that Bolshevism was a Jewish plot to take over the world.

Webster became involved in several right-wing groups including the British Fascists, The Link, and the British Union of Fascists. She was also the leading writer of the anti-Semitic The Patriot. In the journal she supported the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. In April 1933 she wrote: "those of us in England who have been subjected for years to a real boycott, organized by Jews can hardly be expected to shed tears over the turning of the tables."

In 1938 Webster published Germany and England. In this book she developed the argument that Adolf Hitler had successfully halted the Jewish attempt to control the world. However, her support for Hitler came to an end with the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

Webster's books and articles played an important role in the development of racist views in Britain and the United States. It is said that her work is still read by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society.

Primary Sources

(1) Nesta Webster, Germany and England (1938)

Ever since the war the Jewish power has been growing ... It was this which up to 1933 tried to turn us against France and since then against Germany ... As long as the Jews do not hold Germany they can never realise their final aim - world domination. Therefore, Hitler must be overthrown and the Jewish power restored. It is idle to say that this vast ambition has been falsely attributed to the Jewish race. The dream of a Messianic era when they shall rule the world runs all through their "sacred" writings.

(2) Roger Sandell, The World of Conspiracy Theories (1980)

One of the major disseminators of conspiracy theory in this era, and a great influence on later theorizing, was Nesta H. Webster, author of World Revolution; the Plot Against Civilisation and Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, published in the 1920s. In these books the themes of previous conspiracy theorists are put together in an extraordinary synthesis. The ultimate origin of twentieth-century revolutionary movements is alleged to be a mediaeval sect of fanatical Moslems known as the Order of Assassins. The Assassins succeeded in subverting the crusading Knights Templar who brought their ideas back to Europe, where they formed the basis of Freemasonry. The Masons and Weishaupt's Illuminati had led the French and Bolshevik revolutions. Socialists, the IRA and other radical movements were controlled by the same Satanic conspirators, together with their more recent allies the Zionists and the German General Staff.

(3) Roger Sandell, review in Magonia of Richard Gilman's book, Behind World Revolution: The Strange Career of Nesta H. Webster (1983)

One of the few recent writers on the subject to attempt to do more is Richard Gilman, the author of Behind World Revolution: The Strange Career of Nesta H. Webster. The subject of this biography is the English writer who, in the 1920s, propounded the idea that the real force behind the Russian Revolution was a conspiracy of Satanists, occultists and Freemasons dating back to the medieval Knights Templar. Mr Gilman shows in interesting detail how such ideas were widely taken seriously at the time and documents Nesta Webster's later career as an apologist for Hitler and her influence on later Fascist groupings such as the National Front.

A particularly interesting aspect of this book is the section that describes how Nesta Webster first became interested in conspiracy theory on a visit to Paris where she underwent a mystical experience that convinced her that she was the reincarnation of a French countess who had been a victim of the French Revolution, which she saw as being the work of the same occult forces as involved in the Russian Revolution. This is an interesting example of the point made earlier in Magonia that some believers in conspiracy have a super-historical perspective in which they see themselves as fighters against some eternal principle of evil, the reality of which is sometimes conveyed to them in a visionary experience.

(4) Robin Ramsay, Tragedy and Hope, Variant 10 (Spring 2000)

In the mid 1960s the most important of the American conspiracy theory groups of the time, the John Birch Society, discovered the 1920s writing of a dead English writer called Nesta Webster. Webster had been quite widely read in Britain just after WW1 and she claimed to detect behind both French and Russian Revolutions the presence of an 18th century Masonic lodge called the Illuminati. On finding Webster, the Birchers looked as though they were about to move from being the most fervent exponents of the Great Communist Conspiracy Theory - Birch leader Robert Welch famously called President Eisenhower a ‘conscious agent of international communism’.