Spartacus Blog

The History of Freedom Speech in the UK

Tuesday, 25th September, 2018

John Simkin

The first legislation against freedom of speech dates back to the Statute of Westminster in 1275, when the divine right of the King was established. It was drafted by the Lord Chancellor, Bishop Robert Burnell and passed during the reign of King Edward I in 1275. A seditious libel was defined as a statement
which brings into “hatred or contempt” the Monarch, her heirs, the Government or its officials. "Seditious libel (criticism of the government) was closely linked to blasphemous libel (criticism of religion), since church and state were interchangeable at the time." (1)

In 1351 an additional law was passed to restrict the right to criticise those in power. The Treason Act distinguished two varieties of treason: high treason and petty treason, the first being disloyalty to the Sovereign, and the second being disloyalty to a subject. The consequence of being convicted: for a high treason, the penalty was death by hanging, drawing and quartering (for a man) or drawing and burning (for a woman), and the traitor's property would be given to the Crown. The forfeiture provisions were repealed by the Forfeiture Act 1870, and the penalty was reduced to life imprisonment by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. (2)

John Wycliffe, the curate of Ludgershall in Wiltshire was the first person to really question this law. Wycliffe antagonized the orthodox Church by disputing transubstantiation, the doctrine that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ. Wycliffe developed a strong following and those who shared his beliefs became known as Lollards. They got their name from the word "lollen", which signifies to sing with a low voice. The term was applied to heretics because they were said to communicate their views in a low muttering voice. (3)

As one of the historians of this period of history, John Foxe, has pointed out: "Wycliffe, seeing Christ's gospel defiled by the errors and inventions of these bishops and monks, decided to do whatever he could to remedy the situation and teach people the truth. He took great pains to publicly declare that his only intention was to relieve the church of its idolatry, especially that concerning the sacrament of communion. This, of course, aroused the anger of the country's monks and friars, whose orders had grown wealthy through the sale of their ceremonies and from being paid for doing their duties. Soon their priests and bishops took up the outcry." (4)

John Wycliffe and his followers began translating the Bible into English. Henry Knighton, the canon of St Mary's Abbey, Leicester, reported disapprovingly: "Christ delivered his gospel to the clergy and doctors of the church, that they might administer it to the laity and to weaker persons, according to the states of the times and the wants of men. But this Master John Wycliffe translated it out of Latin into English, and thus laid it out more open to the laity, and to women, who could read, than it had formerly been to the most learned of the clergy, even to those of them who had the best understanding. In this way the gospel-pearl is cast abroad, and trodden under foot of swine, and that which was before precious both to clergy and laity, is rendered, as it were, the common jest of both. The jewel of the church is turned into the sport of the people, and what had hitherto been the choice gift of the clergy and of divines, is made for ever common to the laity." (5)

John Wycliffe
John Wycliffe

In September 1376, Wycliffe was summoned from Oxford by John of Gaunt to appear before the king's council. He was warned about his behaviour. Thomas Walsingham, a Benedictine monk at St Albans Abbey, reported that on 19th February, 1377, Wycliffe was told to appear before Archbishop Simon Sudbury and charged with seditious preaching. Anne Hudson has argued: "Wycliffe's teaching at this point seems to have offended on three matters: that the pope's excommunication was invalid, and that any priest, if he had power, could pronounce release as well as the pope; that kings and lords cannot grant anything perpetually to the church, since the lay powers can deprive erring clerics of their temporalities; that temporal lords in need could legitimately remove the wealth of possessioners." On 22nd May 1377, Pope Gregory XI issued five bulls condemning the views of John Wycliffe. (6)

John Wycliffe tried to employ the Christian vision of justice to achieve social change: "It was through the teachings of Christ that men sought to change society, very often against the official priests and bishops in their wealth and pride, and the coercive powers of the Church itself." (7) Barbara Tuchman has claimed that John Wycliffe was the first "modern man". She goes on to argue: "Seen through the telescope of history, he (Wycliffe) was the most significant Englishman of his time." (8)

John Ball and the Peasants' Revolt

King Edward III had problems fighting what became known as the Hundred Years War. He achieved early victories at Crécy and Poitiers, but by 1370 the French won a succession of battles and were able to raid and loot towns on the south coast. Fighting the war was very expensive and in February 1377 the government introduced a poll-tax where four pence was to be taken from every man and woman over the age of fourteen. "This was a huge shock: taxation had never before been universal, and four pence was the equivalent of three days' labour to simple farmhands at the rates set in the Statute of Labourers". (9)

King Edward died soon afterwards. His ten-year-old grandson, Richard II, was crowned in July 1377. John of Gaunt, Richard's uncle, took over much of the responsibility of government. He was closely associated with the new poll-tax and this made him very unpopular with the people. They were very angry as they considered the tax unfair as the poor had to pay the same tax as the wealthy. Despite this, the collectors of the tax seem not to have had to face more than an occasional, local disturbance. (10)

In 1379 Richard II called a parliament to raise money to pay for the continuing war against the French. After much debate it was decided to impose another poll tax. This time it was to be a graduated tax, which meant that the richer you were, the more tax you paid. For example, the Duke of Lancaster and the Archbishop of Canterbury had to pay £6.13s.4d., the Bishop of London, 80 shillings, wealthy merchants, 20 shillings, but peasants were only charged 4d.

The proceeds of this tax was quickly spent on the war or absorbed by corruption. In 1380, Simon Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury, suggested a new poll tax of three groats (one shilling) per head over the age of fifteen. "There was a maximum payment of twenty shillings from men whose families and households numbered more than twenty, thus ensuring that the rich paid less than the poor. A shilling was a considerable sum for a working man, almost a week's wages. A family might include old persons past work and other dependents, and the head of the family became liable for one shilling on each of their 'polls'. This was basically a tax on the labouring classes." (11)

The peasants felt it was unfair that they should pay the same as the rich. They also did not feel that the tax was offering them any benefits. For example, the English government seemed to be unable to protect people living on the south coast from French raiders. Most peasants at this time only had an income of about one groat per week. This was especially a problem for large families. For many, the only way they could pay the tax was by selling their possessions. John Wycliffe gave a sermon where he argued: "Lords do wrong to poor men by unreasonable taxes... and they perish from hunger and thirst and cold, and their children also. And in this manner the lords eat and drink poor men's flesh and blood." (12)

John Ball toured Kent giving sermons attacking the poll tax. When the Archbishop of Canterbury, heard about this he gave orders that Ball should not be allowed to preach in church. Ball responded by giving talks on village greens. The Archbishop now gave instructions that all people found listening to Ball's sermons should be punished. When this failed to work, Ball was arrested and in April 1381 he was sent to Maidstone Prison. (13) At his trial it was claimed that Ball told the court he would be "released by twenty thousand armed men". (14)

Many peasants decided that it was time to support the ideas proposed by John Ball and his followers. It was not long before Wat Tyler, a former soldier in the Hundred Years War, emerged as the leader of the peasants. Tyler's first decision was to march to Maidstone to free John Ball from prison. "John Ball had been set free and was safe among the commons of Kent, and he was bursting to pour out the passionate words which had been bottled up for three months, words which were exactly what his audience wanted to hear." (15)

Charles Poulsen, the author of The English Rebels (1984) has pointed out that it was very important for the peasants to be led by a religious figure: "For some twenty years he had wandered the country as a kind of Christian agitator, denouncing the rich and their exploitation of the poor, calling for social justice and freeman and a society based on fraternity and the equality of all people." John Ball was needed as their leader because alone of the rebels, he had access to the word of God. "John Ball quickly assumed his place as the theoretician of the rising and its spiritual father. Whatever the masses thought of the temporal Church, they all considered themselves to be good Catholics." (16)

John Wycliffe

The death of Wat Tyler from Jean Froissart, Chronicles (c. 1470)

After the failure of the Peasants' Revolt the king's officials were instructed to look out for John Ball. He was eventually caught in Coventry. He was taken to St Albans to stand trial. "He denied nothing, he freely admitted all the charges without regrets or apologies. He was proud to stand before them and testify to his revolutionary faith." He was sentenced to death, but William Courtenay, the Bishop of London, granted a two-day stay of execution in the hope that he could persuade Ball to repent of his treason and so save his soul. John Ball refused and he was hanged, drawn and quartered on 15th July, 1381. (17)

The English Bible

John Ball and John Wycliffe had both campaigned for the freedom to publish an English Bible. William Tyndale, a young priest, began work on an English translation of the New Testament in 1515. This was a very dangerous activity for ever since 1408 to translate anything from the Bible into English was a capital offence. In 1523 he travelled to London for a meeting with Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of London. Tunstall refused to support Tyndale in this venture but did not organize his persecution. Tyndale later wrote that he now realized that "to translate the New Testament… there was no place in all England" and left for Germany in April 1524. (18)

Tyndale argued: "All the prophets wrote in the mother tongue... Why then might they (the scriptures) not be written in the mother tongue... They say, the scripture is so hard, that thou could never understand it... They will say it cannot be translated into our tongue... they are false liars." In Cologne he translated the New Testament into English and it was printed by Protestant supporters in Worms in 1526. (19)

Tyndale's Bible was heavily influenced by the writings of Martin Luther. This is reflected in the way he altered the meaning of certain important concepts. "Congregation" was employed instead of "church", and "senior" instead of "priest", "penance", "charity", "grace" and "confession" were also silently removed. (20)

Melvyn Bragg has pointed out. Tyndale "loaded our speech with more everyday phrases than any other writer before or since". This included “under the sun”, “signs of the times”, “let there be light”, “my brother’s keeper”, “lick the dust”, “fall flat on his face”, “the land of the living”, “pour out one’s heart”, “the apple of his eye”, “fleshpots”, “go the extra mile” and “the parting of the ways”. Bragg adds: "Tyndale deliberately set out to write a Bible which would be accessible to everyone. To make this completely clear, he used monosyllables, frequently, and in such a dynamic way that they became the drumbeat of English prose." (21)

William Tyndale arranged for these Bibles to be smuggled into England. Tyndale declared that he hoped to make every ploughboy as knowledgeable in Scripture as the most learned priest. The Bibles were often hidden in bales of straw. Most English people could not read or write, but some of them could, and they read it out aloud to their friends at secret Protestant meetings. They discovered that Catholic priests had taught them doctrines which were not in the Bible. During the next few years 18,000 copies of this bible were printed and smuggled into England.

Jasper Ridley has argued that the Tyndale Bible created a revolution in religious belief: "The people who red Tyndale's Bible could discover that although Christ had appointed St Peter to be head of his Church, there was nothing in the Bible which said that the Bishops of Rome were St Peter's successors and that Peter's authority over the Church had passed to the Popes... The Bible stated that God had ordered the people not to worship graven images, the images and pictures of the saints, and the station of the cross, should not be placed in churches and along the highways... Since the days of Pope Gregory VII in the eleventh century the Catholic Church had enforced the rule that priests should not marry but should remain apart from the people as a special celibrate caste... The Protestants, finding a text in the Bible that a bishop should be the husband of one wife, believed that all priests should be allowed to marry." (22)

John Foxe tells the story of how Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of London, arranged with Augustine Packingham, an English merchant who secretly supported Tyndale, to buy every copy of the translation's next edition. As a result, 6,000 copies were burnt of the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. (23) Thomas More targeted Tyndale's friends. Richard Byfield, a monk accused of reading Tyndale, was one who died a graphically horrible death as described in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. More stamped on his ashes and cursed him." (24) John Frith, who had had helped Tyndale with his translation, was also captured by More and suffered a slow death at Smithfield. (25)

William Tyndale
Portrait of William Tyndale that appeared in the first publication of his English Bible

William Tyndale published The Obedience of a Christian Man in 1528. This was Tyndale's most influential book outside his Bible translations. His biographer, David Daniell, argued: "Tyndale wrote to declare for the first time the two fundamental principles of the English reformers: the supreme authority of scripture in the church, and the supreme authority of the king in the state. Tyndale makes many pages of his book out of scripture, and he is scalding about the corruptions and superstitions in the church. His arguments are carefully developed, and his experiences of ordinary life are wide-ranging. Contrasted with the New Testament church and faith, he describes the sufferings of the people at the hands, especially, of monks and friars, though the whole intrusive hierarchy, as he sees it, from the pope down." (26)

Henry VIII was impressed with Tyndale's book. He especially liked the passage where he argued: "God in all lands hath put Kings, governors and rulers in his stead to rule the world through them. Whosoever therefore resisteth them resisted God... and shall be damned." In medieval society, the King and the Pope were the two dominating authorities. Tyndale's critics have pointed out that he wrote this book to he was attempting to form an alliance with Henry in his fight with Pope Clement VII. (27)

Tyndale now began to work on the Old Testament. He was helped in this venture by Miles Coverdale and John Frith. He lived in Antwerp as a guest of Thomas Poyntz, an English merchant. In 1534 Tyndale was joined by John Rogers who was another talented translator. (28) The continued export of Tyndale's Bibles into England upset conservatives such as Lord Chancellor Thomas More who insisted that anyone who read and distributed the Bible should suffer a "painful death". (29)

In 1530 Henry VIII gave orders that all English Bibles were to be destroyed. People caught distributing the Tyndale Bible in England were burnt at the stake. This attempt to destroy Tyndale's Bible was very successful as only two copies have survived. Lacey Baldwin Smith has accused William Tyndale of sharing More's paranoia: "More and his chief polemical rival, William Tyndale, did not hesitate to indulge in paranoid hyperbole. A conspiratorial approach to human affairs was just as central to Tyndale's thinking as it was to More's... Catholic or Protestant, conservative or reformer, each side depicted the opposition as a small band of evil men and women dressed in the cloak of conspiracy and carrying the dagger of sedition." (30)

William Tyndale was visited secretly in 1531 by Thomas Cromwell's emissary, Stephen Vaughan, who invited him to return to England. "One evening in April 1531 Vaughan met Tyndale in a field outside Antwerp, and afterward wrote to Cromwell a long account of their conversation. Tyndale declared his strong loyalty to the king: he lived in constant poverty and danger to bring the New Testament to the king's subjects. Did the king, Tyndale asked, fear those subjects more than the clergy? Vaughan met Tyndale again in May. Tyndale movingly sent his promise that if the king would grant his people a bare text (of the scriptures, in their language), as even the emperor and other Christian princes had done, whoever made it, then he would write no more and submit himself at the feet of his royal majesty. A third meeting had the same result. Vaughan wrote twice again to Cromwell on Tyndale's behalf, with no effect." (31)

Tyndale feared that he would be arrested if he returned to England. He told Vaughan that he would definitely not be returning while Sir Thomas More was in power. Another reason Tyndale did not return was that he was aware that it would not be long before he was in conflict with the King over the issue of his desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Tyndale told Vaughan that he could "not in conscience promote Henry's matrimonial cause". (32)

Lord Chancellor More sent a close friend, Sir Thomas Elyot, to try to arrange the arrest of Tyndale. This ended in failure and the next person to try was Henry Phillips. He had gambled away money entrusted to him by his father to give to someone in London, and had fled abroad. Phillips offered his services to help capture Tyndale. After befriending Tyndale he led him into a trap on 21st May, 1535. (33) Tyndale was taken at once to Pierre Dufief, the Procurer-General, who immediately raided Poyntz's house and took away all Tyndale's property, including his books and papers. Luckily, his work on the Old Testament was being kept by John Rogers. Tyndale was taken to Vilvorde Castle, outside Brussels, where he was kept for the next sixteen months. (34)

Pierre Dufief had a reputation for hunting down heretics. He was motivated by the fact he was given a proportion of the confiscated property of his victims, and a large fee. Tyndale was tried by seventeen commissioners, led by three chief accusers. At their head was the greatest heresy-hunter in Europe, Jacobus Latomus, from the new Catholic University of Louvain, a long-time opponent of Erasmus as well as of Martin Luther. Tyndale conducted his own defence. He was found guilty but he was not burnt alive, as a mark of his distinction as a scholar, on 6th October, 1536, he was strangled first, and then his body was burnt. John Foxe reports that his last words were "Lord, open the king of England's eyes!" (35)

The death of William Tyndale (1563)
The death of William Tyndale (1563)

William Tyndale's main enemy, Sir Thomas More, was executed on 6th July, 1535. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell, were now the key political figures in England. They wanted the Bible to be available in English. This was a controversial issue as William Tyndale had been denounced as a heretic and ordered to be burnt at the stake by Henry VIII eleven years before, for producing such a Bible. The edition they promoted, although mainly the work of Tyndale, had the name of Miles Coverdale on the cover. Cranmer approved the Coverdale version on 4th August 1538, and asked Cromwell to present it to the king in the hope of securing royal authority for it to be available in England. (36)

Henry agreed to the proposal on 30th September, 1538. Every parish had to purchase and display a copy of the Coverdale Bible in the nave of their church for everybody who was literate to read it. "The clergy was expressly forbidden to inhibit access to these scriptures, and were enjoined to encourage all those who could do so to study them." (37) Cranmer was delighted and wrote to Cromwell praising his efforts and claiming that "besides God's reward, you shall obtain perpetual memory for the same within the realm." (38)

John Lilburne

The next hero in the fight for freedom of speech was John Lilburne. In 1630 he was apprenticed to the puritan Thomas Hewson, a wholesale clothier in Candlewick. He took a keen interest in religion and was deeply influenced by the writings of John Foxe. In 1637 he met John Bastwick, a Puritan preacher who had just had his ears cut off for writing a pamphlet attacking the religious views of the William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury. (39)

Lilburne offered to help Bastwick in his struggle with the Anglican Church. Bastwick, impressed by Lilburne's energy and intellect (though not by his lack of wealth and his country manners), instructed him in points of religious controversy and in matters of deportment, so as to make him "fit for all Gentlemans and Noble-men's society". (40)

Eventually it was agreed that Lilburne should go to the Netherlands to organise the printing of a book that Bastwick had written. In December 1637 Lilburne was arrested and charged with printing and circulating unlicensed books. He was given the opportunity to defend himself, first to the chief clerk of the attorney-general, then to the attorney-general, Sir John Bankes, and finally to the infamous prerogative court, the Star Chamber. (41)

John Lilburne refused to answer his examiner's questions. Henry N. Brailsford has pointed out: "Lilburne's chief purpose when he defied the Star Chamber was to establish a basic civil right - the right of an accused person to refuse to incriminate himself... The purpose of these courts was to secure a conviction by extracting a confession, rather than building up a case against him on the evidence of others. Wherever confession is regarded as the ideal form of proof which every officer of justice is bent on achieving, not all of them resist the temptation to use illegitimate forms of pressure, ranging from bullying and trickery to physical torture." (42)

On 13th February, 1638, he was found guilty and sentenced to be fined £500, whipped, pilloried and imprisoned. The following month he was whipped from Fleet Prison to Old Palace Yard. It is estimated that Lilburne received 500 lashes along the way, making 1,500 stripes to his back during the two-mile walk. An eyewitness account claimed that his badly bruised shoulders "swelled almost as big as a penny loaf" and the wheals on his back were larger than "tobacco-pipes." (43)

When he was placed in the pillory he tried to make a speech praising John Bastwick and was gagged. Lilburne's punishment turned into an anti-government demonstration, with cheering crowds encouraging and supporting him. While in prison Lilburne wrote about his punishments, in his pamphlet, The Work of the Beast (1638). He reported on how he was tied to the back of a cart and whipped with a knotted rope. (44)

In March 1640, Charles I was forced to recall Parliament for the first time in eleven years. Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan member of the House of Commons, made a speech about Lilburne's case. "Cromwell spoke with a great passion, thumping the table before him, the blood rising to the face as he did so. To some he appeared to be magnifying the case beyond all proportion. But to Cromwell this was the essence of what he had come to put right: religious persecution by an arbitrary court." (45)

After a debate on the issue in November, Parliament voted to release him from prison. He was now a famous figure and his portrait was engraved by George Glover. (46) Lilburne's supporters continued to protest about the way he had been treated and on 4th May 1641, Parliament resolved that the Star Chamber sentence against him had been "bloody, wicked, cruel, barbarous, and tyrannical", and voted him monetary reparations. (47) Four months later he married Elizabeth Dewell. (48)

John Lilburne continued to lead the attacks against the monarchy and the established church and on 27th December 1641 he was wounded in the New Palace Yard by musket fire when demonstrating (as he admitted) "with my sword in my hand" against bishops and "popish lords". (49)

On 4th January 1642, Charles I sent his soldiers to arrest John Pym, Arthur Haselrig, John Hampden, Denzil Holles and William Strode. The five men managed to escape before the soldiers arrived. Members of Parliament no longer felt safe from Charles and decided to form their own army. After failing to arrest the Five Members, Charles fled from London and formed a Royalist Army (Cavaliers). His opponents established a Parliamentary Army (Roundheads) and it was the beginning of the English Civil War. The Roundheads immediately took control of London. (50)

Lilburne joined the Parliamentary army. Lilburne fought at Edgehill and at the battle at Brentford, he was the senior officer in charge. "At first the parliamentary troops, finding themselves insufficiently armed, took flight until Lilburne rallied his men with a rousing speech. Every soldier to a man, turned back to fight and they held their position for six hours, allowing the train of artillery to escape, an important military achievement. Many of Lilburne's men were killed, shot by Cavaliers, or drowned by the river Thames while trying to escape". (51)

Lilburne and about 500 of his men were captured on 12th November, 1642. Lilburne was taken to the Royalist headquarters in Oxford. He was charged with treason and "bearing arms against the king". He was due to be tried and executed on 20th December. His wife, Elizabeth Lilburne, who was pregnant at the time, managed to smuggle out a letter addressed to the House of Commons, proposing that they threaten to execute four royalist officers in retaliation, if the sentence was carried out. His suggestion was accepted and after the announcement was made, the Royalists cancelled the trial and in May 1643 Lilburne was exchanged by the royalists for prisoners in parliament's hands. (52) Lilburne wrote that by her "wisdom, patience, diligence" Elizabeth had saved his life. (53)

John Lilburne now joined the army led by the Edward Montagu and took part in the siege of Lincoln. He was a good soldier and in May 1644 was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. On 2nd July, 1644, he fought with distinction at the Battle of Marston Moor. Lilburne left the army on 30th April, 1645, after being told he could not join the New Model Army without taking the Solemn League and Covenant. This was an agreement with the Scots to preserve their Presbyterian religion and to remodel the English religion, in order to gain their military support. (54)

Radicals such as Lilburne were unhappy with the way that the war was being fought. Whereas he hoped the conflict would lead to political change, this was not true of most of the Parliamentary leaders. "The generals themselves members of the titled nobility, were ardently seeking a compromise with the King. They wavered in their prosecution of the war because they feared that a shattering victory over the King would create an irreparable breach in the old order of things that would ultimately be fatal to their own position." (55)

William Prynne, a leading Puritan critic of Charles I, became disillusioned with the increase of religious toleration during the English Civil War. In December, 1644, he published Truth Triumphing, a pamphlet that promoted church discipline. On 7th January, 1645, Lilburne wrote a letter to Prynne complaining about the intolerance of the Presbyterians and arguing for freedom of speech for the Independents. (56)

Lilburne's political activities were reported to Parliament. As a result, he was brought before the Committee of Examinations on 17th May, 1645, and warned about his future behaviour. Prynne and other leading Presbyterians, such as his old friend, John Bastwick, were concerned by Lilburne's radicalism. They joined a plot with Denzil Holles against Lilburne. He was arrested and charged with uttering slander against William Lenthall, the Speaker of the House of Commons. (57)

Elizabeth Lilburne joined her husband in Newgate Prison. She was pregnant at the time and their daughter Elizabeth was born in prison and was baptized, probably against her parents' wishes. Lilburne was released without charge on 14th October, 1645. (58) When they got home they discovered that officials had ransacked their house for seditious writings and had also stolen the childbed linen which was carefully stored there. (59)

John Bradshaw now brought Lilburne's case before the Star Chamber. He pointed out that Lilburne was still waiting for most of the pay he should have received while serving in the Parliamentary army. Lilburne was awarded £2,000 in compensation for his sufferings. However, Parliament refused to pay this money and Lilburne was once again arrested. Brought before the House of Lords Lilburne was sentenced to seven years and fined £4,000.

John Lilburne
John Lilburne

John Lilburne received support from other radicals. In July, 1946, Richard Overton, launched an attack on Parliament: "We are well assured, yet cannot forget, that the cause of our choosing you to be Parliament men, was to deliver us from all kind of Bondage, and to preserve the Commonwealth in Peace and Happiness: For effecting whereof, we possessed you with the same power that was in ourselves, to have done the same; For we might justly have done it ourselves without you, if we had thought it convenient; choosing you (as persons whom we thought qualified, and faithful) for avoiding some inconveniences." (60)

While in Newgate Prison Lilburne used his time studying books on law and writing pamphlets. This included The Free Man's Freedom Vindicated (1647) where he argued that "no man should be punished or persecuted... for preaching or publishing his opinion on religion". He also outlined his political philosophy: "All and every particular and individual man and woman, that ever breathed in the world, are by nature all equal and alike in their power, dignity, authority and majesty, none of them having (by nature) any authority, dominion or magisterial power one over or above another." (61) In another pamphlet, Rash Oaths (1647), he argued: "Every free man of England, poor as well as rich, should have a vote in choosing those that are to make the law." (62)

The authorities became concerned about the circulation of Lilburne's pamphlets. Elizabeth Lilburne was herself arrested and examined by a House of Commons committee for circulating John's books in February 1647. In court she protested about "unjust and unrighteous judges" and was eventually released. As Antonia Fraser, the author of The Weaker Vessel (1984) has pointed out: "It was a perfect example of the weak but protected role of the female at law: Lilburne secured Elizabeth's discharge on the grounds that he, as her husband, must be held responsible for what had happened." (63)

In 1647 people like John Lilburne and Richard Overton were described as Levellers. In September, 1647, William Walwyn, the leader of this group in London, organised a petition demanding reform. Their political programme included: voting rights for all adult males, annual elections, complete religious freedom, an end to the censorship of books and newspapers, the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords, trial by jury, an end to taxation of people earning less than £30 a year and a maximum interest rate of 6%. (64)

The Levellers gained considerable influence in the New Model Army. In October, 1647, the Levellers published An Agreement of the People. As Barbara Bradford Taft has pointed out: "Under 1000 words overall, the substance of the Agreement was common to all Leveller penmen but the lucid phrasing of four concise articles and the eloquence of the preamble and conclusion leave little doubt that the final draft was Walwyn's work. Inflammatory demands were avoided and the first three articles concerned the redistribution of parliamentary seats, dissolution of the present parliament, and biennial elections. The heart of the Leveller programme was the final article, which enumerated five rights beyond the power of parliament: freedom of religion; freedom from conscription; freedom from questions about conduct during the war unless excepted by parliament; equality before the law; just laws, not destructive to the people's well-being." (65)

The document advocated the granting of votes to all adult males except for those receiving wages. The wage-earning class, although perhaps numbering nearly half the population, were regarded as "servants" of the rich and would be under their influence and would vote for their employer's candidates. "Their exclusion from the franchise was thus regarded as necessary to prevent the employers from having undue influence, and there is reason to think that this judgement was correct." (66)

In March, 1649, Lilburne, Overton and Prince, published, England's New Chains Discovered. They attacked the government of Oliver Cromwell pointed out that: "They may talk of freedom, but what freedom indeed is there so long as they stop the Press, which is indeed and hath been so accounted in all free Nations, the most essential part thereof.. What freedom is there left, when honest and worthy Soldiers are sentenced and enforced to ride the horse with their faces reverst, and their swords broken over their heads for but petitioning and presenting a letter in justification of their liberty therein?" (67)

The supporters of the Leveller movement called for the release of Lilburne. This included Britain's first ever all-women petition, that was supported by over 10,000 signatures. This group, led by John's wife, Elizabeth Lilburne, and Katherine Chidley, presented the petition to the House of Commons on 25th April, 1649. (68)

MPs reacted intolerantly, telling the women that "it was not for women to petition; they might stay home and wash their dishes... you are desired to go home, and look after your own business, and meddle with your housewifery". One woman replied: "Sir, we have scarce any dishes left us to wash, and those we have not sure to keep." When another MP said it was strange for women to petition Parliament one replied: "It was strange that you cut off the King's head, yet I suppose you will justify it." (69)

The following month Elizabeth Lilburne produced another petition: "That since we are assured of our creation in the image of God, and of an interest in Christ equal unto men, as also of a proportional share in the freedoms of this commonwealth, we cannot but wonder and grieve that we should appear so despicable in your eyes as to be thought unworthy to petition or represent our grievances to this honourable House. Have we not an equal interest with the men of this nation in those liberties and securities contained in the Petition of Right, and other the good laws of the land? Are any of our lives, limbs, liberties, or goods to be taken from us more than from men, but by due process of law and conviction of twelve sworn men of the neighbourhood? Would you have us keep at home in our houses, when men of such faithfulness and integrity as the four prisoners, our friends in the Tower, are fetched out of their beds and forced from their houses by soldiers, to the affrighting and undoing of themselves, their wives, children, and families?" (70)

In 1649 Elizabeth Lilburne and her three children all became dangerously ill with smallpox. Their two sons died but Elizabeth and her daughter recovered. In all some ten children were born during the Lilburnes' marriage, of whom only three reached adulthood. (71)

On 24th October, 1649, Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburne was charged with high treason. The trial began the following day. The prosecution read out extracts from Lilburne's pamphlets but the jury was not convinced and he was found not guilty. There were great celebrations outside the court and his acquittal was marked with bonfires. A medal was struck in his honour, inscribed with the words: "John Lilburne saved by the power of the Lord and the integrity of the jury who are judge of law as well of fact". On 8th November, all four men were released. (72)

For a time Lilburne withdrew from politics and made a living as a soap-boiler. However, in 1650 he joined with John Wildman in acting for the tenants of the manor of Epworth on the Isle of Axholme, who had a long-standing claim as fenmen to common lands. His enemies have characterized the episode as part of an attempt by him to spread Leveller doctrines. He was arrested and sent into exile. When he attempted to return in June, 1653, he was arrested and sent to Newgate Prison. (73)

Although once again he was found not guilty of treason. Cromwell refused to release him. On 16th March, 1654, Lilburne was transferred to Elizabeth Castle, Guernsey. Colonel Robert Gibbon, the governor of the island, later complained that Lilburne gave him more trouble than "ten cavaliers". In October, 1655, he was moved to Dover Castle. While he was in prison Lilburne continued writing pamphlets including one that explained why he had joined the Quakers.

In 1656 Cromwell agreed to release John Lilburne. However, his years of struggle with the government had worn him out and on 29th August, 1657, at the age of 43, he died at his home at Eltham.

Tom Paine

In the 18th century the main struggle over freedom of speech concerned the issue of parliamentary reform. Tom Paine, the son of a Quaker corset maker, and a former excise officer from Lewes, believed that the system could be changed by political action. In 1777 he published Common Sense, a pamphlet that supported the American War of Independence. "The theme of the pamphlet was simple. Government by kings was indefensible. Government by kings from a foreign country was worse. Both had to be overthrown and replaced by representative parliaments." (74)

Paine continued to write on political issues and in 1791 published his most influential work, The Rights of Man. In the book Paine attacked hereditary government and argued for equal political rights. Paine suggested that all men over twenty-one in Britain should be given the vote and this would result in a House of Commons willing to pass laws favourable to the majority. "The whole system of representation is now, in this country, only a convenient handle for despotism, they need not complain, for they are as well represented as a numerous class of hard-working mechanics, who pay for the support of royalty when they can scarcely stop their children's mouths with bread." (75)

The book also recommended progressive taxation, family allowances, old age pensions, maternity grants and the abolition of the House of Lords. Paine also argued that a reformed Parliament would reduce the possibility of going to war. "Whatever is the cause of taxes to a Nation becomes also the means of revenue to a Government. Every war terminates with an addition of taxes, and consequently with an addition of revenue; and in any event of war, in the manner they are now commenced and concluded, the power and interest of Governments are increased. War, therefore, from its productiveness, as it easily furnishes the pretence of necessity for taxes and appointments to places and offices, becomes a principal part of the system of old Governments; and to establish any mode to abolish war, however advantageous it might be to Nations, would be to take from such Government the most lucrative of its branches. The frivolous matters upon which war is made show the disposition and avidity of Governments to uphold the system of war, and betray the motives upon which they act." (76)

The British government was outraged by Paine's book and it was immediately banned. Paine was charged with seditious libel but he escaped to France before he could be arrested. Paine announced that he did not wish to make a profit from The Rights of Man and anyone had the right to reprint his book. It was printed in cheap editions so that it could achieve a working class readership. Although the book was banned, during the next two years over 200,000 people in Britain managed to buy a copy. By the time he had died, it is estimated that over 1,500,000 copies of the book had been sold in Europe. (77)

Mary Wollstonecraft had been converted to Unitaranism by Richard Price. She read Paine's book and in response published Vindication of the Rights of Women. In the book Wollstonecraft attacked the educational restrictions that kept women in a state of "ignorance and slavish dependence." She was especially critical of a society that encouraged women to be "docile and attentive to their looks to the exclusion of all else." Wollstonecraft described marriage as "legal prostitution" and added that women "may be convenient slaves, but slavery will have its constant effect, degrading the master and the abject dependent." (78)

The ideas in Wollstonecraft's book were truly revolutionary and caused tremendous controversy. One critic described Wollstonecraft as a "hyena in petticoats". Mary Wollstonecraft argued that to obtain social equality society must rid itself of the monarchy as well as the church and military hierarchies. Mary Wollstonecraft's views even shocked fellow radicals. Whereas advocates of parliamentary reform such as Jeremy Bentham and John Cartwright had rejected the idea of female suffrage, Wollstonecraft argued that the rights of man and the rights of women were one and the same thing. (79)

Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (1791)
Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (1791)

Thomas Hardy, a shoemaker, also read The Rights of Man and in 1792 Hardy founded the London Corresponding Society. The aim of the organisation was to achieve the vote for all adult males. Early members included John Thelwall, John Horne Tooke, Joseph Gerrald, Olaudah Equiano and Maurice Margarot. As well as campaigning for the vote, the strategy was to create links with other reforming groups in Britain. The society passed a series of resolutions and after being printed on handbills, they were distributed to the public. These resolutions also included statements attacking the government's foreign policy. A petition was started and by May 1793, 6,000 members of the public had signed saying they supported the resolutions of the London Corresponding Society. (80)

Thomas Spence was a schoolmaster from Newcastle. Spence was strongly influenced by the writings of Tom Paine. and in December 1792 Spence moved to London and attempted to make a living by selling the works of Paine on street corners. He was arrested but soon after he was released from prison he opened a shop in Chancery Lane where he sold radical books and pamphlets.

In 1793 Spence started a periodical, Pigs' Meat. He said in the first edition: "Awake! Arise! Arm yourselves with truth, justice, reason. Lay siege to corruption. Claim as your inalienable right, universal suffrage and annual parliaments. And whenever you have the gratification to choose a representative, let him be from among the lower orders of men, and he will know how to sympathize with you." (81)

The Habeas Corpus Act passed by Parliament in 1679 guaranteed that a person detained by the authorities would have to be brought before a court of law so that the legality of the detention may be examined. In times of social unrest, Parliament had the power to suspend Habeas Corpus. William Pitt did this in May 1793 during the war with France. Parliamentary reformers such as Thomas Hardy and John Thelwall were imprisoned as a result of this action.

George Cruikshank, A Free Born Englishman (1819)
George Cruikshank, A Free Born Englishman (1819)

Habeas Corpus was also suspended in January 1817 after a missile had been thrown through the glass window of the Prince Regent's coach on the way to the opening of Parliament. Supporters of parliamentary reform were blamed for this act of violence and Lord Liverpool and his government rushed through Parliament the Gagging Acts. These measures banned meetings of over fifty people and instructed magistrates to arrest everyone suspected of spreading seditious libel.

In March 1819, Joseph Johnson, John Knight and James Wroe formed the Manchester Patriotic Union Society. All the leading radicals in Manchester joined the organisation. Johnson was appointed secretary and Wroe became treasurer. The main objective of this new organisation was to obtain parliamentary reform and during the summer of 1819 it was decided to invite Major John Cartwright, Henry Orator Hunt and Richard Carlile to speak at a public meeting in Manchester. The men were told that this was to be "a meeting of the county of Lancashire, than of Manchester alone. I think by good management the largest assembly may be procured that was ever seen in this country." Cartwright was unable to attend but Hunt and Carlile agreed and the meeting was arranged to take place at St. Peter's Field on 16th August. (82)

The main speakers at the meeting arrived at 1.20 p.m. At 1.30 p.m. the magistrates came to the conclusion that "the town was in great danger". William Hulton therefore decided to instruct Joseph Nadin, Deputy Constable of Manchester, to arrest Henry Hunt and the other leaders of the demonstration. Nadin replied that this could not be done without the help of the military. Hulton then wrote two letters and sent them to Lieutenant Colonel L'Estrange, the commander of the military forces in Manchester and Major Thomas Trafford, the commander of the Manchester & Salford Yeomanry.

Major Trafford, who was positioned only a few yards away at Pickford's Yard, was the first to receive the order to arrest the men. Major Trafford chose Captain Hugh Birley, his second-in-command, to carry out the order. Local eyewitnesses claimed that most of the sixty men who Birley led into St. Peter's Field were drunk. Birley later insisted that the troop's erratic behaviour was caused by the horses being afraid of the crowd. (83)

The Manchester & Salford Yeomanry entered St. Peter's Field along the path cleared by the special constables. As the yeomanry moved closer to the hustings, members of the crowd began to link arms to stop them arresting Henry Hunt and the other leaders. Others attempted to close the pathway that had been created by the special constables. Some of the yeomanry now began to use their sabres to cut their way through the crowd.

When Captain Hugh Birley and his men reached the hustings they arrested Henry Hunt, John Knight, Joseph Johnson, George Swift, John Saxton, John Tyas, John Moorhouse and Robert Wild. As well as the speakers and the organisers of the meeting, Birley also arrested the newspaper reporters on the hustings. John Edward Taylor reported: "A comparatively undisciplined body, led on by officers who had never had any experience in military affairs, and probably all under the influence both of personal fear and considerable political feeling of hostility, could not be expected to act either with coolness or discrimination; and accordingly, men, women, and children, constables, and Reformers, were equally exposed to their attacks." (84)

Print of the Peterloo Massacre published by Richard Carlile
Print of the Peterloo Massacre published by Richard Carlile

Samuel Bamford was another one in the crowd who witnessed the attack on the crowd: "The cavalry were in confusion; they evidently could not, with the weight of man and horse, penetrate that compact mass of human beings; and their sabres were plied to cut a way through naked held-up hands and defenceless heads... On the breaking of the crowd the yeomanry wheeled, and, dashing whenever there was an opening, they followed, pressing and wounding. Women and tender youths were indiscriminately sabred or trampled... A young married woman of our party, with her face all bloody, her hair streaming about her, her bonnet hanging by the string, and her apron weighed with stones, kept her assailant at bay until she fell backwards and was near being taken; but she got away covered with severe bruises. In ten minutes from the commencement of the havoc the field was an open and almost deserted space. The hustings remained, with a few broken and hewed flag-staves erect, and a torn and gashed banner or two dropping; whilst over the whole field were strewed caps, bonnets, hats, shawls, and shoes, and other parts of male and female dress, trampled, torn, and bloody. Several mounds of human flesh still remained where they had fallen, crushed down and smothered. Some of these still groaning, others with staring eyes, were gasping for breath, and others would never breathe again." (85)

Lieutenant Colonel L'Estrange reported to William Hulton at 1.50 p.m. When he asked Hulton what was happening he replied: "Good God, Sir, don't you see they are attacking the Yeomanry? Disperse them." L'Estrange now ordered Lieutenant Jolliffe and the 15th Hussars to rescue the Manchester & Salford Yeomanry. By 2.00 p.m. the soldiers had cleared most of the crowd from St. Peter's Field. In the process, 18 people were killed and about 500, including 100 women, were wounded. (86)

Richard Carlile managed to avoid being arrested and after being hidden by local radicals, he took the first mail coach to London. The following day placards for Sherwin's Political Register began appearing in London with the words: 'Horrid Massacres at Manchester'. A full report of the meeting appeared in the next edition of the newspaper. The authorities responded by raiding Carlile's shop in Fleet Street and confiscating his complete stock of newspapers and pamphlets. (87)

James Wroe was at the meeting and he described the attack on the crowd in the next edition of the Manchester Observer. Wroe is believed to be the first person to describe the incident as the Peterloo Massacre. Wroe also produced a series of pamphlets entitled The Peterloo Massacre: A Faithful Narrative of the Events. The pamphlets, which appeared for fourteen consecutive weeks from 28th August, price twopence, had a large circulation, and played an important role in the propaganda war against the authorities. Wroe, like Carlile, was later sent to prison for writing these accounts of the Peterloo Massacre. (88)

Richard Carlile also wrote an article on the Peterloo Massacre in the next edition of The Republican. Carlile not only described how the military had charged the crowd but also criticised the government for its role in the incident. Under the seditious libel laws, it was offence to publish material that might encourage people to hate the government. The authorities also disapproved of Carlile publishing books by Tom Paine, including Age of Reason, a book that was extremely critical of the Church of England. In October 1819, Carlile was found guilty of blasphemy and seditious libel and was sentenced to three years in Dorchester Gaol. (89)

Carlile was also fined £1,500 and when he refused to pay, his Fleet Street offices were raided and his stock was confiscated. Carlile was determined not to be silenced. While he was in prison he continued to write material for The Republican, which was now being published by his wife. Due to the publicity created by Carlile's trial, the circulation of The Republican increased dramatically and was now outselling pro-government newspapers such as The Times. (90)

In the first trial of those people who attended the meeting at St. Peter's Field, the judge commented: "I believe you are a downright blackguard reformer. Some of you reformers ought to be hanged, and some of you are sure to be hanged - the rope is already round your necks." (91)

When Parliament reassembled on 23rd November, 1819, Sidmouth announced details of what later became known as the Six Acts. The main objective of this legislation was the "curbing radical journals and meeting as well as the danger of armed insurrection". (92)

(i) Training Prevention Act: A measure which made any person attending a gathering for the purpose of training or drilling liable to arrest. People found guilty of this offence could be transported for seven years.

(ii) Seizure of Arms Act: A measure that gave power to local magistrates to search any property or person for arms.

(iii) Seditious Meetings Prevention Act: A measure which prohibited the holding of public meetings of more than fifty people without the consent of a sheriff or magistrate.

(iv) The Misdemeanours Act: A measure that attempted to reduce the delay in the administration of justice.

(v) The Basphemous and Seditious Libels Act: A measure which provided much stronger punishments, including banishment for publications judged to be blasphemous or seditious.

(vi) Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act: A measure which subjected certain radical publications which had previously avoided stamp duty by publishing opinion and not news, to such duty.

Francis Place, one of the leaders of the reform movement, wrote that "I despair of being able adequately to express correct ideas of the singular baseness, the detestable infamy, of their equally mean and murderous conduct. They who passed the Gagging Acts in 1817 and the Six Acts in 1819 were such miscreants, they could they have acted thus in a well-ordered community they would all have been hanged." (93)

Two aspects of the Six Acts was to prevent the publication of radical newspapers. The Basphemous and Seditious Libels Act was a measure which provided much stronger punishments, including banishment for publications judged to be blasphemous or seditious. The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act was an attempt to subjected certain radical publications which had previously avoided stamp duty by publishing opinion and not news, to such duty.

One of the most popular radical newspapers was the Black Dwarf with a circulation of about 12,000. Its editor was Thomas Jonathan Wooler. This was a period of time it was possible to make a living from being a radical publisher. "The means of production of the printed page were sufficiently cheap to mean that neither capital nor advertising revenue gave much advantage; while the successful Radicalism, for the first time, a profession which could maintain its own full-time agitators." (94)

After the passing of the Six Acts Wooler was arrested and charged with "forming a seditious conspiracy to elect a representative to Parliament without lawful authority". Wooler was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. (95)

On his release from prison Wooler modified the tome of the Black Dwarf in an effort to comply with the terms of the Six Acts. As a result he lost circulation of those like Richard Carlile, the editor of The Republican, who refused to reduce his radicalism. This was a successful strategy and he was able to outsell pro-government newspapers such as The Times. (96)

A Stamp Tax was first imposed on British newspapers in 1712. The tax was gradually increased until in 1815 it had reached 4d. a copy. As few people could afford to pay 6d. or 7d. for a newspaper, the tax restricted the circulation of most of these journals to people with fairly high incomes. During this period most working people were earning less than 10 shillings a week and this therefore severely reduced the number of people who could afford to buy radical newspapers. Campaigners against the stamp tax such as William Cobbett and Leigh Hunt described it as a "tax on knowledge". As one of these editors pointed out: "Let us then endeavour to progress in knowledge, since knowledge is demonstrably proved to be power. It is the power knowledge that checks the crimes of cabinets and courts; it is the power of knowledge that must put a stop to bloody wars." (97)

Birth Control

The passing of the 1832 Reform Act, 1867 Reform Act and the 1872 Secret Ballot Act helped to reduce the conflict over the issue of free speech. The main issue became birth-control. In December 1876, a bookseller, Henry Cook, published The Fruits of Philosophy. It contained a summary of what was then known about the physiology of conception, listed a number of methods to treat infertility and impotence, and explained three methods of birth control, including a new system he had developed, that involved using a syringe to wash out the vagina after intercourse with "a solution of sulphate of zinc, of alum, pearl-ash, or any salt that acts chemically on the semen". Knowlton was arrested and was sent to prison for three months. (98)

Cook was arrested and charged with publishing pornography. Cook was found guilty, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh disagreed with this decision and decided to establish the Freethought Publishing Company so they could publish a sixpenny edition of the pamphlet. (99) They started a major publicity campaign and on publication day, 24th March, 1877, they sold over 500 pamphlets from their small office in the first twenty minutes of it being available. A police detective was among the purchasers. (100)

Besant and Bradlaugh were arrested and appeared in court on 18th June, 1877. They were prosecuted by the Solicitor-General of the Conservative government, Hardinge Giffard, for publishing "a certain indecent, lewd, filthy, bawdy, and obscene book". They were to be charged under the 1857 Obscene Publications Act that stated that "the test of obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall."

Giffard argued: "The truth is, those who publish this book must have known perfectly well that an unlimited publication of this sort, put into the hands of everybody, whatever their age, whatever their condition in life, whatever their modes of life, whatever their means, put into the hands of any person who may think proper to pay sixpence for it - the thesis is this: if you do not desire to have children, and wish to gratify your sensual passions, and not undergo the responsibility of marriage... It is sought to be justified upon the ground that it is only a recommendation to married people, who under the cares of their married life are unable to bear the burden of too many children. I should be prepared to argue before you that if confined to that object alone it would be most mischievous.... I deny this, and I deny that it is the purport and intention of this book." (101)

Annie Besant later recorded in Autobiographical Sketches (1885) that Giffard used the case to attack the Liberal Party: "The Solicitor-General made a bitter and violent speech, full of party hate and malice, endeavoring to prejudice the jury against the work by picking out bits of medical detail and making profound apologies for reading them, and shuddering and casting up his eyes with the skill of a finished actor." (102)

Annie Besant represented herself in court. She pointed out that in 1876 only 700 copies of The Fruits of Philosophy had been purchased in Britain. However, in the three months before the trial 125,000 had been sold. "My clients are scattered up and down through the length and breadth of the land; I find them amongst the poor, amongst whom I have been so much; I find my clients amongst the fathers, who see their wage ever reducing, and prices ever rising... Gentlemen, do you know the fate of so many of these children? The little ones half starved because there is food enough for two but not enough for twelve; half clothed because the mother, no matter what her skill and care, cannot clothe them with the money brought home by the breadwinner of the family; brought up in ignorance, and ignorance means pauperism and crime." (103)

The following day in court Annie Besant illustrated the problems faced by having large families. She quoted Henry Fawcett as "children belonging to the upper and middle classes 20 per cent die before they reach the age of five"; and he adds that the amount is more than doubled in the case of children belonging to the labouring classes. "This great mortality amongst poor children is caused by neglect, by want of proper food, and by unwholesome dwellings. When we take these facts, and find that this large number of children have literally been murdered, when you consider that the number of these children who, if they had been born in a higher rank, would not have died, is calculated by Professor Fawcett as 1,150,000."

Annie Besant talked of the evils of prostitution. She believed that this problem would be reduced if young men and women married early: "I say that men and women will marry young - in the flower of their age - and more especially will this be the case amongst the poorer classes... I cannot go to the poor man, and tell him that the brightest part of his life is to be spent alone, and that he is to be shut out for years from the comforts of a home and the happiness of married life... There is no talk in this book of preventing men and women from becoming parents; all that is sought here is to limit the number of their family. And we do not aim at that because we do not love children, but, on the contrary, because we do love them, and because we wish to prevent them from coming into the world in greater numbers than there is the means of properly providing for." (104)

The prosecutor, Hardinge Giffard, had claimed that the pamphlet was obscene because it described and illustrated "male organs of generation". However, as she pointed out, boys and girls under sixteen in government schools were using textbooks that included details of "sexual reproduction" that were much more graphic than in her pamphlet. She asked if there were any plans to prosecute the publishers of these school textbooks? (105)

Besant pointed out that her doctor provided her with a book written by Pye Henry Chavasse, entitled Advice to a Mother on the Management of Her Children and on the Treatment on the Moment of Some of Their More Pressing Illnesses and Accidents (1868). "When I was first married my own doctor gave me the work of Chavasse, on the ground that it was better for a woman to read the medical details than it was for her to have to apply to one of the opposite sex to settle matters which did not need to be dealt with by the doctor." Besant suggested that the advice given in this book was very similar to that of her own pamphlet. The difference was that Chavasse's book was expensive whereas her pamphlet cost only sixpence. (106)

Charles Bradlaugh also carried out his own defence. He looked very closely at the economics of birth-control. "The best paid class of hewers of coal are not now averaging much more than one pound a week; take that for a man and his wife and three children only. But suppose him to have five. The Pauper Unions allow 4s 6d a week, and sometimes a little more, for boarding out a pauper child. Suppose the coalhewer has a family of five, six or seven - do the multiplication for yourselves, and leave nothing for luxury or dissipation on the part of the bread winner - I ask what means has he of purchasing the expensive treatises from which I shall quote? I now submit that it is impossible to advocate sexual restraint after marriage amongst the poor without such medical or physiological instructions as may enable them to comprehend the advocacy and utilise it." (107)

Bradlaugh argued that using birth-control was a moral act when compared to the alternatives. He claimed that in 1868 more than 16,000 women in London "murdered their offspring". He argued, "it is amongst the poor married people that the evils of over-population are chiefly felt", and, he maintained, "the advocacy of every birth-restricting check is lawful except such as advocate the destruction of the foetus after conception or of the child after birth", and that this advocacy "to be useful must of necessity be put in the plainest language and in the cheapest form". (108)

Alice Vickery, a nurse in London, gave evidence for the defence. She told the court "that a very great deal of suffering is caused by over-childbearing to the mothers themselves; to the children, because of the insufficient nutriment which they are able to give them and to the children before birth from the condition of the mothers." She went on to claim that mothers breast-fed their babies in an attempt to stop them getting pregnant again. "I have known many women who have continued to suckle their children as long as two years, and even longer than two years, because they believed that that would prevent them from conceiving again so rapidly." This caused serious health problems for the mothers and their babies. (109)

Dr. Charles Robert Drysdale, Senior Physician, Metropolitan Free Hospital, also defended the actions of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh. He talked in court about the medical problems caused by large families. "I have been continually obliged to lament the excessive rapidity with which the poorer classes bring unfortunate children into the world, who, in consequence, grow up weak and ricketty.... When a working man marries, the first child or two look very healthy, whilst the third will look ricketty because the mother is not able to give them that proper nourishment which she lacks herself. And so with both the fourth and fifth.... When three or four are born they get that terrible disease-the rickets - which is a great cause of death in London, a much greater cause than is generally supposed.... Hence the death-rate is largest in large families."

Drysdale then went on to look at the death-rate in London: "One fact I will mention to draw the attention of yourself and the jury to the very important point of infant mortality.... With all our advances in science we have not been able to decrease the general death-rate in London. Twenty years ago it was 22.2 per thousand persons living. In I876 it was almost exactly the same, being, in fact 22.3. Instead of dying more slowly than we did twenty years ago, we die a little faster.... The real reason of this increase in the death-rate is, that the children of the poor die three times as fast as the children of the rich... In 100,000 children of the richer classes, it was found that there were only 8,000 who died during the first year of life; whereas looking at the Registrar-General's returns we find that 15,000 out of every 1,000 of the general population die in their first year. If you take the children of the poor in the towns you will find the death-rate three times as large as among the rich - instead of 8,000 there would be 24,000 among the children of the poor. So that you see, the children of the poor are simply brought into the world to be murdered". (110)

In his final statement in court Hardinge Giffard argued: "I say that this is a dirty, filthy book, and the test of it is that no human being would allow that book to lie on his table; no decently educated English husband would allow even his wife to have it, and yet it is to be told to me, forsooth, that anybody may have this book in the City of London or elsewhere, who can pay sixpence for it! The object of it is to enable persons to have sexual intercourse, and not to have that which in the order of Providence is the natural result of that sexual intercourse." (111)

The jury ruled: "We are unanimously of opinion that the book in question is calculated to deprave public morals, but at the same time we entirely exonerate the defendants from any corrupt motives in publishing it." The Lord Chief Justice told the jury that the statement was unacceptable and "I must direct you on that finding, to return a verdict of guilty under this indictment against the defendants". He then turned towards Besant and Bradlaugh and said "under these circumstances, I will not pronounce sentence against you at present." (112)

The judge eventually sentenced both of them to six months in prison and a fine of £200. However, for a sum of £500 they were allowed to have their freedom until the case appeared before the Court of Appeal. This took place in February 1878 before Lord George Bramwell, Lord William Brett and Lord Henry Cotton. They decided that the case against them was deeply flawed and the sentence was quashed. (113)

The Daily Mail

The journalist Alfred Harmsworth decided to start a newspaper based on the style of newspapers published in the USA. His younger brother, Harold Harmsworth, an accountant, arranged for the raising of the money for the venture. By the time the first issue of the Daily Mail appeared for the first time on 4th May, 1896, over 65 dummy runs had taken place, at a cost of £40,000. When published for the first time, the eight page newspaper cost only halfpenny. Slogans used to sell the newspaper included "A Penny Newspaper for One Halfpenny", "The Busy Man's Daily Newspaper" and "All the News in the Smallest Space". (114)

Harmsworth made use of the latest technology. This included mechanical typesetting on a linotype machine. He also purchased three rotary printing machines. In the first edition Harmsworth explained how he could use these machines to produce the cheapest newspaper on the market: "Our type is set by machinery, and we can produce many thousands of papers per hour cut, folded and if necessary with the pages pasted together. It is the use of these new inventions on a scale unprecedented in any English newspaper office that enables the Daily Mail to effect a saving of from 30 to 50 per cent and be sold for half the price of its contemporaries. That is the whole explanation of what would otherwise appear a mystery." (115) It was later claimed that these machines could produce 200,000 copies of the newspaper per hour. (116)

The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in Britain that catered for a new reading public that needed something simpler, shorter and more readable than those that had previously been available. One new innovation was the banner headline that went right across the page. Considerable space was given to sport and human interest stories. It was also the first newspaper to include a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery. Most importantly, all its news stories and articles were short. The first day it sold 397,215 copies, more than had ever been sold by any newspaper in one day before. (117)

The John Ross Campbell Case

On 25th July 1924, the Worker's Weekly, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party of Great Britain, published an "Open Letter to the Fighting Forces" that had been written anonymously by Harry Pollitt. The article called on soldiers to "let it be known that, neither in the class war nor in a military war, will you turn your guns on your fellow workers, but instead will line up with your fellow workers in an attack upon the exploiters and capitalists and will use your arms on the side of your own class." (118)

After consultations with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General, Sir Patrick Hastings, it was decided to arrest and charge, John Ross Campbell, the editor of the newspaper, with incitement to mutiny. The following day, Hastings had to answer questions in the House of Commons on the case. However, after investigating Campbell in more detail he discovered that he was only acting editor at the time the article was published, he began to have doubts about the success of a prosecution. (119)

The matter was further complicated when James Maxton informed Hastings about Campbell's war record.
In 1914, Campbell was posted to the Clydeside section of the Royal Naval division and served throughout the war. Wounded at Gallipoli, he was permanently disabled at the battle of the Somme, where he was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery. Hastings was warned about the possible reaction to the idea of a war hero being prosecuted for an article published in a small circulation newspaper. (120)

At a meeting on the morning of the 6th August, Hastings told Ramsay MacDonald that he thought that "the whole matter could be dropped". MacDonald replied that prosecutions, once entered into, should not be dropped under political pressure". At a Cabinet meeting that evening Hastings revealed that he had a letter from Campbell confirming his temporary editorship. Hastings also added that the case should be withdrawn on the grounds that the article merely commented on the use of troops in industrial disputes. MacDonald agreed with this assessment and agreed the prosecution should be brought to an end. (121)

On 13th August, 1924, the case was withdrawn. This created a great deal of controversy and MacDonald was accused of being soft on communism. MacDonald, who had a long record of being a strong anti-communist, told King George V: "Nothing would have pleased me better than to have appeared in the witness box, when I might have said some things that might have added a month or two to the sentence." (122)

The Conservatives put down a censure motion on the decision to drop the case against John Ross Campbell. The debate took place on 8th October, 1924. MacDonald lost the vote by 364 votes to 198. "Labour was brought down, on the Campbell case, by the combined ranks of Conservatives and Liberals... The Labour government had lasted 259 days. On six occasions the Conservatives had saved MacDonald from defeat in the 1923 parliament, but it was the Liberals who pulled the political rung from under him." (123)

The British Union of Fascists

The British Union of Fascists (BUF) was formally launched on 1st October, 1932. It originally had only 32 members and included Oswald Mosley, Cynthia Mosley, Robert Forgan, William E. Allen, John Beckett and William Joyce. Mosley told them: "We ask those who join us... to be prepared to sacrifice all, but to do so for no small or unworthy ends. We ask them to dedicate their lives to building in the country a movement of the modern age... In return we can only offer them the deep belief that they are fighting that a great land may live." (124)

Initially, the BUF concentrated on arguing for a corporate state. Later it began an anti-semitic organisation. Oswald Mosley decided to hold a large British Union of Fascists rally at Olympia on 7th June, 1934. Soon after the meeting was announced, The Daily Worker issued a statement declaring that the Communist Party of Great Britain intended to demonstrate against Mosley by organized heckling inside the meeting and by a mass demonstration outside the hall. (125)

The CPGB did what it could to disrupt the meeting. As Robert Benewick, the author of The Fascist Movement in Britain (1972) pointed out: "They (the CPGB) printed illegal tickets. Groups of hecklers were stationed at strategic points inside the meeting, and Press interviews with their members were organized outside. First-aid stations were set up in near-by houses, and there were the inevitable parades, banners, placards and slogans. It was unlikely that weapons were officially authorized but this would not have prevented anyone from carrying them." (126) In fact, Philip Toynbee later admitted that he and Esmond Romilly both took knuckle-dusters to the meeting. (127)

About 500 anti-fascists including Vera Brittain, Richard Sheppard and Aldous Huxley, managed to get inside the hall. When they began heckling Oswald Mosley they were attacked by 1,000 black-shirted stewards. Several of the protesters were badly beaten by the fascists. Margaret Storm Jameson pointed out in The Daily Telegraph: "A young woman carried past me by five Blackshirts, her clothes half torn off and her mouth and nose closed by the large hand of one; her head was forced back by the pressure and she must have been in considerable pain. I mention her especially since I have seen a reference to the delicacy with which women interrupters were left to women Blackshirts. This is merely untrue... Why train decent young men to indulge in such peculiarly nasty brutality?" (128)

Collin Brooks, was a journalist who worked for Lord Rothermere at the The Sunday Dispatch. He also attended the the rally at Olympia. Brooks wrote in his diary: "He (Mosley) mounted to the high platform and gave the salute - a figure so high and so remote in that huge place that he looked like a doll from Marks and Spencer's penny bazaar. He then began - and alas the speakers hadn't properly tuned in and every word was mangled. Not that it mattered - for then began the Roman circus. The first interrupter raised his voice to shout some interjection.The mob of storm troopers hurled itself at him. He was battered and biffed and hashed and dragged out - while the tentative sympathisers all about him, many of whom were rolled down and trodden on, grew sick and began to think of escape. From that moment it was a shambles. Free fights all over the show. The Fascist technique is really the most brutal thing I have ever seen, which is saving something. There is no pause to hear what the interrupter is saying: there is no tap on the shoulder and a request to leave quietly: there is only the mass assault. Once a man's arms are pinioned his face is common property to all adjacent punchers." Brooks also commented that one of his "party had gone there very sympathetic to the fascists and very anti-Red". As they left the meeting he said "My God, if ifs to be a choice between the Reds and these toughs, I'm all for the Reds". (129)

Several members of the Conservative Party were in the audience. Geoffrey Lloyd pointed out that Mosley stopped speaking at once for the most trivial interruptions, although he had a battery of twenty-four loud-speakers. The interrupters were then attacked by ten to twenty stewards. Mosley's claim that he was defending the right of freedom was "pure humbug" and his tactics were calculated to provide an "apparent excuse" for violence. (130) William Anstruther-Gray, the MP for North Lanark, agreed with Lloyd: "Frankly if anybody had told me an hour before the meeting at Olympia that I should find myself on the side of the Communist interrupters, I would have called him a liar." (131)

However, George Ward Price, of The Daily Mail disagreed and put all the blame on the demonstrators: "If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it. They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting." (132)

In an attempt to increase support for their campaign against the Jews, the British Union of Fascists announced its attention of marching through the East End on 4th October 1936, wearing their Blackshirt uniforms. The Jewish People's Council Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism produced a petition that stated: "We the undersigned citizens of East London, view with grave concern the proposed march of the British Union of Fascists upon East London. The avowed object of the Fascist movement in Great Britain is the incitement of malice and hatred against sections of the population. It aims to further ends which seek to destroy the harmony and goodwill which has existed for centuries among the East London population, irrespective of differences in race and creed. We consider racial incitement, by a movement which employs flagrant distortions of the truth and degrading calumny and vilification, as a direct and deliberate provocation to attack. We therefore make an appeal to His Majesty's Secretary of State for Home Affairs to prohibit such matters and thus retain peaceable and amicable relations between all sections of East London's population." (133)

Within 48 hours over 100,000 people signed the petition and it was presented to 2nd October deputation was headed by Father St John Beverley Groser, James Hall, the Labour Party M.P. for Whitechapel, and Alfred M. Wall (Secretary of the London Trades Council). (134) George Lansbury, the M.P. for Bow & Bromley, also wrote to John Simon, the Home Secretary, and asked for the march to be diverted. (135) Simon refused and told a deputation of local mayors that he would not interfere as he did not wish to infringe freedom of speech. Instead he sent a large police escort in an attempt to prevent anti-fascist protesters from disrupting the march. (136)

The Independent Labour Party responded by issuing a leaflet calling on East London workers to take part in the counter demonstration which assembles at Aldgate at 2.p.m. (137) As a result the anti-fascists, adopting the slogan of the Spanish Republicans defending Madrid "They Shall Not Pass" and developed a plan to block Mosley's route. One of the key organizers was Phil Piratin, a leading figure in the Stepney Tenants Defence League. Denis Nowell Pritt and other members of the Labour Party also took part in the campaign against the march. (138)

The Jewish Chronicle told its readers not to take part in the demonstration: "Urgent Warning. It is understood that a large Blackshirt demonstration will be held in East London on Sunday afternoon. Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march from their meetings. Jews who, however innocently, became involved in any possible disorders will be actively helping anti-Semitism and Jew-baiting. Unless you want to help the Jew-baiters - Keep Away." (139)

The Blackshirt newspaper (3rd October, 1936)
The Blackshirt newspaper (3rd October, 1936)

The Daily Herald reported that by "1.30 p.m.... anti-Fascists had massed in tens of thousands. They formed a solid block at the junction of Commercial Street, Whitechapel Road and Aldgate. It was through this area that Mosley would have to reach his goal, Victoria Park, Stepney and the Socialists, Jews and Communists of the East End were determined that 'Mosley should not pass!' At the time every available policeman - about 10,000 in all - was converging on Whitechapel from all parts of London. Mounted police rode into the huge throng and forced the demonstrators back into the streets. Cordons were then flung across to keep a clear space for the marchers." (140)

Father St John Beverley Groser, of Christ Church, Watney Street, was a Christian Socialist and was one of the main organisers of the demonstration. He was hit several times by police batons and suffered a broken nose. The Church authorities were very unhappy with his involvement and his licence to preach was removed for a time. He had been previously forced to resign from the chuch after supporting the trade union movement during the General Strike. (141)

By 2.00 p.m. 50,000, people had gathered to prevent the entry of the march into the East End, and something between 100,000 and 300,000 additional protesters waited on the route. Barricades were erected across Cable Street and the police endeavoured to clear a route by making repeated baton charges. (142) One of the demonstrators said that he could see "Mosley - black-shirted himself - marching in front of about 3,000 Blackshirts and a sea of Union Jacks. It was as though he were the commander-in-chief of the army, with the Blackshirts in columns and a mass of police to protect them." (143)

Eventually at 3.40 p.m. Sir Philip Game, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London, had to accept defeat and told Mosley that he had to abandon their march and the fascists were escorted out of the area. Max Levitas, one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Stepney later pointed out: "It was the solidarity between the Labour Party, the Communist Party and the trade union movement that stopped Mosley's fascists, supported by the police, from marching through Cable Street." (144) William J. Fishman said: "I was moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers standing up to stop Mosley. I shall never forget that as long as I live, how working-class people could get together to oppose the evil of fascism." (145)

Battle of Cable Street (film)
Battle of Cable Street (film)

The Manchester Guardian supported the Home Secretary's decision to allow the BUF's march as it demonstrated that the Fascists had the right to hold a procession, but correctly banned it, when it showed signs of getting out of control. (146) The Times condemned the actions of the anti-fascists and concluded, "that this sort of hooliganism must clearly be ended, even if it involves a special and sustained effort from the police authorities." (147) The Daily Telegraph praised the Police Commissioner Hugh Trenchard "as he was on the side of free speech, and those who assembled to resist the march threatened it." (148)

A total of 79 anti-fascists were arrested at during the Battle of Cable Street. Several of these men received a custodial sentence. This included the 21 year-old, Charlie Goodman. One of his prison experiences highlighted the conflict between the conservative Jewish establishment and left-wing Jews: "I was visited by a Mr Prince from the Jewish Discharged Prisoners Aid Society... an arm of the Board of Deputies who called all the Jewish prisoners together." He asked them what crimes they had committed. The first five or six prisoners admitted to crimes such as robbery and he replied, "Don't worry, we'll look after you." When he asked Goodman he replied, "fighting fascism". This provoked Prince into saying: "You are the kind of Jew who gives us a bad name... It is people like you that are causing all the aggravation to the Jewish people." (149)

According to one police report, Mick Clarke, one of the fascist leaders in London told one meeting: "It is about time the British people of the East End knew that London's pogrom is not very far away now. Mosley is coming every night of the week in future to rid East London and by God there is going to be a pogrom." As John Bew has pointed out: "That was not the end of the matter. Labour Party meetings were frequently stormed by fascists over the following months. Stench bombs would be put through a window, doors would be kicked open, and fists would fly." (150)

The Battle of Cable Street forced the government to reconsider its approach to the British Union of Fascists and passed the 1936 Public Order Act. This gave the Home Secretary the power to ban marches in the London area and police chief constables could apply to him for bans elsewhere. The 1936 Public Order Act also made it an offence to wear political uniforms and to use threatening and abusive words. Herbert Morrison of the Labour Party claimed this act "smashed the private army and I believe commenced the undermining of Fascism in this country." (151)

Censorship and the Arts

After the Second World War there were attempts to obtain freedom of speech for the written word. A publisher of a book that contained any "purple passage" that might have a "tendency to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences" was liable to imprisonment. In the 1950s police seized copies of the Kinsey report and prosecuted four major publishers for works of modern fiction – three were convicted. In this period, books by authors such as D. H. Lawrence and Henry Miller were available only to those English readers who could afford to travel to Paris to purchase them.

In 1959, after pressure from the Society of Authors, parliament passed a new Obscene Publications Act with a preamble that promised "to provide for the protection of literature and to strengthen the law concerning pornography". As a result Penguin Books published Lady Chatterley's Lover. In August 1960, the attorney general, Reginald Manningham-Buller wrote to the director of public prosecutions approving the prosecution of Penguin Books. As Geoffrey Robertson has pointed out: "The key factor in the decision to prosecute was that Penguin proposed to sell the book for 3/6; in other words, to put it within easy reach of women and the working classes. This, the DPP's files reveal, was what the upper-middle-class male lawyers and politicians of the time refused to tolerate." (152)

However the prosecution failed to comprehend was that the 1959 Act had wrought some important changes in the law. Although it retained a "tendency to deprave and corrupt" as the test of obscenity, books had now to be "taken as a whole" and only in respect of persons likely to read them. Most importantly, section 4 of the Act provided that even if the jury found that the book tended to deprave and corrupt it could nonetheless acquit if persuaded that publication "is justified in the interests of science, literature, art and learning or any other object of general concern". As Bernard Levin pointed out: "It is surely going to be difficult for the prosecution to find anybody taken seriously by the literary or academic worlds to swear that publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover is not in the public interest as a literary event and that its tendency would be to deprave and corrupt those who might read it." (153)

The case of the Crown versus Penguin Books opened on Friday, 21st October, 1960, with a jury of nine men and three women. The defence team, led by Gerald Gardiner, a founder member of CND, lined up 35 distinguished witnesses convinced of the book’s literary merit, including Richard Hoggart, Rebecca West, E. M. Forster and Cecil Day-Lewis. The Bishop of Woolwich, John Robinson, told the court that Lawrence showed sex as "an act of holy communion", and agreed if it was a book that "Christians ought to read". (154)

Mervyn Griffith-Jones retailated by asking the jury: "Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?" On 2nd November, after just three hours’ deliberation, the jury acquitted Penguin Books of all charges. Almost immediately, the book became a best-seller. According to Dominic Sandbrook it was a case that changed Britain forever. "Though few then could have realised it, a tiny but unmistakeable line runs from the novel Lawrence wrote in the late 1920s to an international pornography industry today worth more than £26 billion a year." (155)

Although the 1960s were mainly about increasing people's freedom of speech, one piece of legislation was about preventing people from saying certain things. The Race Relations Act 1965 was the first piece of legislation in the UK to address the prohibition of racial discrimination. The Bill received Royal Assent on 8th November 1965, and came into force a month later. The Act banned racial discrimination in public places and made the promotion of hatred on the grounds of "colour, race, or ethnic or national origins" an offence.(156)

Colin Jordan, the leader of the British National Socialist Movement, was successfully prosecuted under the Act and jailed for 18 months in 1967 for distributing The Coloured Invasion, "a vituperative attack on black and Asian people". (157) In court Jordon accused the government of Harold Wilson of "treasonable betrayal" in "promoting coloured immigration and the suppression of criticism... I am to be punished because I have fought to save my country from Jewish control and coloured immigration." In his summing up Justice Phillimore accused Jordan of praising Adolf Hitler and that "anyone who stirs up racial trouble in this country is stirring up something the end of which nobody can foresee." (158)

The 1936 Public Order Act was supersided by the 1986 Public Order Act. This abolished "the common law offences of riot, rout, unlawful assembly and affray and certain statutory offences relating to public order; to create new offences relating to public order; to control public processions and assemblies; to control the stirring up of racial hatred". Part 3 of the legislation dealt with racial and religious hatred. This included use of words or behaviour or display of written material (section 18), publishing or distributing written material (section 19), public performance of a play (section 20), distributing, showing or playing a recording (section 21), broadcasting (section 22). or possession of racially inflammatory material (section 23). This made it easier to prosecute people accused of "hate speech". (159)

The police have been accused of misusing the powers under this legislation on several occasions. During the 2009 G-20 London summit protests journalists were forced to leave the protests by police who threatened them with arrest. (160) The "Reform Section 5" campaign was established to garner support for an alteration of section 5, and led to an increase in the threshold from "abusive or insulting" to strictly "abusive" for speech restricted by the act. It was reported that under section 5 alone, 51,285 people were convicted between 2001 and 2003, 8,489 of whom were between 10 and 17 years of age. The campaign was supported by a range of groups and famous individuals. These included the National Secular Society, the Christian Institute, the Bow Group, Big Brother Watch, the Peter Tatchell Foundation and The Freedom Association. (161)

The 2000 Terrorism Act also restricted people's freedom of speech. It enabled Home Secretary to ban political parties that the authorities believe are "concerned in terrorism". The act of being a member of, or supporting such a group, or wearing an item of clothing such as "to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation" is sufficient to be prosecuted for a terrorist offence. What proved to be controversial was the government's decision to create a wider definition of terrorism that included the use of "serious violence against persons or property". Parliamentary critics claimed that this "change would put people who dig up genetically modified crops in the same category as an IRA bomber and could be used to stifle legitimate protest." The pressure group Liberty said: "There is a real danger that refugees and others who have fled repressive regimes to the safety of this country will become a legitimate target of the police merely because they support the overthrow of that regime, even if they themselves are opposed to violence." (162)

In 2005 Walter Wolfgang aged 82, attended the 2005 Labour Party conference as a visitor. During a speech by then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in response to when he said: "We are in Iraq for one reason only: to help the elected Iraqi government build a secure, democratic and stable nation", Wolfgang shouted "Nonsense! That is a lie and you know it. " Several conference stewards, who were on alert for any attempts to disrupt the speech, then picked up and removed Wolfgang and confiscated his security pass, being briefly detained under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. " The leadership faced angry protests from MPs and party members who accused it of stifling dissent and abandoning traditions of free speech." (163)

In 2006 parliament passed the Racial and Religious Hatred Act. The Act was the Labour Government's third attempt to bring in this offence: provisions were originally included as part of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill in 2001, but were dropped after objections from the House of Lords. The measure was again brought forward as part of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill in 2004-5, but was again dropped in order to get the body of that Bill passed before the 2005 general election. Section 29A of the act argued that "religious hatred" means hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief. Section 29B adds: "A person who uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred." (164)

Critics of the Bill pointed out that major religious works such as the Bible and the Quran could be made illegal using this definition. Leaders of major religions and race groups, as well as non-religious groups such as the National Secular Society and English PEN spoke out against the Bill. Comedians and satirists also feared prosecution for their work. Rowan Atkinson said: "To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom. The freedom to criticise ideas, any ideas - even if they are sincerely held beliefs - is one of the fundamental freedoms of society. A law which attempts to say you can criticise and ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed." (165)

The House of Lords passed amendments on 25th October 2005 which have the effect of limiting the legislation to "A person who uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening... if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred". This removed the abusive and insulting concept, and required the intention - and not just the possibility - of stirring up religious hatred. The Government attempted to overturn these changes, but was eventually defeated in the House of Commons votes on 31st January 2006.

The philosopher, A. C. Grayling, has claimed that the restriction of "freedom of speech" is a serious matter . He argued: "There are two bedrock civil liberties without which the very idea of civil liberty is empty. They are freedom of speech and due process of law. Free speech is fundamental because without it one cannot have any other liberties. One cannot claim or exercise liberties, or defend them when attacked; one cannot defend oneself when accused, or accuse those who do one wrong; one cannot have democracy in which information, views and policies are expressed, debated and challenged; one cannot have education worth the name, if there are things that cannot be said; one cannot express one's attitudes, needs, feelings, responses, anger, criticism, support, approval or beliefs; one cannot ask all the questions one needs to or would like to; and for all these reasons, without free speech one would be in a prison made of enforced silence and averted thought on important matters."

Grayling goes on to point out that any legislation that attempts to prevent freedom of speech will result in dangerous consequences. "Give any government, any security service, any policing authority, any special interest group such as a religious organization or a political party, any prude or moralizer, any zealot of any kind, the power to shut someone else up, and they will leap at it. Hence the absolute need for stating that any restraint of free speech can only be specific, strictly limited, case-by-case, powerfully justified, one-off, utterly compelling, in this particular situation alone."

Grayling considers the problem of "hate speech" in drafting legislation: "Hate speech is an important matter, but here one has to be careful to note that hate speech can only justifiably be linked to aspects of people they cannot choose - sex, sexuality, ethnicity, age and disability if any - whereas their political or religious affiliations, dress sense, voluntary sexual conduct, and the like, are and should be open season for criticism, challenge, and even mockery." (166)

In November, 2016, The Sunday Times reported that National Action was supporting Thomas Mair, the murderer of the Batley and Spen Labour MP Jo Cox, posting "only 649 MPs to go!" on social media. Member of National Action were reported to have said "don't let this man's sacrifice go in vain" and "death to traitors, freedom for Britain!" Despite this support Mair, appeared to have little involvement with National Action or any other white supremacist groups within the UK. (167)

In December 2016, the Home Secretary used the 2000 Terrorism Act to ban the National Action group. It was the first far-right group to be proscribed since the Second World War. Although members hold terrible views I disagree with the idea of banning political parties. It is claimed that the group agree with the views of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists (BUF). However, when the party was strong in the 1930s and calling for the government to do a deal with Adolf Hitler to stop the spread of communism, the BUF was never made illegal. The reason fascism never gained political power was that it was unpopular with the British people. The BUF did so badly in local elections that it did not put up any candidates in the 1935 General Election and campaigned for voter absention. (168)

It also has to be remembered the reasons why Hitler gave for banning left-wing parties. He argued that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) or German Communist Party (KPD) were behind the Reichstag Fire. Although Marinus van der Lubbe admitted to being the man responsibility: "I myself am a Leftist, and was a member of the Communist Party until 1929.... I did not wish to harm private people but something belonging to the system itself. I decided on the Reichstag. As to the question of whether I acted alone, I declare emphatically that this was the case." (169) On 23rd March, 1933, the German Reichstag passed the Enabling Bill. This banned the SDP and the KPD from taking part in future election campaigns. This was followed by Nazi officials being put in charge of all local government in the provinces (7th April), trades unions being abolished, their funds taken and their leaders put in prison (2nd May), and a law passed making the Nazi Party the only legal political party in Germany (14th July). (170)

Another argument against banning political parties is that it is ineffective and you drive them underground. This is what has happened to the National Action group. (171) Legislation against free speech does not destroy ideas that we feel are unacceptable. The same is true of the No-Platform strategy of the National Union of Students (NUS). Like other no platform policies, it asserts that no proscribed person or organisation should be given a platform to speak, nor should a union officer share a platform with them. The policy traditionally applies to entities that the NUS considers racist or fascist, such as British National Party and the English Defence League. They have also refused platforms to Julie Bindel, who have been accused of being transphobic, and George Galloway for his statement following allegations of sexual assault facing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (172)

In recent months we have had the issue of the Labour Party initially refusing to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and adopted its own instead. The IHRA definition specifies eleven “contemporary examples of antisemitism”. The National Executive Committee of the party argued that some of these statements interfered with the principle of freedom of speech. Examples that caused problems included "Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations... Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor... Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis." (173)

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)


(1) Index on Censorship, The Abolition of Seditious Libel and Criminal Libel (April, 2009) page 4

(2) Courtney Stanhope Kenny, Outlines of Criminal Law (1936) page 307

(3) Christopher Hampton, A Radical Reader: The Struggle for Change in England (1984) page 74

(4) John Foxe, Book of Martyrs (1563) page 48 of 2014 edition.

(5) Henry Knighton, Chronicles (1337-1391)

(6) Anne Hudson, John Wycliffe : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(7) Christopher Hampton, A Radical Reader: The Struggle for Change in England (1984) page 18

(8) Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (1978) page 287

(9) Dan Jones, Summer of Blood: The Peasants' Revolt (2009) page 21

(10) G. R. Kesteven, The Peasants' Revolt (1965) page 27

(11) Charles Poulsen, The English Rebels (1984) page 10

(12) John Wycliffe, sermon (1380)

(13) Andrew Prescott, John Ball : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(14) Reg Groves, The Peasants' Revolt 1381 (1950) page 70

(15) Mary R. Price, The Peasants' Revolt (1980) page 35

(16) Charles Poulsen, The English Rebels (1984) page 11

(17) A. L. Morton, A People's History of England (1938) page 102

(18) Melvyn Bragg, The Daily Telegraph (6th June, 2013)

(19) Jasper Ridley, Bloody Mary's Martyrs (2002) page 4

(20) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 47

(21) Melvyn Bragg, The Daily Telegraph (6th June, 2013)

(22) Jasper Ridley, Bloody Mary's Martyrs (2002) page 4

(23) John Foxe, Book of Martyrs (1563) page 93 of 2014 edition.

(24) Melvyn Bragg, The Daily Telegraph (6th June, 2013)

(25) David Daniell, John Frith : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(26) David Daniell, William Tyndale : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(27) Jasper Ridley, Bloody Mary's Martyrs (2002) page 8

(28) David Daniell, John Rogers : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(29) Jasper Ridley, Bloody Mary's Martyrs (2002) page 7

(30) Lacey Baldwin Smith, Treason in Tudor England (2006) page 61

(31) David Daniell, William Tyndale : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(32) Melvyn Bragg, The Daily Telegraph (6th June, 2013)

(33) David Loades, Thomas Cromwell (2013) page 64

(34) David Daniell, William Tyndale : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(35) John Foxe, Book of Martyrs (1563) page 94 of 2014 edition.

(36) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 294

(37) David Loades, Thomas Cromwell (2013) page 190

(38) John Schofield, The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant (2011) page 227

(39) Frances Condick, John Bastwick: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(40) Pauline Gregg, Free-Born John: A Biography Of John Lilburne (1961) page 48

(41) Andrew Sharp, John Lilburne : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(42) Henry N. Brailsford, The Levellers and the English Revolution (1961) page 82

(43) Pauline Gregg, Free-Born John: A Biography Of John Lilburne (1961) page 65

(44) David Plant, Biography of John Lilburne (2012)

(45) Pauline Gregg, Oliver Cromwell (1988) page 56

(46) Andrew Sharp, John Lilburne : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(47) Pauline Gregg, Free-Born John: A Biography Of John Lilburne (1961) page 87

(48) Anne Hughes, Elizabeth Lilburne : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(49) Andrew Sharp, John Lilburne : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(50) G. M. Trevelyan, English Social History (1942) page 256

(51) Peter Richards, John Lilburne: The First English Libertarian (2008)

(52) Andrew Sharp, John Lilburne : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(53) Antonia Fraser, The Weaker Vessel (1984) page 236

(54) David Plant, Biography of John Lilburne (2012)

(55) David Petegorsky, Left-Wing Democracy in the English Civil War (1940) page 54

(56) John Lilburne, letter to William Prynne (7th January, 1645)

(57) Andrew Sharp, John Lilburne : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(58) Anne Hughes, Elizabeth Lilburne : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(59) Antonia Fraser, The Weaker Vessel (1984) page 237

(60) Richard Overton, A Remonstrance of Many Thousand Citizens (July, 1646)

(61) John Lilburne, The Free Man's Freedom Vindicated (1647)

(62) John Lilburne, Rash Oaths (1647)

(63) Antonia Fraser, The Weaker Vessel (1984) page 237

(64) John F. Harrison, The Common People (1984) page 198

(65) Barbara Bradford Taft, William Walwyn: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(66) A. L. Morton, A People's History of England (1938) page 217

(67) John Lilburne, Richard Overton and Thomas Prince, England's New Chains Discovered (March, 1649)

(68) Diane Purkiss, The English Civil War: A People's History (2007) page 508

(69) Mercurius Militaris (22nd April 1649)

(70) Elizabeth Lilburne, A Petition of Women (5th May, 1649)

(71) Anne Hughes, Elizabeth Lilburne : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(72) Pauline Gregg, Free-Born John: A Biography Of John Lilburne (1961) page 301

(73) Andrew Sharp, John Lilburne : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(74) Paul Foot, The Vote (2005) page 45

(75) Tom Paine, The Rights of Man (1791) page 74

(76) Tom Paine, The Rights of Man (1791) page 169

(77) Harry Harmer, Tom Paine: The Life of a Revolutionary (2006) pages 71-72

(78) Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)

(79) Claire Tomalin, The Life and Death of Mary Woolstonecraft (1974) pages 134-135

(80) Edward Royle and James Walvin, English Radicals and Reformers 1760-1848 (1982) page 51

(81) E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (1963) pages 176-179

(82) Edward Royle and James Walvin, English Radicals and Reformers 1760-1848 (1982) page 119

(83) Archibald Prentice, Historical Sketches and Personal Recollections of Manchester (1851) pages 159-161

(84) John Edward Taylor, The Times (18th August, 1819)

(85) Samuel Bamford, Passage in the Life of a Radical (1843) page 163

(86) Martin Wainwright, The Guardian (13th August, 2007)

(87) Donald Read, Peterloo: The Massacre and its Background (1958) page 120

(88) Richard Carlile, Sherwin's Political Register (18th August, 1819)

(89) Joel H. Wiener, Radicalism and Freethought in Nineteenth-Century Britain: The Life of Richard Carlile (1983) page 41

(90) Philip W. Martin, Richard Carlile : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(91) The Times (27th September 1819)

(92) J. F. C. Harrison, The Common People (1984) page 257

(93) E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (1963) page 727

(94) E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (1963) page 740

(95) James Epstein, Thomas Wooler : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(96) Philip W. Martin, Richard Carlile : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(97) Richard Carlile, The Republican (4th October, 1820)

(98) Rosemary Dinnage, Annie Besant (1986) page 38

(99) The National Reformer (4th March, 1877)

(100) Rosemary Dinnage, Annie Besant (1986) page 38

(101) Hardinge Giffard, opening statement (18th June, 1877)

(102) Annie Besant, Autobiographical Sketches (1885) page 212

(103) Annie Besant, statement in court (18th June, 1877)

(104) Annie Besant, statement in court (19th June, 1877)

(105) Roger Manvell, The Trial of Annie Besant (1976) page 112

(106) Annie Besant, statement in court (19th June, 1877)

(107) Charles Bradlaugh, statement in court (19th June, 1877)

(108) Roger Manvell, The Trial of Annie Besant (1976) page 128

(109) Alice Vickery, nurse, statement in court (20th June, 1877)

(110) Dr. Charles Robert Drysdale, Senior Physician, Metropolitan Free Hospital, statement in court (20th June, 1877)

(111) Hardinge Giffard, statement in court (21st June, 1877)

(112) Annie Besant, Autobiographical Sketches (1885) page 218

(113) Roger Manvell, The Trial of Annie Besant (1976) page 156

(114) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 32

(115) Alfred Harmsworth, Daily Mail (4th May, 1896)

(116) Kennedy Jones, Fleet Street and Downing Street (1919) page 138

(117) Francis Williams, Dangerous Estate: The Anatomy of Newspapers (1957) page 140

(118) Harry Pollitt, The Worker's Weekly (25th July, 1925)

(119) Austen Morgan, J. Ramsay MacDonald (1987) page 114

(120) Monty Johnstone, John Ross Campbell : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(121) Austen Morgan, J. Ramsay MacDonald (1987) pages 114-115

(122) Harold Nicolson, King George V (1952) page 399

(123) Austen Morgan, J. Ramsay MacDonald (1987) page 118

(124) Oswald Mosley, speech (1st October, 1932)

(125) The Daily Worker (21st May, 1934)

(126) Robert Benewick, The Fascist Movement in Britain (1972) page 169

(127) Philip Toynbee, Friends Apart (1954) page 21

(128) Margaret Storm Jameson, The Daily Telegraph (9th July, 1934)

(129) Collin Brooks, diary entry (6th June, 1934)

(130) Geoffrey Lloyd, speech in the House of Commons (14th June, 1934)

(131) William Anstruther-Gray, speech in the House of Commons (14th June, 1934)

(132) George Ward Price, The Daily Mail (8th June, 1934)

(133) Petition organised by the Jewish People's Council Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism that was presented to the Home Office on 2nd October 1936.

(134) The Daily Worker (3rd October 1936)

(135) The Jewish Chronicle (9th October, 1936)

(136) Nigel Copsey, Anti-Fascism in Britain (2000) pages 54-55

(137) The Daily Worker (3rd October 1936)

(138) Robert Benewick, The Fascist Movement in Britain (1972) page 220-225

(139) The Jewish Chronicle (2nd October, 1936)

(140) The Daily Herald (5th October 1936)

(141) Patrick Comerford, Remembering Father John Groser (1890-1966), once the best-known priest in the East End (20th November, 2016)

(142) Martin Pugh, Hurrah for the Blackshirts (2006) page 225

(143) William J. Fishman, The Daily Mirror (23rd September, 2006)

(144) Kurt Barling, Cable Street: Solidarity stopped Mosley's fascists (4th October, 2011)

(145) Audrey Gillan, The Guardian (20th September, 2006)

(146) The Manchester Guardian (5th October, 1936)

(147) The Times (5th October, 1936)

(148) The Daily Telegraph (5th October, 1936)

(149) David Rosenberg, Rebel Footprints: A Guide to Uncovering London's Radical History (2015) page 271

(150) John Bew, Citizen Clem: A Biography of Attlee (2016) page 209

(151) Stephen Dorril, Black Shirt: Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism (2006) page 408

(152) Geoffrey Robertson, The Guardian (22nd October, 2010)

(153) Bernard Levin, The Spectator (19th August 1960)

(154) Paul Callan, The Daily Express (21st October, 2010)

(155) Dominic Sandbrook, The Daily Telegraph (16th October, 2010)

(156) BBC News (8th December, 1965)

(157) The Times (16th April, 2009)

(158) The Glasgow Herald (26th January, 1967)

(159) 1986 Public Order Act (7th November, 1986)

(160) Marc Vallée, The Guardian (17th April, 2009)

(161) Rowan Atkinson, The Daily Telegraph (18th October, 2012)

(162) The Guardian (19th January 2009)

(163) The Daily Telegraph (29th September, 2005)

(164) Racial and Religious Hatred Act (16th February, 2006)

(165) Rowan Atkinson, BBC News (7th September, 2004)

(166) A. C. Grayling, Ideas that Matter (2009) pages 214-216

(167) Ian Cobain, The Guardian (11th December 2016)

(168) Stephen Dorril, Black Shirt: Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism (2006) page 364

(169) Marinus van der Lubbe, statement (3rd March, 1933)

(170) James Taylor and Warren Shaw, Dictionary of the Third Reich (1987) pages 88-89

(171) ITV News (20th March 2017)

(172) Dina Rickman, The Huffington Post (27th September 2012)

(173) Daniel Sugarman, The Jewish Chronicle (20th July, 2018)

John Simkin


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What kind of society would we have if Evan Durbin had not died in 1948? (28th June, 2018)

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State Education in Crisis (27th May, 2018)

Why the decline in newspaper readership is good for democracy (18th April, 2018)

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George Osborne and the British Passport (24th March, 2018)

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100 Greatest Britons: Where are the Women? (28th December, 2016)

The Death of Liberalism: Charles and George Trevelyan (19th December, 2016)

Donald Trump and the Crisis in Capitalism (18th November, 2016)

Victor Grayson and the most surprising by-election result in British history (8th October, 2016)

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Leon Trotsky and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party (15th August, 2016)

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The Media and Jeremy Corbyn (25th July, 2016)

Rupert Murdoch appoints a new prime minister (12th July, 2016)

George Orwell would have voted to leave the European Union (22nd June, 2016)

Is the European Union like the Roman Empire? (11th June, 2016)

Is it possible to be an objective history teacher? (18th May, 2016)

Women Levellers: The Campaign for Equality in the 1640s (12th May, 2016)

The Reichstag Fire was not a Nazi Conspiracy: Historians Interpreting the Past (12th April, 2016)

Why did Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst join the Conservative Party? (23rd March, 2016)

Mikhail Koltsov and Boris Efimov - Political Idealism and Survival (3rd March, 2016)

Why the name Spartacus Educational? (23rd February, 2016)

Right-wing infiltration of the BBC (1st February, 2016)

Bert Trautmann, a committed Nazi who became a British hero (13th January, 2016)

Frank Foley, a Christian worth remembering at Christmas (24th December, 2015)

How did governments react to the Jewish Migration Crisis in December, 1938? (17th December, 2015)

Does going to war help the careers of politicians? (2nd December, 2015)

Art and Politics: The Work of John Heartfield (18th November, 2015)

The People we should be remembering on Remembrance Sunday (7th November, 2015)

Why Suffragette is a reactionary movie (21st October, 2015)

Volkswagen and Nazi Germany (1st October, 2015)

David Cameron's Trade Union Act and fascism in Europe (23rd September, 2015)

The problems of appearing in a BBC documentary (17th September, 2015)

Mary Tudor, the first Queen of England (12th September, 2015)

Jeremy Corbyn, the new Harold Wilson? (5th September, 2015)

Anne Boleyn in the history classroom (29th August, 2015)

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Was Henry FitzRoy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, murdered? (31st May, 2015)

The long history of the Daily Mail campaigning against the interests of working people (7th May, 2015)

Nigel Farage would have been hung, drawn and quartered if he lived during the reign of Henry VIII (5th May, 2015)

Was social mobility greater under Henry VIII than it is under David Cameron? (29th April, 2015)

Why it is important to study the life and death of Margaret Cheyney in the history classroom (15th April, 2015)

Is Sir Thomas More one of the 10 worst Britons in History? (6th March, 2015)

Was Henry VIII as bad as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin? (12th February, 2015)

The History of Freedom of Speech (13th January, 2015)

The Christmas Truce Football Game in 1914 (24th December, 2014)

The Anglocentric and Sexist misrepresentation of historical facts in The Imitation Game (2nd December, 2014)

The Secret Files of James Jesus Angleton (12th November, 2014)

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Yuri Nosenko and the Warren Report (15th October, 2014)

The KGB and Martin Luther King (2nd October, 2014)

The Death of Tomás Harris (24th September, 2014)

Simulations in the Classroom (1st September, 2014)

The KGB and the JFK Assassination (21st August, 2014)

West Ham United and the First World War (4th August, 2014)

The First World War and the War Propaganda Bureau (28th July, 2014)

Interpretations in History (8th July, 2014)

Alger Hiss was not framed by the FBI (17th June, 2014)

Google, Bing and Operation Mockingbird: Part 2 (14th June, 2014)

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The Student as Teacher (7th June, 2014)

Is Wikipedia under the control of political extremists? (23rd May, 2014)

Why MI5 did not want you to know about Ernest Holloway Oldham (6th May, 2014)

The Strange Death of Lev Sedov (16th April, 2014)

Why we will never discover who killed John F. Kennedy (27th March, 2014)

The KGB planned to groom Michael Straight to become President of the United States (20th March, 2014)

The Allied Plot to Kill Lenin (7th March, 2014)

Was Rasputin murdered by MI6? (24th February 2014)

Winston Churchill and Chemical Weapons (11th February, 2014)

Pete Seeger and the Media (1st February 2014)

Should history teachers use Blackadder in the classroom? (15th January 2014)

Why did the intelligence services murder Dr. Stephen Ward? (8th January 2014)

Solomon Northup and 12 Years a Slave (4th January 2014)

The Angel of Auschwitz (6th December 2013)

The Death of John F. Kennedy (23rd November 2013)

Adolf Hitler and Women (22nd November 2013)

New Evidence in the Geli Raubal Case (10th November 2013)

Murder Cases in the Classroom (6th November 2013)

Major Truman Smith and the Funding of Adolf Hitler (4th November 2013)

Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler (30th October 2013)

Claud Cockburn and his fight against Appeasement (26th October 2013)

The Strange Case of William Wiseman (21st October 2013)

Robert Vansittart's Spy Network (17th October 2013)

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Paul Dacre, The Daily Mail and Fascism (12th October 2013)

Wallis Simpson and Nazi Germany (11th October 2013)

The Activities of MI5 (9th October 2013)

The Right Club and the Second World War (6th October 2013)

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