Radicalism in the Margins: The Politics of Reading Wilfrid Scawen Blunt in 1920

King, Edmund G. C. (2016). Radicalism in the Margins: The Politics of Reading Wilfrid Scawen Blunt in 1920. Journal of British Studies, 55(3) pp. 501–518.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/jbr.2016.53


This article examines marginalia as a form of radical writing practice in the period immediately after the First World War. It focuses specifically on a densely annotated copy of the second part of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt’s My Diaries, which covers 1900–1914 and was published in 1920. The annotator, John Arthur Fallows (1864–1935), was a former Church of England clergyman and Independent Labour Party politician, and the article asks what motivated him to leave such an explicit record of his engagement with the book in its margins. Blunt recast his original diary entries to show how the outbreak of the First World War had arisen from the pre-war imperialist policies of the Entente. Fallows, meanwhile, used his copy of My Diaries to inscribe a permanent record of his responses to Blunt’s writing, which were shaped by his own memories of pre-war radical-left political action. The dual record of textual engagement that can be recovered from this copy of My Diaries provides insight into how two British radicals “read” the causes of the First World War in the period between the Armistice and the conclusion of the Paris Peace Accords.

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