Other names: 

The Fabian Society

Date began: 
04 Jan 1884

The Fabian Society is a British socialist organization which was a forerunner to the Labour Party. Promoting progressive social causes by gradualist, rather than revolutionary, methods, it was for the intelligentsia of fin-de-siècle Britain a major forum for political, social and cultural debate.

Spurred by the Liberal reforms of the early 1900s, the Society campaigned for a minimum wage, national health and education systems, the abolition of hereditary peerages and the nationalization of land. Drawing into its ambit most of the prominent intellectuals of the time, it grew to be the preeminent academic meeting place of the Edwardian era. A close association existed with the London School of Economics, which was founded in 1895 by the Society’s lifelong guiding spirits, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, together with G. B. Shaw.

A major split occurred in the Society over its response to the Boer War, leading to the resignation of Emmeline Pankhurst. Narrowly deciding in favour of the British invasion of the Transvaal, the Fabians supported British imperialism as a means of disseminating enlightened principles of governance throughout the world. Despite this, the Society between the wars was patronized by several expatriate nationalists, including Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Obafemi Awolowo and Lee Kuan Yew. The Fabian worldview was in turn to make a major impression on the constitutions of the emergent Commonwealth nations.

Key Individuals' Details: 

Annie Besant, Hubert Bland, Edward Carpenter, Keir Hardie, Oliver Lodge, Ramsay MacDonald, Edith Nesbit, Sydney Olivier, Emmeline Pankhurst, George Bernard Shaw, Graham Wallas, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, H. G. Wells, Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf.


Fellowship of the New Life, Independent Labour Party, London School of Economics.

Secondary works: 

Fremantle, Anne, This Little Band of Prophets: The Story of the Gentle Fabians (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1960)

Pease, Edward R., The History of the Fabian Society (London: A. C. Fifield, 1916)

Pugh, Patricia, Educate, Agitate, Organize: 100 Years of Fabian Socialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984)

Archive source: 

Fabian Society Archive, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics

George Bernard Shaw Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

Leonard Woolf Archive, University of Sussex