Fenner Brockway

Other names: 

Archibald Fenner Brockway

Date of birth: 
01 Nov 1888
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Current name country of birth: 
Date of death: 
01 Apr 1988
Location of death: 
Watford General Hospital



Archibald Fenner Brockway was born in Calcutta, India, to missionary parents. At the age of 4 he was sent to Britain to live with his maternal grandparents in Rangemore. Aged 8, he started his education at the School for the Sons of Missionaries, Blackheath. With the Boer War, Brockway became interested in politics. At the age of 16, he left school and started work as a journalist, writing for a number of newspapers and interviewing the leading figures of the Left, such as H .G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. While working on the Daily News in 1907 he was sent to interview Keir Hardie, who became a big influence on him.

Brockway joined the Independent Labour Party in 1907. During this period he also attended meetings of the Fabian Society. He first met Jawaharlal Nehru in London in 1911, while Nehru was studying law. Nehru came to Oxford to hear Brockway speak on Indian independence. In 1912 Brockway took over the editorship of the Independent Labour Party’s newspaper Labour Leader.  He was a committed pacifist and during the First World War he joined the No-Conscription Fellowship. His strong opposition to British involvement in the First World War led to him being imprisoned several times in 1914-19. In 1922 Brockway became Organizing Secretary of the Independent Labour Party. From 1926 to 1929 he took over as editor of New Leader, the ILP’s renamed journal.

Brockway was a committed anti-imperialist. In 1919 he became editor of India and was the last Joint Secretary of the British Committee of the Indian National Congress, sharing the post with Syed Hussein. He moved the 1925 resolution at the Labour Party conference which committed the party to the independence of India. Gandhi invited Brockway to attend the Indian National Congress in Madras in 1927. In 1928 he was the first chairman of the League Against Imperialism. He joined the India League in 1929 and served on the Executive Commitee in the early 1930s. Fenner Brockway supported Krishna Menon in his argument that the League should campaign for India’s independence rather than Dominion status. He often spoke at League events and also supported other Indian organizations in Britain, especially those associated with Surat Alley. In 1930 he was suspended from Parliament for protesting against the imprisonment of Gandhi and Nehru and thousands of other Congressmen. He also wore a Gandhi cap in the House of Commons when protesting against the arrest of Congressmen for wearing it.

Brockway was part of a wide-ranging network of anti-colonial activists and organizations in London. He served as Chairman of the No More War Movement. During the 1930s, Brockway moved away from pacifism, supporting the International Brigades in their fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War as well as Britain’s involvement in the Second World War. Brockway served several times as an MP. He was made a Life Peer in 1964. He died on 28 April 1988.

Published works: 

98 Not Out (London: Quartet, 1986)

African Journeys (London: Victor Gollancz, 1955)

African Socialism (London: Bodley Head, 1963)

The Bloody Traffic (London: Gollancz, 1933)

Can Britain Disarm? A Reasoned Case in Fourteen Points (London: No More War Movement, 1930)

The Colonial Revolution (London: Hart-Davis, MacGibbon, 1973)

The Coming Revolution (London: Independent Labour Party, 1932)

Death Pays a Dividend (London: Victor Gollancz, 1944)

India and its Government (London: Labour Publishing Company, 1921)

The Indian Crisis (London: Victor Gollancz, 1930)

Inside the Left: Thirty Years of Platform, Press, Prison and Parliament (London: Allen & Unwin, 1942)

A Week in India and Three Months in an Indian Hospital (London: The New Leader, 1928)

Worker’s Front (London: Secker & Warburg, 1938)

Contributions to periodicals: 

Christian Commonwealth

Daily News

The Quiver


Labour Elector

Labour Leader (editor)


New Leader (editor, 1926-9)

Secondary works: 

Howe, Stephen, Anticolonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993)

Howell, David, ‘Brockway, (Archibald) Fenner, Baron Brockway (1888–1988)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/39849]

Owen, Nicholas, The British Left and India: Metropolitan Anti-Imperialism, 1885-1947 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)


Copy Extract Report by New Scotland Yard, dated 12 November 1930, L/PJ/12/356, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras


A Fenner Brockway M. P. then arrived. He said that Dominion Status certainly meant freedom materially but 'psychologically speaking', it was not exactly the same as independence. He said that some years ago Jawahar Lal Nehru [sic.], who was his guest, remarked that 'India would wake up only when she got independence'. He then spoke of the sprit of non-violence, and the moral it was teaching the whole world.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/356, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/448-456, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Correspondence with the Independent Labour Party, British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics

Correspondence relating to colonial questions, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies, Rhodes House, Oxford

Labour History Archive and Study Centre, Manchester