British far right and anti-fascist media's construction of identity: Searchlight and Spearhead, 1964 – 1982

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Both founded in 1964, Searchlight and Spearhead became the foremost print cultures within British anti-fascism and fascism respectively. With Searchlight addressing the anti-fascist movement and Spearhead looking towards the British nationalist movements, both magazines sought to bring and hold together diverse readerships. Throughout their print runs the magazines transmitted their own notions of a new Britain, and mobilised activists to enact that change on the streets of Britain. This thesis will examine these two oppositional print cultures from the period of their creation in 1964 until 1982. This was a period of wider change for the society these print cultures existed within, and which these print cultures had to react to. From the end of Empire in the early 1960s, the rise of the permissive society and the legalisation of homosexuality, rising concern over migration with Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood Speech’, the debate over Britain’s future with Europe and finally the rise of Margaret Thatcher.

This thesis develops a thematic analysis of the output of both print cultures to understand the different politicised identities the magazines sought to appeal to, as well as understand the cultural origins of the magazines themselves. The themes explored are Britishness (including concepts of race and democracy), gender, sexuality and class. It will explore the creation and evocation of narratives of threat, and the ways in which the magazines motivated membership to action. It will test traditional methods of understanding the far right and argues these can be successfully applied to the study of anti-fascism, and demonstrates anti-fascism can be seen as culturally more than a reactionary movement. Finally it examines the methods used by both print cultures to maintain their messaging and their broad coalition of support as both cultures sought to remain relevant amid the wider societal change during this period.
Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPaul Jackson (Supervisor), Nicola Cooper (Supervisor) & Drew Gray (Supervisor)


  • Fascism
  • Anti-fascism
  • Far Right
  • Anti-racism
  • Extreme Right
  • XRW
  • National identity
  • Identity
  • Britishness
  • Print culture

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