‘These Heroic Days’: Marxist Internationalism, Masculinity, and Young British Scientists, 1930s–40s

  • Heather Ellis
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


While both youth and internationalism have, for many years, been seen as vital hallmarks of the interwar period by historians, studies have tended to focus on particular youth movements, youth subcultures and attempts by national governments or other agencies to organize young people. Such movements are almost always identified with strict age cohorts and leave less room for investigating the broader cultural significance of both the idea and discourse of ‘youth’ in society.1 The growing public role and prominence of science and technology, which provides the focus for this chapter, is another major feature of the interwar years and of studies of internationalism in this period; yet it is a topic rarely examined in the context of the history of childhood and youth. In the course of this chapter, I want to explore for what purposes, with what effects and by whom the idea and discourse of youth, rather than ‘youth’ as a narrowly defined social population, were deployed within the complex and shifting world of British science in the 1930s and early 1940s.


International Relation Young Scientist British Association Interwar Period Dialectical Materialism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Good examples of such studies include M. Tebbutt (2012) Being Boys: Youth, Leisure and Identity in the Inter-War Years (Manchester: Manchester University Press);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. S. Whitney (2009) Mobilizing Youth: Communists and Catholics in Interwar France (Durham, NC: Duke University Press);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. M. Neumann (2011) The Communist Youth League and the Transformation of the Soviet Union, 1917–32 (Abingdon: Routledge);Google Scholar
  4. S. Mills (2011) ‘Be Prepared: Communism and the Politics of Scouting in 1950s Britain’, Contemporary British History, 25 (3), 429–50;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. K. Alexander (2009), ‘The Girl Guide Movement and Imperial Internationalism During the 1920s and 1930s’, The Journal for the History of Childhood and Youth, 2 (1), 37–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 2.
    The British Association for the Advancement of Science (hereafter BAAS) was founded in 1831 to promote the development and to raise the profile of all branches of the natural and physical sciences. The Association’s annual meetings were held in a different city in Britain every year. For more on the BAAS, see R. M. McLeod and P. D. B. Collins (1981) The Parliament of Science: The British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1831–1981 (Northwood: Science Reviews).Google Scholar
  7. 3.
    H. Cunningham (2012) ‘Youth in the Life Course — A History’ in F. Coussé, G. Verscheiden and H. Williamson (eds) The History of Youth Work in Europe: Relevance for Youth Policy Today (Strasbourg: Council of Europe), p. 14.Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    The internationalism of Soviet science has, for example, received particular attention in recent years. See, for example, S. G. Solomon (ed.) (2006) Doing Medicine Together: Germany and Russia between the Wars (Toronto and London: University of Toronto Press);Google Scholar
  9. N. Krementsov and S. G. Solomon (2001), ‘Giving and Taking across Borders: The Rockefeller Foundation and Russia, 1919–1928’, Minerva, 39 (3), 265–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 5.
    R. I. Jobs (2007) Riding the New Wave: Youth and the Rejuvenation of France after the Second World War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), p. 11; See, by way of comparison, the comments of Patricia Clavin: ‘Part of transnational history’s undoubted appeal is its capacity to connect and absorb fields of historical enquiry that were hitherto discrete’.Google Scholar
  11. P. Clavin (2011) ‘Introduction: Conceptualising Internationalism between the World Wars’ in D. Laqua (ed.) Internationalism Reconfigured: Transnational Ideas and Movements between the World Wars (London: I. B. Tauris), pp. 1–14.Google Scholar
  12. 7.
    J. Morell and A. Thackray (1981) Gentlemen of Science: Early Years of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Oxford: Clarendon Press), p. 127.Google Scholar
  13. 8.
    BAAS, First Report of the Proceedings, Recommendations and Transactions of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (York: T. Wilson, 1832), p. 10.Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    B. Russell (1931) The Scientific Outlook (London: Macmillan), p. 99.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Gary Werskey has referred to this group of men as the ‘Visible College’. See G. Werskey (1978) The Visible College: A Collective Biography of British Scientists and Socialists of the 1930s (London: Allen Lane).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bukharin had himself been viewed at the time as one of the greatest ‘young heroes’ of the Russian revolution. In his testament, Lenin described him as one of ‘the most outstanding figures (among the youngest ones)’. See T. Cliff (1989) Trotsky: The Sword of the Revolution, 1917–1923, Vol. 2 (London: Bookmarks), p. 259.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    C. A. J. Chilvers (2003) ‘The Dilemmas of Seditious Men: The Crowther-Hessen Correspondence in the 1930s’, British Journal for the History of Science, 36, 417–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 19.
    E. J. Hobsbawm (2003) Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life (London: Abacus), p. 117.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    S. Harman (2003) ‘C. D. Darlington and the British and American Reaction to Lysenko and the Soviet Conception of Science’, Journal of the History of Biology, 36, 327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 22.
    S. Collini (2008) Common Reading: Critics, Historians, Publics (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 172.Google Scholar
  21. 24.
    For the Cambridge Scientists’ Anti-War Society, see, for example, H. Rose (1994) Love, Power and Knowledge: Towards a Feminist Transformation of the Sciences (Cambridge: Polity), p. 156.Google Scholar
  22. 25.
    For more on Bernal’s role in the establishment and activities of ‘For Intellectual Liberty’, see A. Brown (2005) J. D. Bernai: The Sage of Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  23. 27.
    Cited in W. McGucken (1979) ‘The Social Relations of Science: The British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1931–1946’, Proceedings, American Philosophical Society, 123 (4), 251.Google Scholar
  24. 28.
    J. D. Bernai (1939) The Social Function of Science (London: G. Routledge & Sons), p. 191.Google Scholar
  25. 29.
    G. Werskey (1971) ‘British Scientists and “Outsider” Politics, 1931–1945’, Social Studies of Science, 1, 69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 30.
    C. H. Desch (1943) ‘The British Association Conferences on the Social and International Relations of Science’, International Affairs Review Supplement, 19 (12), 617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Heather Ellis 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather Ellis

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations