Plough My Own Furrow: The Life of Lord Allen of Hurtwood

The story, told through Clifford Allen’s own letters, notes and other documents, of a Cambridge – educated Socialist who was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during the First World War, and was later active in international affairs, first as a strong supporter of appeasement, and then as a staunch opponent of Nazi persecution. The book is more than the portrait of a politician: from it emerges a fascinating, richly documented survey of socialist theory and ideals from the early years of the Twentieth Century to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Book Excerpt:

Clifford Allen, at the Fourth Biennial Mental Health Congress of the National Council for Mental Hygiene, February 1936:

“The last obstacle which now stands between man and peace lies, not in the poverty of the earth's soil, but in our minds and dispositions. The impediment to peace is now psychological. …

To start with we are fettered by history itself. Long centuries of habit and the reading of history have hitherto caused most of us to think of foreign affairs in terms of power. The world at large is also the arena of the unknown. Its unfamiliarity can easily stir within us feelings of apprehension, tinged with terror. Any impact from something so vast and so strange can lead to swift impetuous reactions, especially if some event abroad should chance to impinge upon our individual experience or well-established customs. The citizen then draws back into himself, seeks protection in what is familiar, and feels an instinctive desire to defend himself against the unknown. It becomes almost natural that we should, upon the least provocation, first be frightened, and then come to hate what we do not know ….

“Psychologically history is dangerous in other ways, for it makes the world beyond our shores seem to be the field of adventure, romance and relief from tedious routine. We somehow feel we are entitled to do abroad in the name of adventure, justified by historical romance, things which we should be ashamed to do in our family, parish or nation. We can thus find a sanctified loophole through which to let loose without reproach the evil emotions which the suppressions of our childhood have made us shy to exhibit.”

What the author says

“The title of this volume, Plough My Own Furrow, is taken from a letter written by Lord Allen
when he broke away from the National Labour Party in 1932. It expresses both his anguish at being
unable to find a home inside a particular political organization, and his desire to be active in pursuit
of his ideals. It combines sadness at being on his own with eagerness to continue with his work.
These two facets are the themes of Allen's story”

What the press say

“One closes this biography, which is very well done, with an overwhelming sense of the service of
Clifford Allen, of the quality of his spirit and mind, of his dedication, to the point of death, to the
cause of peace. He was the inspiration for many who have sought to serve their generation. Fenner
Brockway, Peace News

“... a quarry for admirers of Clifford Allen and students of the period. Mr Gilbert, while clearly
sympathetic to his subject, is content to let the long record speak for itself.” Margaret Cole, The

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  • Formats: Hardback
  • ISBN: B0017GMKPY