Henry Noel Brailsford (25 December 1873 – 23 March 1958) was the most prolific British left-wing journalist of the first half of the 20th century.
The son of a Methodist preacher, he was born in Yorkshire and educated in Scotland, at the High School of Dundee.
Career in journalism
Brailsford abandoned an academic career to become a journalist, rising to prominence in the 1890s as a foreign correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, specialising in the Balkans, France and Egypt.
In 1899 he moved to London, working for the Morning Leader and then the Daily News. He led a British relief mission to Macedonia in 1903, publishing a book, Macedonia: Its Races and Their Future, on his return.
In 1905 he was convicted of conspiring to obtain a British passport in the name of one person for another person to travel to Russia.
Brailsford joined the Independent Labour Party in 1907 and resigned from the Daily News in 1909 when it supported force-feeding of suffragette prisoners. Over the next decade he wrote several books, among them Adventures in Prose (1911), Shelley, Godwin and their Circle (1913), War of Steel and Gold (1914), Origins of the Great War (1914), Belgium and the Scrap of Paper (1915) and A League of Nations (1917).
In 1913-14 Brailsford was a member of the international commission sent by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to investigate the conduct of the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. He co-authored its report.
He was a prominent member of the Union of Democratic Control during the First World War and stood unsuccessfully as a Labour candidate in the 1918 general election. He subsequently toured central Europe and his graphic accounts of life in the defeated countries appeared in his books Across the Blockade (1919) and After the Peace (1920).
Brailsford went to Soviet Russia in 1920 and again to the USSR in 1926, publishing two books on the subject. He was editor of the New Leader, the ILP newspaper, from 1922 to 1926. He left the ILP in 1932 and through the 1930s was a regular contributor to Reynold's News and the New Statesman. Brailsford was an outspoken critic of Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany.
His books in the 1930s include the anti-colonialist classic Rebel India (1931) and the anti-militarist Property or Peace? (1934). In the late 1930s, he was one of the few writers associated with the Left Book Club, the New Statesman and Tribune who was consistently critical of the Soviet show trials.
Following the Soviet invasion of Finland, Brailsford published a hostile essay about Stalin in Reynold's News :
Stalin ... has compelled us to pass the judgement we had hitherto refused to register.His Russia is a totalitarian state, like another, as brutal towards the rights of others, as careless of its plighted word. If this man ever understood the international creed of socialism, he long ago forgot it. In this land the absolute power has wrought its customary effects of corruption.
During the Second World War, Brailsford penned a weekly column in the left-wing Reynold's News. He also continued to write books, the most important being Subject India (1943) and Our Settlement with Germany (1944). After his retirement from journalism in 1946, he wrote a history of the Levellers, which was unfinished at the time of his death.
Paul Foot described Brailsford as "perhaps the best socialist writer in Britain at the time".
He married a former student, Jane Esdon Malloch in 1898. They separated but she refused him a divorce.
In 1928 he met the artist Clare Leighton and they lived together for several years. When his wife died in 1937, leaving the way clear for the couple to marry, Brailsford, consumed by guilt, suffered an emotional breakdown, effectively destroying his relationship with Leighton who left for the US in 1939.
In 1944 he married Evamaria Perlmann, a refugee from Germany, 40 years his junior.