Commonweal (newspaper)

Commonweal was a British socialist newspaper founded in 1885 by the newborn Socialist League. Its aims were to spread socialist views and to win over new recruits.

The Commonweal
Cover of The Commonweal, January 1886
Political alignmentSocialism
Ceased publication1894

William Morris, founder of the League, was its chief writer, money finder and "responsible head". John Turner, Ernest Belfort Bax and Eleanor Marx also regularly contributed articles. Its publishing office was at Great Queen Street, London.

In 1890, Morris resigned as editor and was replaced by the anarchist David Nicholl (Morris went on to publish the Hammersmith Socialist Record, the paper of the Hammersmith Socialist Society). With the dissolution of the Socialist League, the paper continued as the independent publication of the Commonweal Group. Nicholl published an article on the Walsall Anarchists, for which he was sentenced to eighteen months' hard labour in May 1892; H. B. Samuels then became acting editor.

Soon after Nicholl's release, the paper was closed and replaced by his own periodical The Anarchist.[1] Nicholl later resurrected the name The Commonweal for this publication, under which name it continued sporadically from 1898 to 1907.[2]

Historian Alex Butterworth believes that the staff of Commonweal "may have consisted entirely of informants, unbeknownst to each other", although "[e]ven today, with unprecedented access to police files, Butterworth is often unsure who was reporting back to the cops."[3]


1885: William Morris
1890: Frank Kitz and David Nicholl
1891: David Nicholl
1892: Thomas Cantwell
1893: H. B. Samuels

See also


  1. Labour Annual (1896), pp. 214, 219
  2. Quail, John. The Slow Burning Fuse: The Lost History of the British Anarchists. Paladin, 1978. ISBN 0586082255
  3. Doherty, Brian (2010-12-17) The First War on Terror, Reason
  • The Aftermath, with Autobiography of the Author (John Bedford Leno, Reeves & Turner, London, 1892)