Cole, George Douglas Howard

Cole, George Douglas Howard,

1889–1959, English economist, labor historian, and socialist. Educated at Oxford, he was long associated with the university and held a professorship from 1944 to 1957. For many years a leading exponent of guild socialismguild socialism,
form of socialism developed in Great Britain that advocated a system of industrial self-government through national worker-controlled guilds. The theory, as originated by Arthur J.
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, he later returned to his original Fabianism, acting as chairman of the Fabian Society from 1939 to 1946 and becoming its president in 1952. His many books, mainly on labor and socialism, range from popular works to scholarly studies. Among his original works are A Short History of the British Working Class Movement (3 vol., 1927; rev. ed. 1948), The British Common People (with Raymond W. Postgate, 1939; rev. ed. The British People, 1947), and A History of Socialist Thought (5 vol. in 7, 1953–60). With his wife,

Margaret Isabel (Postgate) Cole, 1893–1980, he wrote over 30 detective stories as well as works on economics and politics. Her works include Beatrice Webb (1945), The Story of Fabian Socialism (1961), and a biography of her husband (1971). She also edited Beatrice WebbWebb, Beatrice Potter,
1858–1943, English socialist economist; daughter of a wealthy industrialist. She took an early interest in social problems and worked with Charles Booth on his survey of working life in London.
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's diaries.


See biography of George Cole by L. P. Carpenter (1973).

Cole, George Douglas Howard


Born Sept. 25, 1889, in London; died there Jan. 14, 1959. An English historian, economist, and sociologist, he held reformist positions.

Cole graduated from Oxford University in 1919. In 1925 he began teaching at Oxford, and from 1944 to 1957 he was a professor at the university. He joined the Independent Labour Party and the Fabian Society in 1908. He served as chairman of the Fabian Society from 1939 to 1946 and from 1948 to 1950, becoming its president in 1952.

Cole was one of the theoreticians of “guild socialism.” An integral part of his guild theory was the advocacy, particularly in the 1940’s and 1950’s, of cooperation between labor and capital. Cole related the distinctive features of the British labor movement to changes in Great Britain’s position and role in the world, and in his works he presented the history of the class struggle of the British workers soberly and often sympathetically. However, he did not believe in the revolutionary potential of British labor (with the exception of certain works written in the 1920’s). Analyzing the position of Europe between the two world wars, Cole decisively condemned fascism, but he never came to understand the class roots of fascist ideology. Occupying basically reformist positions and propagandizing the idea of creation of a “mixed economy,” Cole nevertheless frequently criticized the defects of the capitalist system and the policies of Labour Party leaders, in particular the policies of the Labour governments of 1929–31 and 1945–51. Unlike many other Social Democratic leaders, Cole supported cooperation between socialists and communists in the struggle against imperialist policies.


Guild Socialism Re-stated. London, 1921.
British Working Class Politics: 1832–1914. London, 1941.
The People’s Front. London, 1937.
Chartist Portraits. London, 1941.
Fabian Socialism. London, 1943.
The British Common People: 1746–1946, 2nd ed. New York, 1947. (Together with R. Postgate.)
A History of the Labour Party From 1914. London, 1948.
Essays in Social Theory. London, 1950.
Introduction to Economic History: 1750–1950. London, 1952.
A History of Socialist Thought, vols. 1–5. London-New York, 1953–60.
Studies in Class Structure. London, 1955.