Franz Borkenau
: a contextual intellectual biography

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This contextual intellectual biography of Franz Borkenau covers the period from the early 1930s until his death in 1957, during which he was active as a sociologist, historian of communism, political scientist and journalist. The central arguments of the dissertation are: firstly, that the most important moment in Borkenau’s intellectual development was the Nazi Machtergreifung, which occasioned a major reassessment of Marxism and led him towards a theory of totalitarianism; and, secondly, contrary to what has previously been written about him, that he did not become ever more illiberal and unhinged in his anti-communism as his career progressed from the interwar to the Cold War era. Rather, his Cold War anti-communism and Atlanticist orientation were foregrounded by the positions he took on the same issues in the contexts of the Popular Front period in interwar Britain, and the British debate over the German problem and the future of Europe during the Second World War. Which is to say that, except for a dalliance with the idea that Soviet Russia had dispensed with communism during the period of the Grand Alliance, there was a basic consistency in Borkenau’s intellectual and political positions from the mid-1930s until the end of his life. The thesis also highlights Borkenau’s contribution to the method of Kremlinology, which has been overlooked in previous treatments of his work.
Date of Award24 Jan 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJames Thompson (Supervisor) & Richard D Sheldon (Supervisor)

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