Were Chesterson and Belloc anti-semitic?


I’ve heard from some that both G.K. Chesterson and Hillaire Belloc were anti-semitic. Can anyone either verify or counter these charges?


Wikipedia (for what it’s worth) sums it up quite nicely:

  • CB


What’s your definition of “anti-Semitic”?

I think it’s best we define the term before we go any further with this discussion.


Chesterton said some things that today would not be considered very politically correct, but for his day he was actually pretty mild. Belloc I don’t know about.


The essay that George Orwell wrote about anti-semitism in Britain
shows a lack of understanding about human nature and the conflicted feelings people can have about another group of people that they don’t identify with but don’t necessarily hate. What did George Orwell expect from his fellow British men? a perfect absence of annoyance,mistrust,predjudice regarding the Jews? a complete inability or refusal to notice faults,or idiosyncrasies in Jewish people? a perfectly clean conscience in regards to the Jews?


And there was a real problem with the Jews… just as today there is a real problem with Moslems in Europe, and Mexicans in the States.

Many Jews where isolating in ghettoes, they didn’t engage in society. This by the way is how Hitler got his thing started in the first place…

Chesterton thought that the problem of Jewish ghettoes could be solved by giving them their own land. Which the UN actually did after WW2. Chesterton didn’t want the Jews killed… how could anyone even think that about the Father of Common Sense? :stuck_out_tongue:

  • CB


Thank you. That sounds like the most reasonable explanation. Wikipedia is notorious for getting their facts slanted or wrong.


Even people with humane intentions can be unfairly portrayed as inhumane. It’s ironic that the only people whose morality isn’t second-guessed are those who are blatantly inhumane or those who are completely indifferent. Anybody who is conflicted,or who wavers can be unfairly portrayed as guilty of something.


Just as it was for Irish, Italian, and Slavic Catholics in America in the 19th and 20th Centuries. They segregated themselves by both ethnicity and religion. When one is a stranger in a strange land one tends to want to be with ones own kind. Germans and Scandinavians were quite similar in their preferred place to settle. I am 4th generation German American and the Germanic people in my home town were still very clannish when I was a kid. My father even commented how strange it was that I would choose an Irish woman as a wife. During WW II many of my relatives here in America were still very anti-semitic. Now most of these prejudices have become politically incorrect but I don’t doubt there is still plenty to go around out there.


Note Dickens caricature of Fagin in Oliver Twist.


None of you have answered the question, which is not surprising.

I have noticed that CAF is long on answers, short on thoughtfulness.


The answer is no.


The asnwer, as suggested above, depends on what is meant by anti-Semitic. Both Chesterton and Belloc felt that the Jews represented an alien component in England, and one that, far from being isolated in ghettoes, or not engaging in society, were far too prominent is the ruling class, while being basically rootless cosmopolitans. See THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, for example.

Belloc was a little more pointed in his views. But neither were anti-Semitic in the Hitlerian sense, nor were such views all that uncommon in Great Britain at the time.



It’s one thing to have unconfirmed prejudices,mistrust,suspicions towards Jews,and another to have a confirmed hostility towards them.


I think the bigger question is: Why are we talking about this?

Even if it is true…it simply means exactly what our Catechism would have told us: Chesteron and Belloc are sinners. They had some wrong views.

It doesn’t invalidate anything else that they wrote. That stands or falls on its own merit.


Anti-Semitite has a very specific meaning.
It means an adherent of the nineteenth century movement which promoted hatred of Jews on purely non-religious grounds.

Catholics are effectively disqualified from being anti-Semites.



None the less, the concept of “against Jews” is not an invalid one, and the word “antiSemite” is a perfectly acceptable way to refer to this.

English has many words with multiple meanings. I guess anti-semite is just one more.


Both Chesterton and Belloc had a systematic animus against Jews, as alien and inimical to British society. And trentonzero is correct.

Please note my boardname. I’ve been a collector of Chesterton and Belloc for over 45 years. Their attitude Jews was not unusual for their period. But their ability to articulate it was.

GKC, very fond of both Hilaire and Gilbert.


No and no.

Just as the Church prior to Vatican II was not Anti-Semitic.

Although there are many people who believe that myth.
(I don’t know who started it, do you?)


How could they have a systematic animus against Jews when
they spoke out against Nazi atrocities against Jews and defended
Jews when they were being slandered ? That’s not systematic animosty,that’s more like wavering or vacillating. And the Jews were bound to be viewed as alien and inimical to British society,if only on account of their need to preserve their religious identity,just like devout Catholics are bound to be viewed as alien and inimical to American society.

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