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Fabian Society

The Fabian Society is a British socialist group best known for its work in the late 19th century and up to World War I, which laid many of the foundations of the British Labour Party, but still in existence today.

The society was founded on January 4, 1884 in London, England as an offshoot of a society founded in 1883 called The Fellowship of the New Life. Fellowship members included poets Edward Carpenter and John Davidson and also sexologist Havelock Ellis. They wanted to transform society by setting an example of clean simplified living for others to follow. But when some members also wanted to become politically involved to aid society's transformation, it was decided that a separate society, The Fabian Society, also be set up. All members were free to attend both societies. The Fellowship of the New Life unfortuneately disbanded sometime around 1891 but the Fabian Society grew to become the pre-eminent intellectual society in Great Britain in the Edwardian Era. Immediately upon its inception it began attracting many intellectuals drawn to its socialist cause, including George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and Emmeline Pankhurst. The group, which favoured gradual rather than revolutionary change, was named in honour of the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator who advocated tactics involving harassment rather than pitiched battles. Many Fabians participated in the formation of the Labour Party in 1900 and the group's constitution, written by Shaw, was borrowed heavily from the founding documents of the Labour Party.

Through the course of the 20th century the group remained influential in Labour Party circles, with members including Clement Attlee, Anthony Crosland[?], Richard Crossman[?], Tony Benn, Harold Wilson and more recently Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

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