Harold Sherwood Spencer was a British anti-homosexual and antisemitic activist during World War I.

Early life

Born in America of British descent, Spencer was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery in 1915, rising to the rank of Captain. He served on three fronts and became involved with the British Secret Service. However, his increasing obsession with the idea that the Germans were conspiring to sexually corrupt British civilians led to his being invalided out of the army in 1917 on grounds of mental instability.[1]


He was soon writing for the journal Imperialist, founded by Noel Pemberton Billing. In 1918 he convinced Billing to publish an article which claimed that 47,000 Britons were being blackmailed by Germans to "propagate evils which all decent men thought had perished in Sodom and Lesbia". It was said that names were listed in the "Berlin Black Book" of the "Mbret of Albania". A second article, attacking the actress Maud Allan for her alleged association with the conspiracy, led to a sensational libel case, at which Spencer stood as a witness for Billing. Spencer lied in court[2] claiming to have obtained evidence of German and Austrian plans to blackmail British citizens while working for an Austrian aristocrat in Albania before the war. Billing won the case.

In addition to its attacks on alleged homosexuals, the Imperialist regularly suggested that leading members of the British establishment were Jewish and that "the ruling or representing of Britain has become a close tribal affair."[3] In 1918 Spencer published Democracy or Shylocracy, an antisemitic tract which claimed to be "A Brief for Men and Women Who Labour and Who Sacrifice to Make the World Safe for Democracy, Only to Find Themselves Enslaved by Capitalism and Their Earnings Controlled by Monopolists" [4] The book argued that Jewish leaders had coordinated the Russian revolution and other recent events in world history. Spencer argued that Jews were an innately nomadic people "baked by the sun in the dry burning climate of the great deserts of North Africa, Arabia and Asia Minor...The desert crept into their hearts, and so at all times they were filled with the spirit of the sandy wastes".[5]

The book went through several editions, later being published by The Britons with the added subtitle "shall the Jew win?". The 1922 third edition included a preface written by John Henry Clarke, author of England Under the Heel of the Jew.


  1. Philip Hoare, Oscar Wilde's Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy, and the Most Outrageous Trial of the Century, (New York: Arcade Pub., 1998), ISBN 1559704233, p.57
  2. Hoare, p.118
  3. Hoare, p. 59
  4. London: C. F. Roworth, 1918: Singerman 0089
  5. Stone, Dan, Breeding Superman: Nietzsche, Race and Eugenics in Edwardian and Interwar Britain, Liverpool University Press, 2002, p.45

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