The Oxford Union Debate on War in 1933 : Rhetoric, Representation. Political Action
Haapala, T. (2017). The Oxford Union Debate on War in 1933 : Rhetoric, Representation. Political Action. Redescriptions, 20 (1), 68-84. doi:10.7227/R.20.1.5
© Redescriptions Association, 2017. This is a final draft version of an article whose final and definitive form has been published by Manchester University Press. Published in this repository with the kind permission of the publisher.
This paper shows how a debate conducted in the Oxford Union, the leading student debating society in Britain, was used to make a point about representation and politics in the national press, and what it means in terms of political action and who can be considered to make political arguments. In 1933 the Union debated a motion ‘That this House under no circumstances will fight for its King and Country’. It was carried by a clear margin, and the scandal it caused put the role of the Union and what it represented into question. It is here argued that there were two rhetorical levels in operation, rhetoric of representation and rhetoric of debate. With the former, the Union was blamed in the national press for lacking the representative qualities it was assumed to have, and with the latter, its rules and traditions were defended as part of the functions of a political assembly.