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In the Highest Degree Odious

A. W. Brian Simpson

Published in print November 1994 | ISBN: 9780198259497
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681974 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198259497.001.0001
In the Highest Degree Odious

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During World War II, just under 2,000 British citizens were detained without charge, trial, or term set, under Regulation 18B of the wartime Defence Regulations. Most of these detentions took place in the summer of 1940, soon after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister, when belief in the existence of a dangerous Fifth Column was widespread. Churchill, at first an enthusiast for vigorous use of the powers of executive detention, later came to lament the use of a power which was, in his words, ‘in the highest degree odious’. This book provides the first comprehensive study of Regulation 18B and its precursor in World War I, Regulation 14B. Based on extensive use of primary sources, it describes the complex history of wartime executive detention: the purposes which it served, the administrative procedures and safeguards employed, the conflicts between the Home Office and the Security Service which surrounded its use, the part played by individuals, by Parliament, and by the courts in restraining abuse of executive power, and the effect of detention upon the lives of the individuals concerned, very few of whom constituted any threat to national security. Much of what was done was kept secret at the time, and even today the authorities continue to refuse access to many of the papers which have escaped deliberate destruction. This study is the first to attempt to penetrate the veil of secrecy and tell the story of the gravest invasion of civil liberty which has occurred in Britain this century.

Keywords: World War II; Regulation 18B; Defence Regulations; executive detention; Fifth Column; Regulation 14B; Home Office; Security Service; national security; civil liberty

Book.  478 pages. 

Subjects: History of Law

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Table of Contents

The Invention of Executive Detention in In the Highest Degree Odious

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Regulation 14B and its Progeny in In the Highest Degree Odious

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Emergency Planning between the Wars in In the Highest Degree Odious

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The Commons Revolt in In the Highest Degree Odious

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Detention during the Phoney War in In the Highest Degree Odious

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The Defeat of Liberalism in In the Highest Degree Odious

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Fascism and the Fears of 1940 in In the Highest Degree Odious

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The British Fifth Column in In the Highest Degree Odious

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The Great Incarceration Begins in In the Highest Degree Odious

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It Might Have Happened to You! in In the Highest Degree Odious

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