Nesta Helen Webster

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Nesta Helen Webster
Webster aged 53.
Webster aged 53.
BornNesta Helen Bevan
(1876-08-24)24 August 1876
Trent Park, London
Died16 May 1960(1960-05-16) (aged 83)
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
Alma materWestfield College
SubjectInternational Revolutionary conspiracy, feminism
Notable worksWorld Revolution: The Plot Against Civilization
Secret Societies and Subversive Movements
SpouseArthur Templer Webster

Nesta Helen Webster (née Bevan, 24 August 1876 – 16 May 1960) was an English author and far-right conspiracy theorist, who promoted antisemitic canards and revived theories about the Illuminati.[1][2][3] She claimed that the secret society's members were occultists, plotting communist world domination, through a Jewish cabal, the Masons and Jesuits.[2][4] She blamed the group for events including the French Revolution, 1848 Revolution, the First World War, and the Bolshevik Revolution.[5] Her writing influenced later conspiracy theories and ideologies, including American anti-communism (particularly the John Birch Society) and the militia movement.[6]

In 1920, Webster became a contributor to The Jewish Peril, a series of articles in the London Morning Post centered on the (forged) document The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.[7][8] These articles were compiled and published in the same year in book form under the title of The Cause of World Unrest.[9] Webster claimed that the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was an "open question".[10] Prior to World War II, Webster was involved in Fascist political groups in the United Kingdom.[11][12]

Early years[edit]

Born in 1876, in the North London stately home Trent Park, Webster was the youngest daughter of Robert Cooper Lee Bevan and Emma Frances Shuttleworth.[13] She was educated at Westfield College, now part of Queen Mary, University of London. When she became an adult, she travelled around the world, visiting India, Burma, Singapore, and Japan. In 1904, she married Arthur Templer Webster, Superintendent of the British Police in India.[14]


Reading the letters of the Countess of Sabran, Webster believed herself to be a reincarnation of someone from the time of the French Revolution.[13][15] Her first book on the subject of the French Revolution was The Chevalier de Boufflers, followed by The French Revolution: A study in democracy, in which she credited a conspiracy based around Freemasonry as responsible for the French Revolution.[13] She wrote that "the lodges of the German Freemasons and Illuminati were thus the source whence emanated all those anarchic schemes which culminated in the Terror, and it was at a great meeting of the Freemasons in Frankfurt-am-Main, three years before the French Revolution began, that the deaths of Louis XVI and Gustavus III of Sweden were first planned."[16]

Webster differentiated between "Continental Freemasonry" and "British Freemasonry"; while the former was a subversive force in her mind, she considered the latter "an honourable association" and a "supporter of law, order and religion".[17] Masons of the United Grand Lodge of England supported her writings.[17]

Political views[edit]

The publication of the antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion led Webster to believe that Jews were the driving force behind an international conspiracy, which in World Revolution: the Plot Against Civilization she developed into a "Judeo-Masonic" conspiracy behind international finance and responsible for the Bolshevik revolution.[13] Following this, she became the leading writer of The Patriot, an antisemitic paper financed by Alan Percy.[18]

Winston Churchill praised her in a 1920 article entitled "Zionism versus Bolshevism: A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People,"[19][20] in which he wrote "This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky (Russia), Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany), and Emma Goldman (United States), this world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It played, as a modern writer, Mrs. Webster, has so ably shown, a definitely recognisable part in the tragedy of the French Revolution."[21]

Webster became involved in several far-right groups including the British Fascists,[11] the Anti-Socialist Union, The Link, and the British Union of Fascists.[12]

In her books, Webster argued that Bolshevism was part of a much older and more secret, self-perpetuating conspiracy. She described three possible sources for this conspiracy: Zionism, Pan-Germanism or "the occult power". She claimed that even if the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were fake, they still described how Jews behave.[22] Webster dismissed much of the persecution of the Jews by Nazi Germany as exaggeration and propaganda, having abandoned her anti-German views due to her admiration for Hitler.[23][13] She came to oppose Hitler after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.[13]

Webster favoured "traditional roles for women and believed women should primarily influence men to be better men", but was frustrated by limits on the careers open to women, because she believed jobs should not just be for the money but should be purposeful professions. She saw marriage as limiting her choices, although her wedding financially allowed her to be a writer. She believed in raising women's education, and that the education they had been receiving was inferior to men's, making women less capable than they could be. She believed that, with better education, women would have substantial political capabilities to a degree considered "non-traditional", but without that education they'd be only as men imagined all women to be, the suppliers of men's and children's "material needs". "[S]he implied ... [that] women and men might well be true equals." She believed there had been "women's supremacy ... [in] pre-revolutionary France, when powerful women never attempted to compete directly with men, but instead drew strength from other areas where they excelled. She favoured women being allowed to vote and favoured keeping the British Parliamentary system for the benefit of both women and men, although doubted that voting would provide everything women needed, and thus did not join the suffrage movement. In the 1920s, "her views on women had become more conservative", and she made them secondary to her conspiracy writing.[24]


In February 1924, Hilaire Belloc wrote to an American Jewish friend regarding one of Webster's publications which purported to expose evidence of Jewish conspiracy. Though Belloc's record of writing about Jews has itself attracted accusations of antisemitism, his contempt for Webster's own efforts was evident:

In my opinion it is a lunatic book. She is one of those people who have got one cause on the brain. It is the good old 'Jewish revolutionary' bogey. But there is a type of unstable mind which cannot rest without morbid imaginings, and the conception of a single cause simplifies thought. With this good woman it is the Jews, with some people it is the Jesuits, with others Freemasons and so on. The world is more complex than that.[25]

Umberto Eco, whose novel The Prague Cemetery recounts the development of the Protocols, has characterised Webster's propagation of the document as evidence of a delusional tendency:

In 1921... the Times of London discovered the old pamphlet by Joly and realized that it was the source for the Protocols. But evidence is not enough for those who want to live in a horror novel... [Webster's] syllogism is impeccable: since the Protocols resemble the story I have told, they confirm it. Or: the Protocols confirm the story I have concocted from them; therefore they are true.[26]


  • The Chevalier De Boufflers. A Romance of the French Revolution, E.P. Dutton and Company, 1927. [1st Pub. London, John Murray, 1910. Reprints: 1916; 1920; 1924; 1925; E.P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1926].
  • Britain's Call to Arms: An Appeal to Our Women. London, Hugh Rees, 1914.
  • The Sheep Track. An Aspect of London Society. London: John Murray (1914).
  • The French Revolution: A Study in Democracy. London: Constable & Co. (1919).[27][28][29][30][31]
  • The French Terror and Russian Bolshevism. London: Boswell Printing & Publishing Co. (1920) [?]. OCLC 22692582.
  • World Revolution. The Plot Against Civilization, Small, Maynard & Company, 1921 [1st Pub. London, Constable & Co., 1921. Reprints: Constable, 1922; Chawleigh, The Britons Publishing Co., 1971; Sudbury, Bloomfield Books, 1990?].
    • The Revolution of 1848, Kessinger Publishing, 2010.
  • The Past History of the World Revolution. A Lecture, Woolwich, Royal Artillery Institution, 1921.
  • with Kurt Kerlen, Boche and Bolshevik, being a series of articles from the Morning Post of London, reprinted for distribution in the United States, New York, Beckwith, 1923. Reprint: Sudbury, Bloomfield Books [1990?]. ISBN 1-4179-7949-6.
  • Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, London, Boswell Printing & Publishing Co. London, 1924. Reprints: Boswell, 1928 and 1936; London, The Britons Publishing Co., London, 1955 and 1964; Palmdale, Christian Book Club of America and Sudbury and Sudbury, Bloomfield Books, 198 [?]; Kessinger Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-7661-3066-5.[32][33][34]
  • The Socialist Network. London: Boswell Printing & Publishing Co. (1926).
    • Reprinted: Boswell (1933); Sudbury, Bloomfield (1989?); Noontide Press (2000). ISBN 0913022063.
  • The Need for Fascism in Britain. London: British Fascists, Pamphlet no. 17 (1926).
  • The Surrender of an Empire. London: Boswell Printing & Publishing Co. (1931).
    • Reprinted: Angriff Press (1972); Gordon Press Publishers (1973); Sudbury, Bloomfield Books (1990?).
  • The Origin and Progress of the World Revolution. London: Boswell Printing & Publishing Co. (1932).
  • (with the pseudonym of Julian Sterne). The Secret of the Zodiac, London: Boswell Printing & Publishing Co. (1933).
  • Germany and England. London: Boswell Publishing Co. (1938). Revised and reprinted from The Patriot.
  • Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette Before the Revolution. London: Constable & Co. (1936).
  • Spacious Days: An Autobiography. London: Hutchinson (1949).
    • Crowded Hours: Part Two of her Autobiography. The manuscript "disappeared from her publisher's office." It remains unpublished.
  • Marie-Antoinette Intime (in French). Paris: La Table ronde (1981). ISBN 2710300613.

Selected articles[edit]


  • Gilman, Richard M., Behind "World Revolution": The Strange Career of Nesta H. Webster, Ann Arbor, Insights Books, 1982.
  • Lee, Martha F., Nesta Webster: The Voice of Conspiracy, in Journal of Women's History, Vol. 17, No. 3, p. 81 ff. Fall, 2005. Biography.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bruno Duarte, Miguel. "Illuminati," Archived 5 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine The Inter-American Institute, 11 December 2012.
  2. ^ a b Who are the Illuminati? Independent on Sunday (London) 6 November 2005.
  3. ^ Stauffer, Vernon. New England and the Bavarian Illuminati, New York, 1918.
  4. ^ Not without Honor, Harvard University Nieman Reports, 22 March 1997.
  5. ^ New World Order, Old World Anti-Semitism, The Christian Century 13 September 1995.
  6. ^ Lee, Martha F. (Martha Frances) (2005). "Nesta Webster: The Voice of Conspiracy". Journal of Women's History. 17 (3): 81–104. doi:10.1353/jowh.2005.0033. ISSN 1527-2036.
  7. ^ "The So-Called Jewish 'Protocols'," The Weekly Review, Vol. III, No. 83, 15 December 1920.
  8. ^ "Puncturing the Protocols," The Weekly Review, Vol. V, No. 122, 10 September 1921.
  9. ^ The Cause of World Unrest, G. P. Putnam's Son, 1920.
  10. ^ Webster, Nesta (1924). Secret Societies and Subversive Movements. London: Boswell Printing & Publishing Co. p. 408. Contrary to the assertions of certain writers, I have never affirmed my belief in the authenticity of the Protocols, but have always treated it as an entirely open question. The only opinion to which I have committed myself is that, whether genuine or not, the Protocols do represent the programme of world revolution, and that in view of their prophetic nature and of their extraordinary resemblance to the protocols of certain secret societies in the past, they were either the work of some such society or of someone profoundly versed in the lore of secret societies who was able to reproduce their ideas and phraseology.
  11. ^ a b Thomas Linehan, British Fascism 1918-39: Parties, Ideology and Culture, Manchester University Press, 2000, p. 46
  12. ^ a b Barberis, Peter; John McHugh; Mike Tyldesley (26 July 2005). Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8264-5814-8., page 176
  13. ^ a b c d e f Griffiths, Richard (2004). "Webster [née Bevan], Nesta Helen (1875–1960), conspiracy theorist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/71529. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  14. ^ N. Webster, Spacious Days, London and Bombay: Hutchinson & Co., 1950, pp. 103 and 172–175.
  15. ^ Thurlow, Richard C. (2006). Fascism in Britain: from Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to the National Front. London: I.B. Taurus. p. 38. ISBN 1-86064-337-X. citing Webster, Nesta (1949). Spacious Days. London. p. 173.
  16. ^ Johnston, R. M. "Mirabeau's Secret Mission to Berlin," American Historical Review, Vol. 6, Nº. 2, 1901.
  17. ^ a b Heimbichner, S. Craig; Parfrey, Adam (2012). Ritual America: Secret Brotherhoods and Their Influence on American Society: A Visual Guide. Feral House. p. 187. ISBN 978-1936239153.
  18. ^ Macklin, Graham (15 April 2007). Very Deeply Dyed in Black: Sir Oswald Mosley And the Resurrection of British Fascism After 1945. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-284-4., page 30
  19. ^ Churchill, Winston S. "Zionism versus Bolshevism: A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People," Illustrated Sunday Herald (London), 8 February, pg. 5, 1920.
  20. ^ Quoted in Anthony Julius, Trials of The Diaspora, A History of Anti-Semitism in England (Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 719, footnote 387.
  21. ^ Pyle, Joseph Gilpin. "1919 and 1793," The Unpartizan Review, Vol. 13, Nº. 25, 1920.
  22. ^ "The Professor's Pendulum", Los Angeles Times; 9 November 1989
  23. ^ Julius, Anthony (3 May 2010). Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England. Oxford University Press. p. 408. ISBN 978-0-19-929705-4.
  24. ^ Lee, Martha F. "Nesta Webster: The Voice of Conspiracy," Journal of Women's History, Vol. 17 (3), Fall 2005.
  25. ^ The Life Of Hilaire Belloc, by Robert Speaight, 1957, pp. 456–8.
  26. ^ Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, by Umberto Eco, 1994, pp. 137–9.
  27. ^ Egan, Maurice Francis. "Democracy and the French Revolution." New York Times (June 27, 1920).
  28. ^ Babbitt, Irving. "A New History of the French Revolution." Weekly Review, vol. 2, no. 2 (1920).
  29. ^ Pratt, Julius W. "The French Revolution: A Study in Democracy." South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 19, no. 4 (1920).
  30. ^ Abbott, Wilbur Cortez. "A New History of the French Revolution." The Bookman (July 1920).
  31. ^ Chickering, Julia. "The French Revolution." Part II. Theosophical Quarterly, vol. 18 (1920); Part III, vol. 19 (1921).
  32. ^ Abbott, Wilbur Cortez. "Revolution," The Saturday Review, 17 October 1925.
  33. ^ "Nesta H. Webster's Secret Societies," Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. Updated: 27 July 2001.
  34. ^ Heckethorn, Charles William. The Secret Societies of all Ages and Countries[permanent dead link], Vol. 2[permanent dead link]. London: George Redway (1897).

External links[edit]