The Cliveden Set were a 1930s, upper class group of prominent people, politically influential in pre-World War II Britain, who were in the circle of Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor, the first female MP who took her seat. The name comes from Cliveden stately home in Buckinghamshire, which was then Astor's country residence.
The "Cliveden Set" tag was coined by Claud Cockburn in his journalism for the Communist newspaper The Week. It has long been widely accepted that this aristocratic Germanophile social network was in favour of friendly relations with Nazi Germany and helped create the policy of appeasement. John L. Spivak, writing in 1939, devotes a chapter to the Set. Norman Rose's 2000 account of the group proposes that, when gathered at Cliveden, it functioned more like a think-tank than a cabal. According to Carroll Quigley, the Cliveden Set had been strongly anti-German before and during World War I. After the end of the war, the discovery of the Nazis' Black Book showed that the group's members were all to be arrested as soon as Britain was invaded; Lady Astor remarked, "It is the complete answer to the terrible lie that the so-called 'Cliveden Set' was pro-Fascist."
The actual beliefs and influence of the Cliveden Set are matters of some dispute, and in the late 20th century some historians of the period came to consider the Cliveden Set allegations to be exaggerated. For instance, Christopher Sykes, in a sympathetic 1972 biography of Nancy Astor, argues that the entire story about the Cliveden Set was an ideologically motivated fabrication by Claud Cockburn that came to be generally accepted by a public looking for scapegoats for British pre-war appeasement of Adolf Hitler. There are also academic arguments that while Cockburn's account may have not have been entirely accurate, his main allegations cannot be easily dismissed.
- Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor, politician and socialite
- Geoffrey Dawson, editor of the London Times newspaper
- Philip Kerr (Lord Lothian), author and politician
- Edward Wood (Lord Halifax), politician
- William Montagu, 9th Duke of Manchester, politician
- Robert Brand
In season six episodes four and five of the 1960s sitcom Hogan's Heroes, the two-parter episode "Lady Chitterly's Lover" involves a plot to negotiate Britain's surrender from a fictitious member of the Cliveden set, Sir Charles Chitterly.
- Secret Armies, (New York, Modern Age Books, 1939)
- "Nazi's black list discovered in Berlin". 14 September 1945.
- Frank McDonough, Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement, and the British Road to War (Manchester University Press,1998), p. 96-100
- A Reevaluation of Cockburn's Cliveden Set at userwww.sfsu.edu Archived 28 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine