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The Fabian Society was founded in 1884 as a socialist society committed to gradual rather than revolutionary social reform. The name comes from the Roman general Quintus Fabius, known for his strategy of delaying battle until the right moment. The Society's early members included George Bernard Shaw, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Emmeline Pankhurst and HG Wells.

The first Fabian Tract, (Why are the Many Poor?) and the original Fabian Essays were published in 1889 in the aftermath of something called the Match Girls Strike. Ever since, the Society has been characterized by a passionate commitment to social justice and a belief in the progressive improvement of society. It has always maintained a diversity of opinion, motivated by the desire to stimulate debate rather than to promote a particular political line of thought.

In 1900 the Fabian Society joined with the trade unions to found the Labour Party and has remained affiliated to it ever since.

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