William Beveridge: A Biography

By Jose Harris | Go to book overview

15
OXFORD AND HITLER'S WAR

I

THE late 1930s, Beveridge observed in his memoirs, saw 'the gradual eclipse of various illusions that had amused the world and me, since the Armistice of 1918'.1 At the time, however, it seemed to him at least briefly a period of hope and of considerable personal happiness.2 He took on a new lease of life from his return to Oxford, and he found the fellows of University College highly congenial -- in particular, the reader in politics, G. D. H. Cole. Beveridge had previous regarded Cole as an unsound and dangerous eccentric, 3 but now in his late fifties he began to develop a close intellectual sympathy and warm regard for this lifelong critic of the over-bureaucratized administrative state. At the end of his first year in office he was reported by Cole to be 'a great success as Master and very happy'. He derived great pleasure from some of the more personal aspects of college government, such as the election of scholars and presentation of clerical livings; and he was delighted with his new students who 'welcomed him as a father and adviser' and 'all rose and greeted him respectfully and affectionately' when he entered a room! He was delighted also with the 'perfect physical surroundings' of the master's lodging -- a 'Victorian Tudor manor-house', where he was looked after by Mrs Mair's youngest daughter Elspeth. He was 'in high spirits', noted Beatrice Webb, 'thoroughly enjoying his new life as Master of University College, Oxford; an easy job, within a cultured and well-mannered group; dignity and prestige without any particular responsibility or hard work; able to concentrate on his statistical investigation of prices and trade cycles. . . . What a change from the turbulent atmosphere and continuous work and friction of the London School of Economics.'4

Beveridge's satisfaction with his life in Oxford was reflected also in a revival of his confidence in academic social science. He was involved in the planning of Nuffield College and had great hopes that Nuffield would succeed in establishing a neutral and empirical social science tradition where

____________________
1
PI, p. 167.
2
Passfield Papers, II, 4, k, 65, WHB to B. Webb, 21 Dec. 1937.
3
BP, IIb, WHB to A. J. Carlyle, 21 July 1924.
4
Passfield Papers, B. Webb's diary, 1 May 1937, 5 July and 10 Aug. 1938.

-350-

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