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                                      m . g . b ro c k

                   `p ro b le ms . . . r em ot e fro m u s'
None of the University's preoccupations during the last academic year before
the First World War will surprise a reader of the preceding pages. In
November 1913 Convocation killed the proposed Diploma in Commerce
and Economics mentioned in the last chapter.1 This unhappy saga, initiated
by Curzon, illustrates a recurrent theme of the volume. Those who had
received the University's stamp during Queen Victoria's later years held the
transmission of the cultural heritage to be their overriding concern. As
Chapter 25 shows, they were disinclined to extract money from a `plutocrat'
who would provide it only if the University dropped compulsory Greek.2
They did not think it their role to help in keeping Britain ahead of its
competitors. Their country was one of the world's richest; but even for the
British there was no general diffusion of af¯uence. In that world two assump-
tions were easily made, ®rst, that Britain would retain its leading industrial
and ®nancial position, and secondly, that, when an undergraduate chose his
career, he might well put the likely material reward above all other considera-
tions: his chief temptation would be towards materialism and avarice. In the
Congregation debate on the proposed diploma the Warden of New College
pleaded against `too much of the brains and vigour of the country' being
drawn towards the `wealth-amassing career of commerce or business' to the
neglect of `the more ennobling careers of the clergyman, the student, the man
of science, the teacher, the lawyer, the doctor, and even the public servant'.3
   Dr Spooner's remarks were not representative of Oxford opinions. Indeed
they hardly did justice to his own, for he was a member of the Political
Economy Club and lectured on that subject.4 Their connection with the

     Gazette xliv. 189. Birmingham University, by contrast, had a faculty of commerce in 1914.
See Joseph Chamberlain's speech to the Court of Governors: The Times, 15 May 1905, 12d, e.
     See p. 631 above.
     OM xxxii (29 Jan. 1914), 163. The article from which this quotation is taken was by H. E.
Morgan, an executive with W. H. Smith, for whom see Pt 1, 499. See also Eustace Percy's attack
on `the superstition of the ``liberal professions''': Education at the Crossroads (1930), 53.
     William Hayter, Spooner (1977), 90.
856                             edwardian oxford
salient facts was tenuous. The Oxford men then in industry included Lionel
Hichens from the Warden's own college, who had just rescued Cammell
Laird. He wanted a recognition that industry was `primarily a national
service', the object of those engaged in it being `®rst and foremost the
good of the community as a whole'.5 Some at least among the lawyers of
the time seem to have been less high-minded than this. F. E. Smith was not
thought to be indifferent to the size of his fee. In less eccentric and extreme
guises, however, opposition to materialism applied far beyond the clergy and
characterized universities other than Oxford.6 Curzon's proposed diploma
was wrecked by Congregation's insistence that it should be con®ned to
graduates. What was `dangerous', in the view of a correspondent of the
Oxford Magazine, was `to bring young men to Oxford merely to follow a
technical preparation for business'. A principle being at stake, it could not be
helped that very few would be willing either to combine the diploma with a
pass degree, or to lengthen their residence by working for it after taking
honours. The proposal went down, not under the attacks of opponents, but
because in its postgraduate form its friends deserted it.7
   The mission to the undergraduates which the Bishop of Oxford conducted
in February 1914 drew large crowds: the Union was denuded of most of its
best speakers that week.8 Interest in the social side of the Church's work was
as strong as ever. Oxford House held its annual meeting in the Union's
debating hall on 10 May, when a thousand attended to hear about Bethnal
Green.9 Meanwhile, unlike the undergraduates, the Bishop had to be con-
cerned about heresy, and he therefore warned the diocesan clergy against such
deviations as the latest swerve into `Modernism' by the Lady Margaret
Professor of Divinity. Professor Sanday's defence was published in The Times
on 13 May.10 T. H. Green's heirs were naturally less worried than the Bishop
      Lionel Hichens, Some Problems of Modern Industry (1918), 22. Hichens had become
chairman of Cammell Laird in 1910. For a general survey of Oxford men going into industry
during the Edwardian period see Pt 1, 499±500. Of 155 men admitted to Wadham, 1903±8,
twelve were reckoned to have gone into business: Wadham College, ed. C. S. L. Davies and Jane
Garnett (1994), 60.
      See Rothblatt, Revolution of the Dons (ch. 32 n. 98), 257; Rudyard Kipling, Rectorial
Address, St Andrews University, 10 Oct. 1923: Independence (1923), 31. Cambridge, according
to Rothblatt, was most reluctant to accept the pleas of Karl Breul, its Professor of German from
1910, that it should treat modern language studies with proper respect.
      OM xxxii. 176. For a similar emphasis on `culture and enlightenment', as opposed to
vocational skills, see pp. 471±7, and 701±2 above; G. Sutherland (ed.), Studies in the Growth
of Nineteenth-Century Government (1972), 283 (the `Holmes Circular', 6 Jan. 1910); Jose         Â
Harris, `Political Thought and the Welfare State, 1870±1940', Past and Present, no. 135 (May
1992), 137±8. The Circular is discussed on pp. 841±2 above.
      OM xxxii. 201.
      Isis, 16 May 1914, 10. See Elmhirst, Diary 85±6 (entertaining `the Bethnal Green people',
May 1912).
      The Times, 7 Apr., 6d, 20 Apr., 9e; 13 May, 6c. The Hulsean Professor at Cambridge
(W. E. Barnes) had been embroiled with the bishops over the Athanasian Creed a few weeks
earlier: The Times, 4 Mar., 7e.
                                       epilogue                                        857
about the spread of `Modernism'. After visiting von Hugel in 1910 C. C. J.
Webb wrote in his diary: `He spoke of the fanatical anti-religion current at
Cambridge, from which I think our Greats School has preserved Oxford';11
and in 1917 R. W. Macan, the Master of University College, reviewing ®fty
years of religious change in Oxford, called Green `a master-mind in our
spiritual building . . . a missionary of the spirit'. By 1914 the views which had
once persuaded Pusey to have Macan expelled from Christ Church had
become Oxford's academic orthodoxy.12
   Those items might suggest that attitudes had not changed greatly in
Oxford since the 1890s; but any such conclusion would be mistaken. The
undergraduate protests round the turn of the century, when Ruskin College
and the Rhodes scholarships were founded, had by now faded into history.
In February 1912 the Union had voted nem. con. to congratulate Ruskin on
the laying of the foundation stone for its new buildings.13 In 1913 Ruskin
students had taken six of the thirteen distinctions in the Diploma in Eco-
nomics and Political Science and seven of the ®fteen passes. The Professor of
Political Economy was by now supported by one in Political Theory, and by
a Reader in Economic History and an All Souls fellow in Political Eco-
nomy.14 The fears about allowing the study of contemporary topics were
lessening all the time. In 1915, the compulsory ®nals paper on modern
English history would include questions about the Victorian age to 1885:
the second-year historians who were studying this modern era naturally did
not know that conditions would have changed a good deal by the date for
their ®nals.15 Among the B.Litt. subjects approved by the Modern History
Board in 1914 may be found: `The incidence of local rates and of taxes upon
the unearned income of the land'.16 During Lloyd George's time at the
Exchequer there were few topics more controversial than that.
   These incremental changes caught the eye less than the defeat in Con-
gregation of the new Responsions statute in the summer of 1914 by 110 votes
to 73.17 Persuading the colleges to turn Responsions into a modern-style
entrance examination on School Certi®cate lines had been a foredoomed
operation. The Bursar of Worcester had no dif®culty in showing that a
multi-subject entrance exam which included compulsory Latin and Greek
amounted to a formula for emptying his college.18 The vote simply empha-
     Webb diary, 31 Dec. 1910: Bodl. MS Eng. Misc. e 1157 fo. 17.
     R. W. Macan, Religious Changes in Oxford During the Last Fifty Years (1917), 13: paper
read to Oxford Society for Historical Theology, 14 June 1917.
     OM xxx (22 Feb. 1912), 228. For the earlier expressions of disdain see p. 810.
     Norman Chester, Economics, Politics and Social Studies in Oxford, 1900±1985 (1986), 15±
16, 21. One of the `passes' in the Diploma was secured by Jean Paul Getty (see Ch. 7, n. 28).
     Gazette xlii (19 June 1912), 958.
     `State insurance, with special reference to England and Germany' and `The British tax
system' had been approved in 1913: OUA, FA 4/11/2/2, pp. 13±14, 33±4.
     Gazette xliv (17 June 1914), 881.
     OM xxxii (11 June 1914), 389±92, F. J. Lys.
858                              edwardian oxford
sized that no effective reform of Responsions was possible as long as Con-
vocation insisted on compulsory Greek. The Hebdomadal Council was none
the less expected to make another attempt at the apparently impossible. `It
is,' the Athenaeum's Oxford correspondent commented bleakly, `what they
are there for.'19 There was something unreal about the vote in June. As the end
of Chapter 23 shows, the members of Council had known since early May
that `compulsory Greek' was almost certainly doomed. Some at least of the
Greekless Etonians about whom Lyttelton had sent his warning would not
apply to Oxford if this entailed being crammed for Responsions; and, even
assuming some to be willing to face the prospect, such cramming would
hardly be feasible. It was one thing to defend the classics in the last ditch
when the number of potential applicants being deterred thereby was quite
uncertain: to bar the door deliberately to the country's most famous school
would be quite another. Where the pleas of the many had failed this threat
from the privileged would be devastatingly effective.20
   Public ®gures were much seen in Oxford during this academic year. On 30
October 1913 the Union debated the motion `That military power is eco-
nomically and socially futile'. With the help of the visiting speaker, Norman
Angell, this was carried by 284 votes to 244. Angell returned to Oxford on
14 November and explained in New College hall, with the Warden in the
chair, that military conquest brought no pro®t to the conqueror; and in
February a meeting was held to form an `Angellite' Peace and War Society
in the University. Gilbert Murray presided, and the organizer of the Garton
Foundation, which had been formed to spread Angell's views, made the
principal speech.21 A few days later the Navy League provided a counter-
blast with the support of the Warden of Wadham and the Master of Uni-
versity. The League's chief secretary explained that, while the British Navy
was `unchallengeable' for the present, its future strength was a cause for
concern.22 In the Trinity term the threat of civil war in Ireland brought
heavyweights to Oxford. In May 1914 Milner spoke for Ulster at a mass
meeting in the Town Hall: six Oxford heads and many fellows had already
signed the Ulster Covenant.23 A few weeks later Haldane addressed a joint

     Athenaeum, no. 4522 (27 June 1914), 890.
     See pp. 564; E. Lyttelton to the Vice-Chancellor, 28 Apr. 1914: HCP98 (1914), 81±2. The
Master of University (Macan) was soon warning about the danger for Oxford if it continued to
demand `antiquated accomplishment' of all its candidates: Oxford Times, 8 Aug. 1914.
     Isis, 1 Nov. 1913, 5; OM xxxii. 88; Oxford Chronicle, 21 Nov. 1913, 5d; Oxford Times, 7
Feb. 1914, 10a, b. See also J. D. B. Miller, Norman Angell and the Futility of War (1986), 8±9. `We
did not know until the war revealed it,' Murray wrote, 7 Sept. 1914, `what this German system
meant': Duncan Wilson, Gilbert Murray, OM (1987), 218.
     Oxford Times, 14 Feb. 1914, 16e. The president of the Navy League had given the same
warning earlier in the Union: OM xxx (15 Feb. 1912), 213.
     Oxford Times, 14 Mar. 1914, 16; 30 May, 11 a±e. See also ibid., 20 June, 6, for the joint
University±City meeting chaired by the Mayor. Strachan-Davidson, though a Conservative,
thought signing the Covenant incompatible with his position as Master of Balliol.
                                       epilogue                                        859
meeting of the Russell, Palmerston, and Eighty Clubs on the Ulster question
and the rise of the Labour Party.24
   Britain's continental neighbours aroused far less controversy than the
Irish. In January the University French Club had entertained the French
Ambassador, who told them that the Entente Cordiale was perfect and
complete. In two years the Club's numbers had risen from 54 to 271.25 But
Oxford's German students outnumbered the French by far, and as the
Encaenia was to show, German scholarship commanded immense respect
among the University's senior members.26 When the German Ambassador,
Prince Lichnowsky, visited Oxford on 3 June to receive his DCL he was
greeted everywhere with enormous enthusiasm. It was the centenary of the
King of Prussia's visit after Napoleon had been despatched to Elba; and an
`English Studies Course for Foreigners', recently instituted, had proved
particularly popular with young Germans. At the dinner in the Masonic
Hall the Master of University College recounted how a seedling ®r brought
home from the Black Forest was now deeply rooted in his garden and
growing well. This parable was received with much thumping of champagne
bottles upon the tables. No one who was present, the Oxford Magazine
commented, `could doubt the wahlverwandtschaft between German geist
and Oxonian kultur'.27
   Four evenings earlier the Union, when entertaining visiting speakers from
the Cambridge Union, had agreed, by 96 votes to 60, to `Condemn the Triple
Entente as embodying both an unnecessary and an unnatural policy'. This
debate reveals a good deal about the Oxford of 1914 and merits a word of
explanation. It was not a mere anticipation of the reception which awaited
Lichnowsky. Oxford's undergraduates were less likely than their seniors to
be impressed by Germany's academic achievements. The speakers for the
minority stressed that Britain had been bound to choose between Germany
and France, and had made the right choice: if the Triple Entente were to be
weakened war would be inevitable. For the majority it was argued that
a rapprochement with Germany would be possible for Britain if only the
link with France and Russia could be severed. The opening speaker com-
bined this with a little isolationism: we `should not', he said, `dabble pro-
miscuously in problems that were remote from us'.28 These were the
standard arguments to be found then in the press and periodicals: the evening
carried no hint of undergraduate radicalism and revolt; anything less like the
     Ibid. 13 June 13 c,d .
     Ibid. 31 Jan. 1914, 16d.
     Four Frenchmen matriculated in 1913±14, thirty-four Germans. The University's Anglo-
German club had a `new extension': Isis, 9 May 1914, 6. For the German Honorands in summer
1914 see The Twentieth Century, 3.
     The Times, 4 June, 10c; OM xxxii. 393, 11 June; E. M. Wright, `My Life at Oxford, Pt 2',
Oxford, xiv. 3 (Dec. 1956), 88±92. Macan had studied at Jena as a young man.
     OM xxxii. 375: Cambridge speaker.
860                             edwardian oxford
`King and Country' debate of 1933 could hardly be imagined. The Oxford
President, who condemned the Entente for `dividing the European powers
into two armed camps, and so encouraging rivalry in armaments and strained
relations', bore no resemblance to the `angry young men' of a later day. He
was a Conservative who had reorganized the ®nances of Oxford's New Tory
Club. He had rowed in two winning Boat-Race crews, held a commission in
a Territorial battalion of the Black Watch, and was active in a scheme for
helping working-class youngsters to ®nd a better future through emigra-
tion.29 Distrust of Russia and sharply opposed views about German inten-
tions were well-worn themes in the Oxford Union as elsewhere.30 Doubts
about the Entente were not con®ned to `Little Englander' Liberals. The
History of `The Times' records of these years that while its
military correspondent . . . continued trying to win support for the turning of a vague
Entente into a precise military and naval alliance, his appeal was listened to in the
country generally with great reluctance. To admit openly that Britain was no longer
free to act independently was unpalatable to Englishmen.31
If a new feature can be discerned in the debate, it lay in the strength of
Norman Angell's appeal among paci®c British people who had long relied
on the supremacy of their Navy. Talk of a war between the European powers
had been repeated too often to sound convincing either to undergraduates or
to their seniors. `Perhaps,' the Oxford Magazine commented after Angell's
visit in November 1913, `the armies of 2913 will still be preparing for the
``inevitable war''.'32
   Neither these views nor the sporting calendar led to any slackening of
interest in matters of defence. On 23 May 1914 the barges were crowded to
see University, which had made seven bumps in Torpids and won the rugger
cup, `go head' in Eights;33 but ®ve days later a demonstration arranged by
      Isis, 25 Apr. 1914, 9, A. H. M. Wedderburn (Balliol) as the week's `Isis Idol'; G. C.
Drinkwater and T. R. B. Sanders, The Boat Race: Centenary History (1929), 127±31.
      See, for instance, OM xxix (16 Feb. 1911) 208 (L. N. G. Monte®ore, S. H. Wall), xxx (14
Mar. 1912) 277 (L. F. Urwick), xxxi (15 May 1913) 342 (Viscount Sandon). The persecutions in
Russian universities were well known in Oxford. Paul Vinogradoff (Corpus Professor of
Jurisprudence, 1903±25) and Alexander Glazunov (Hon. D.Mus., 1907) had both resigned
from Russian academic positions in protest at them; and the fame among mathematicians of
Sofya Kovalevskaia (1850±91) had done little for Russia's academic reputation. After studying at
Heidelberg and Gottingen she had been appointed to a chair at Stockholm. See P. Vinogradoff,
`Russian Universities', Pelican Record, vii (Mar. 1905), 147±50.
      The Twentieth Century Test, 1884±1912 (History of The Times, vol. 3, 1947), 704. The
passage refers to the aftermath of the Agadir crisis of 1911.
      OM xxxii (20 Nov. 1913), 88, in a comment on Norman Angell's visit: see n. 21 above. For
the ®ctional output about `the coming war' see I. F. Clarke, Voices Prophesying War (1966), 131±
61. For a skit on these stories see P. G. Wodehouse, The Swoop, or How Clarence Saved England
      University bumped Christ Church, Magdalen, and New College to go head on the third
day. It was `many years' since any except the three latter colleges had held either headship or
second place. New College had been head since 1911. The Times, 25 May, 38e, 28 May, 13d.
                                          epilogue                                            861
the Imperial Air Fleet Committee was followed by a mass meeting in the
Town Hall, where Lord Desborough spoke on the `imperative need for aerial
defence'.34 On the day of the Union debate Sir William Robertson inspected
more than a thousand of the University contingent of the Of®cers' Training
Corps. He arrived late after confusion about his rendezvous with his horse,
but pronounced the `turnout and performance of all arms to be excellent',
the parade being watched by `a large and, for Oxford, fashionable crowd'.
The OTC's military tournament and gymkhana was held in Headington
Hill Park on 30 May.35 The contingent's second-in-command was a son of
C. R. L. Fletcher, who rowed bow in Oxford's eight and its Henley four. He
was to be killed in action ®ve months later.36 Warlike precautions were not
con®ned to Oxford's young men. In 1913 a daughter of the Secretary to the
Press Delegates was given the task by the University's Red Cross Voluntary
Aid Detachment of obtaining promises of help `in the event of mobilization
for war'. One of those from whom she sought a promise was the headmaster
of Magdalen College School. He asked her when she expected war to come.
`I answered,' May Cannan recorded, ```After the harvest in 1914. The Kiel
Canal will be ®nished by then.'''37
   By 1914 some parts of Oxford at least were showing an intention of
emulating German scholarship. A week or so before the Encaenia the Rector
of Exeter brought out an impressive bibliography of `the literary and scien-
ti®c work produced by his college's fellows and tutors in recent times'.38 On
6 July The Times's correspondent noted: `Research students still throng the

Three of the University College crew were Etonians. Five of them were members of the OTC.
All nine were commissioned and served overseas in the war. Two were killed in action. Five
received war decorations or `mentions'. No. 6, the stroke-side `heavy man', J. J. Llewellin,
attained Cabinet rank in 1942, was made a peer in 1945, and became Governor-General of
Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953. The Trinity College eight, which went head in 1938 (Twen-
tieth Century Oxford, xii±xiii and Plate 7.1) were to suffer still worse: six of those nine (four of
the six being RAF pilots) did not survive the Second World War.
      Isis, 23 May 1914, 12, 30 May, 9.
      Ibid. 23 May, 9, 30 May, 4: Oxford Times, 6 June, 7c. The Oxford and Cambridge OTCs
had also been represented at the Olympia Military Tournament, 15 May.
      Being a University candidate for a regular commission, R. W. Fletcher had been in action as
an of®cer of a Howitzer Brigade since the Marne Battle: Balliol College Register, 1833±1933, ed.
I. Elliott (1934), 318. An elder brother (Balliol, 1907±10) was killed on 20 March 1915.
      May Cannan, Grey Ghosts and Voices (Kineton, 1976), 68. For predictions that 1914 would
be the year of greatest danger see Coming of the First World War, ed. R. J. W. Evans and H.
Pogge von Strandmann (1988), 165 (M. Brock). Once the Kiel Canal had been widened to take
`Dreadnoughts', the German leaders preferred the prospect of an immediate war to one of
`war later', because Russian military strength, which already seemed formidable, was due for a
further large increase.
      L. R. Farnell, Bibliography of the Fellows and Tutors of Exeter College in Recent Times
(1914); Athenaeum, 28 Mar. 1914, 450; p. 339 above. Membership ®gures for the Royal Society
and the British Academy indicate the position of Oxford and Cambridge in British research and
scholarship. In 1910 they had 37.6% of the Royal Society fellowships (science) held by British
university members, and 74% of the British Academy fellowships (arts): A. H. Halsey and M. A.
Trow, The British Academics (1971), 217±18. Oxford's improved position in the world of
862                             edwardian oxford
Bodleian.' The mixture of military precaution, preoccupation with Ireland,
and unre¯ecting con®dence persisted through the ®rst six weeks of the long
vacation. At the end of June the OTC camps at Frimley and Aldershot were
in full swing. Keble supplied Frimley with two complete platoons, while at
Aldershot Oxford's scouting detachment under the Prince of Wales operated
with marked success. Primed with their reports, the Oxford commander, J. F.
Stenning, an Aramaic scholar who was dean of Wadham, drove `a wedge', as
The Times recorded, `into the Cambridge force and split it into two detach-
ments'.40 A number of undergraduates had made plans to join in further
military operations across the Irish Channel. Carson's army seems to have
been the most powerful magnet; but the Nationalist volunteers also had their
   A newly elected Christ Church lecturer, J. C. Masterman, was completing
a year's study at Freiburg. After the assassinations at Sarajevo he was advised
by Wolfgang Michael to go home. He had, however, as he later recorded, `a
more than average share of that supposed moral and intellectual superiority
which is . . . the curse of British Liberals'. Having read Norman Angell's
Great Illusion on the futility of aggressive war, and being con®dent that
the statesmen would draw back from the brink, he disregarded this advice
and was interned.42 On Friday 31 July some 300 foreign students assembled
in Oxford for the Extension Delegacy's summer school.43 Forebodings grew
during the weekend, especially among the middle-aged. Vera Brittain, who
had won a Somerville exhibition (and whose ®ance and brother were to be
killed in the war), recorded in her diary on 3 August: `The great fear now is
that our bungling government will declare England's neutrality.'44 By con-
trast, C. C. J. Webb had thought two days earlier: `Things could scarcely
look blacker.' On the Sunday evening (2 August), however, Magdalen's high
table had some reassuring news. `Bryce told Hogarth today,' Webb noted in
his diary, `that our Govt was determined not to go to war and would declare
our neutrality tomorrow. But . . . they make some conditionsÐe.g. that Ger-
man ships should not pass the straits of Dover.'45

learning had been stressed earlier in Brodrick 344±5, 359, and W. Tuckwell, Reminiscences of
Oxford (1900), 6±7.
      The Times, 6 July, 4d. The Bodleian's holdings had risen since 1888 from 440,000 books to
more than a million.
      Ibid. 24 June, 6e, 27 June, 8e.
      Information given by the sixth Earl of Harrowby (d. 1987) and S. P. B. Mais (d. 1975). The
®rst (then Viscount Sandon) was in residence. Mais, who had taken his MA in 1913, was then
a master at Sherborne School.
      J. C. Masterman, On the Chariot Wheel (1975), 96±7.
      Oxford Times, 8 Aug.
      Vera Brittain, War Diary, 1913±1917, ed. A. Bishop and T. Smart (1981), 84.
      Bodl. MS Eng. Misc. e 1159. Hogarth, like Webb, was a fellow of Magdalen. At the ®rst
Cabinet meeting of 2 Aug. it had been decided to reassure the French about the Channel. For
similar fears and hopes in Cambridge on that Sunday see Walter Layton, Dorothy (1961), 56±7.
                                        epilogue                                           863
Webb did not know that a German ultimatum had just been delivered in
Brussels, and that even Bryce had admitted `violation of Belgium' to be a
casus belli.46 On 3 August Bryce's world, in which the German armies might
be hoped to respect Belgian neutrality, at least to the extent of con®ning their
advance to the Ardennes, faded away; and H. H. Asquith and Edward Grey,
the Balliol pair who ran British foreign policy and dominated the Commons,
moved quickly.47 `War declared on Germany before midnight yesterday,'
Webb recorded on 5 August, `the Schools converted into a hospital . . . Greats
list out: Edward Bridges and Hauer Firsts: wrote to both. It was odd writing
to Hauer, who is a German subject.'48 Thomas Case, who was at Weymouth,
told various Corpus undergraduates that, if they volunteered and served
with the colours beyond the end of the long vacation, they would no longer
be regarded as members of the college. When this became known in Oxford,
an informal meeting of Corpus fellows drew up a countermanding circular
which was despatched urgently to reassure the college's actual and prospect-
ive volunteers.49

                        ` m r ra e b u r n ' lo o k s bac k
We didn't listen to Matthew Arnold. We've never thoroughly turned out and cleaned
up our higher schools. We've resisted instruction. We've preferred to maintain our
national luxuries of a bench of bishops and party politics. And compulsory Greek
and the university sneer. . . Well . . . we've got to plough through with itÐwith what
we haveÐas what we are.
In his novel about the home front in the war's early years H. G. Wells has
`Mr. Raeburn' saying this towards the end of 1915.50 `Raeburn' was a portrait
of C. F. G. Masterman, with whom Wells was friendly. Masterman had lost
his parliamentary seat on promotion to the Cabinet early in 1914 and had
failed to ®nd another. Obliged because of this to resign a year later, he
had become director of wartime propaganda in Wellington House.51 The

      Wilson Harris, J. A. Spender (1946), 38.
      On the expectation of the German advance not crossing the Sambre±Meuse river line see
Coming of the First World War (n. 37), 149±51.
      J. W. Hauer was allowed after some delay to register for an Oxford postgraduate degree:
Webb diary, 2 Dec. 1914.
      G. B. Grundy, Fifty-Five Years at Oxford (1945), 110. Con®rmed by W. Phelps (1882±
1963), Vice-President of Corpus in 1914. According to Grundy, Case had to be removed from
a Weymouth street where he was blocking the movement of a company of recruits.
      H. G. Wells, Mr Britling Sees it Through (1916), 348. On the `Oxford manner' see p. 819
above and Donald Hankey, A Student in Arms (17th edn 1917), 160±1. This collection of pieces
about the war had been published ®rst in book form in Apr. 1916. Hankey (Corpus Christi,
1907±10) was killed in action, Oct. 1916.
      Lucy Masterman, C. F. G. Masterman (1939), 372. Masterman had been at Christ's, Cam-
bridge, and had taken a ®rst in the Natural Sciences tripos (1895) and another in Moral Sciences,
Pt 2 (1896). He had been president of the Cambridge Union and had been elected to a fellowship
of Christ's in 1900.
864                        edwardian oxford
aftermath of the Battle of Loos was hardly the time for producing a balanced
appraisal of English secondary and higher education during the ®fty years
since the Taunton Report; but Masterman was a person of greater capacity
than some of Oxford's pre-war critics. His strictures on British education, as
it was seen under the harsh test of war, are not to be dismissed lightly,
although any judgements advanced eighty years later are likely to be less
sweeping than his.
   Oxford's progress was dogged during the nineteenth century by two
disadvantages peculiar to itself. First, creating a proper system of teaching
and examining had entailed giving classical learning something close to a
monopoly: the ordained fellows of the Oxford colleges had not been capable
in 1800 of teaching anything else. Secondly, the University had a strong
High-Church tradition and the only professional group seeking its accred-
itation consisted of those aiming at the Anglican priesthood. Britain did not
have an administrative cadre whose members needed university quali®ca-
tions. Consequently the disappearance of the `confessional state' involved
Oxford in a period of intense controversy. The college fellows emerged from
this disliking not merely controversial theology, but any undergraduate
studies which seemed novel, speculative, or potentially divisive; and their
tradition biased them against university subjects, such as modern languages
and engineering, which could be thought materialistic or commercial. There
were no `forced marches' for the British during the century: unlike their
continental neighbours they escaped revolution, invasion, and civil war. The
removal of the twin initial drawbacks was therefore bound to be slow. It was
made still slower by the fact that the University, like its rival, was sited in a
fairly small town, and consisted of colleges which commanded large endow-
ments and strong allegiance from their old members. Oxford was thus
dif®cult to reform, but, as newer, more centralized, and less well-resourced
institutions found, almost equally dif®cult to challenge.52
   These basic constraints are quickly summarized: the dif®culty lies in
evaluating their effects. In any university the arrangements may tend to
correspond to yesterday's climate rather than today's; and the service pro-
vided may re¯ect not so much society's current needs, however interpreted,
as the professional interests and inclinations of the academic staff. The
natural bias of academics tends to be anti-vocational, since an instrumental
view of higher education can hardly be welcome to them. Universities may
thus give a distorted and out-of-date image of social attitudes and intensify
mental habits which have lost some of their value. Did Oxford's particular
dif®culties, combined with the more general ones in higher education, mean
that the University was responsible for a large share in the British (and still
more the English) defects to which `Raeburn' referred?

                                   See pp. 64±5 above.
                                         epilogue                                           865
   It is tempting to give a largely negative answer. As `Raeburn's' remarks
implied, the crucial defects lay in secondary education: Oxford's heads and
fellows had to do what they could with those sent to them by the schools. If
`towns and parishes' had been authorized in the 1860s to levy rates in order
to establish secondary schools, as the Taunton Commission recommended,
only the merest handful might have used the authority.53 It would have been
beyond any university's power to eliminate the social snobbery which under-
lay the least desirable features of classical schooling in Victorian England.
The central control over secondary and higher education which Matthew
Arnold admired in Germany made without doubt for a certain kind of
ef®ciency; but the price was high. By the end of 1915 C. F. G. Masterman
was as eager as anyone to spread the news of Treitschke's baleful in¯uence,
and to point out how badly the few rebels had been treated in a university
system staffed by state servants.54 The Greats course, which resulted from
Oxford's preponderant classical tradition, was the admiration of the univer-
sity world; and in philosophy it provided a remarkable combination of
classical and modern.
   Britain had probably received some damage by 1914, whether for peace or
war, from Oxford's inclination to disparage entrepreneurship. The extent of
this damage, especially where the country's industrial leadership was con-
cerned, remains a disputed question.55 It may have been a misfortune that
England lacked Technische Hochschulen. That resulted, however, not from
Oxford's defects, but from the fact that in English cities the need for higher
technical education had become apparent just as the university colleges were
being founded.56 Some English employers were immovable in the belief that
lads should start in the works when in their teens: if they needed college
training they ought to have it near to the factories and the forges.57 Working-
class educational opportunities did not depend greatly on the University.
Even after the 1902 Education Act the number of poor boys who stayed in

      SIC (1864), pt 1, 656.
      M. E. Sadler, `Government and the Universities', McGill University Magazine, xiv. 4 (Dec.
1915), 484±90, republished, Selections from Michael Sadler, Studies in World Citizenship, ed. J.
H. Higginson (Liverpool, 1979), 105±7. C. E. McClelland, State, Society, and University in
Germany, 1700±1914 (1980) gives an account of restrictions which applied to German univer-
sities before 1914: see especially pp. 268±9, 315 (Max Weber's articles, Frankfurter Zeitung, 18
June, 20 Sept. 1908). Friedrich Paulsen, The German Universities, trans. F. Thilly and W. E.
Elwang (1906) had made similar criticisms. Sadler had alluded delicately to these in the preface
to the English edition, p. xii.
      For a survey of recent discussion see R. D. Anderson, Universities and Elites in Britain
since 1800 (1992), 37±46.
      Eric Ashby, Technology and the Academics (1958), 64±5. See, however, p. 638 above.
      PP 1910 xxii. 630 (Board of Education Report, 1908±9); H. G. Wells, The New Machiavelli
(2nd edn 1911), 168±9, 173; C. Erickson, British Industrialists: Steel and Hosiery (1959), 35.
For views on where higher technology training should be located see p. 12. In 1870 1% of
British 17-year-olds had been in full-time education: in 1902 the ®gure was still only 2%: British
Social Trends since 1900, ed. A. H. Halsey (1988), 269.
866                              edwardian oxford
secondary education to 18 was too small to produce many applicants for
Oxford despite any alteration which might have been made in Responsions
to attract them. The MacDonnell report on the civil service, published in
April 1914, drew attention to the insuf®ciency of the facilities for progress
up the educational ladder from the primary school to the university. Finally,
Oxford was not the only English university to leave its graduates ignorant of
the modern world. In 1901 a fellow of a Cambridge college received the
Archbishop of Canterbury's invitation to become Bishop of Rangoon. He
found that his brother, also a Cambridge fellow, was as ignorant as himself of
Rangoon's whereabouts. They decided to start the search for it in the map of
   These are the elements of a partial, but not of a total defence. Oxford had
been accused, with justice, since the 1870s of distorting the school work of
many boys who would never reach any university.59 By 1914 the arguments
for `compulsory Greek' were far outweighed by those against it:60 by im-
peding the creation of a multi-subject entrance examination to Oxford it
encouraged a generation of schoolmasters to allow the premature and one-
sided specialization which has long been the scourge of English secondary
schooling.61 A country in which some of the most capable boys and girls can
still remain almost ignorant of science may not have seen the last of `compuls-
ory Greek's' ill effects.62 At the other end of the scale, an honours course
attracting most of the ablest undergraduates which impinged on the modern
world only through some eminent philosophers had long been recognized as
one-sided. The 1850 Royal Commission may have underrated the dif®culty

      PP 1914 xvi. 36. For local education authority award-holders at Oxford and Cambridge,
1911±12, see p. 553. The `ladder' created by the Education Act, 1902, had not been put in place
until 1907 when grants to secondary schools were made dependent on the provision of 25% of
free places for pupils from public elementary schools: British Social Trends, 232. A. R. Whitham
(1863±1930), a scholar of Magdalen College, 1881, and Herbert Ward (1866±1938), a scholar of
Corpus Christi College, 1885, had both reached Bradford Grammar School from public ele-
mentary schools. Both took ®rsts in Greats and achieved careers of some distinction: PP 1914
xvi. 277. H. J. C. Knight, the brother consulted, told the Rangoon story to a meeting years later:
D. H. S. Cranage, Not Only a Dean (1952), 34.
      P. 11.
      Curzon, Principles and Methods of University Reform (1909), 101±7; C. M. Bowra,
Memories (1966), 331. Council schools apart, in 1912 154 of 503 secondary schools `on the
grant list' in England and Wales taught Greek: it was taught in only 29 of the 382 council
schools: Educational Statistics, 1911±12, table 38: PP 1913 xlix. 544.
      Michael Sanderson, The Missing Stratum: Technical School Education in England, 1900±
1990s (1994), 163±5; Letters to `The Times', 1884±1922, Written by Thomas Case, ed. R. B.
Mowat (1927), 58±95. In Case's view the classics were central, all the other subjects which
schoolmasters tried to introduce being `specialisms'. He wanted `those who proceed to Oxford
and Cambridge' to learn, when at school, `Greek and Latin classics, modern languages, mathe-
matics, and mechanics, the mother of natural sciences': ibid. 71.
      See Advancing A Levels (1988), `the Higginson Report', 11. While the harm done by
general ignorance of science and technology is undoubted, whether this educational defect has
contributed to shortages of scientists and technologists remains doubtful.
                                        epilogue                                          867
of combining ancient and modern history in an undergraduate syllabus; but
a lament by Raymond Asquith about his education remains eloquent. He had
just capped his ®rst in Greats and University prizes with an All Souls fellow-
ship; yet he was `®lled', he wrote, `with a kind of intellectual despair. . . the
feeling of being behind hand with one's foundationsÐa blank ignorance of
history and economy'.64 To put a high value on classical education was
anything but a mistake. Pre-war Oxford's faults were, ®rst, to adhere to a
classical entrance requirement which not merely did widespread damage to
secondary schools, but, according to some of the best judges, actually
harmed classical studies themselves, and, secondly, to leave most of the
University's ablest undergraduates ignorant of the modern world's history,
languages, cultures, institutions, and scienti®c achievement. In his evidence
to the MacDonnell Commission in 1912 Stanley Leathes (for whom see p.
814) referred to Greats as `the widest and completest School that exists in
any university'. Professor Christopher Brooke's judgement that the attitude
of some `proponents' of Greats approached the `mystical' hardly seems
unfair. Some of Oxford's classical tutors were still following the path which
Jowett had worked out. To them the study of Plato seemed to offer what
Professor Turner has called `a humanistic path toward the secular'. In a work
published in 1912 R. W. Livingstone wrote: `If anyone comes to these pages
looking for a portrait of the ordinary Greek he will be disappointed . . . To
understand [the Greek] genius, we must look . . . at the men . . . in whom it
was most fully realized, at its ``saints''.'65
   This enormous prestige of Greats, allied to a reluctance to see the poss-
ibilities in the study of modern languages, had helped to mask the peculiar-
ities of a system in which neither of the two largest honours schools
provided a well-balanced syllabus. For centuries such a syllabus had been
seen as involving two elements, ®rst, useful knowledge, and, secondly, a
training in techniques for handling and organizing it. Modern history
was strong in the ®rst component, Greats in the second: neither combined
both in substantial amounts. The Greats tutors either maintained that use-
ful information was not needed in an honours course, or exaggerated the
extent to which an acquaintance with short periods of Greek and
Roman history could be relevant to current problems.66 Their opposite

     P. 42.
     To H. T. Baker, 28 Dec. 1902: John Jolliffe, Raymond Asquith, Life and Letters (1980), 101.
As a candidate for University scholarships Raymond had maintained his skill in Greek and Latin
composition, and the minutiae of classical scholarship, after completing Classical Moderations.
     PP 1912±13 xv. 139 (cf. n. 60 above); C. N. L. Brooke, History of the University of
Cambridge, 1870±1990 (1993), 243; F. M. Turner, The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain
(1981), 35; R. W. Livingstone, The Greek Genius and its Meaning for Us (1912), 18, 19.
     To some effect: Curzon based his (deeply mistaken) argument against the evacuation from
the Dardanelles on the disasters of the Athenian retreat from Syracuse: M. Bowra, Memories
(1966), 141. R. M. Ogilvie pointed out in Latin and Greek (1964), 121, that the study of the
868                            edwardian oxford
numbers in Modern History saw Firth's proposal to increase the element of
technique, not as improving the mental training which the course provided,
but as making it a narrow vocational affair for intending teachers.67 The
pamphlet of 1909 headed `Wanted! A New School at Oxford' had been well
   Important projects and proposals were afoot in Oxford in 1914. The
Engineering Laboratory was being completed: Oxford degrees for women
and a Modern Greats course were under discussion; but it would be years
before Britain's leaders would bene®t from these changes.69 A great deal had
been left to the terrible accelerator of war. A. L. Smith, who had tried as hard
as anyone to relate Oxford's studies to the modern world, saw the war, on its
outbreak, as providing `a splendid educational opportunity'. He was not
wrong, although the ®rst of his adjectives could hardly have been less
felicitous.70 In March 1915, for instance, `Representative Government' was
added to Oxford's Modern History special subjects, evidence given in 1914
to the select committee on parliamentary procedure being included in the
texts set for it.71 Two months later the Hebdomadal Council agreed to
appoint a committee `to report on the advisability of instituting a course of
study and examination in political economy, political science, and public law
leading to a degree, and, if thought desirable, to prepare a scheme for the
consideration of Council'.72 By creating a pause in the battles between
parties, and evoking both a demand for ef®cient national organization and
great social changes, the war removed many of the obstacles to moderniza-
tion which have been described in Chapter 25. The story of their removal has
been told in the concluding volume of this History; but some of the reforms
enacted in Oxford during and soon after the war have been named for
convenience in the appendix to this chapter. Even in the aggregate they did
not amount to root and branch reform; but, by the end of 1920 when the
radical post-war mood had begun to ebb, Oxford, like the world in which it
operated, had been much changed.
   The criticisms of Oxford, overt and implied, which the war stimulated, all
pointed one way. In June 1916 the Board of Education's Consultative
Committee on Scholarships reported:
Roman Empire provided little guidance on the problems of race, religion, and colour which the
British faced in India. See pp. 347±9 above.
     Pp. 370±2.
     Bodl. G. A. Oxon 88 761 (12). The pamphlet called (p. 4) `for, as it were, a modern-side
Greats'. See Sir William Osler, The Old Humanities and the New Science (1919) and The
Twentieth Century, 112.
     By 1914 the term `Modern Greats' was familiar to Oxford undergraduates: see Isis, 13 June
1914, 2±3 (quotation from Sidney Ball's article in The American Oxonian).
     Rowy Mitchison, `An Oxford Family', Arthur Lionel Forster Smith, ed. E. C. Hodgkin
(privately printed, 1979), 76.
     Faculty Board notice, 13 Mar. 1915: Gazette, xlv (22 Apr. 1915), 533.
     Chester (n. 14), 24.
                                       epilogue                                        869
The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge should remodel their ®rst examinations
(Responsions and Previous) and make them a satisfactory test of the general educa-
tion necessary for useful study at a University. No minor reform would be more
A year later the committee under Stanley Leathes, appointed to revise the
Civil Service examination, produced a scheme which they hoped would be
A corrective at once to the narrowness of interests and knowledge and the lack of
useful accomplishment which may be the defects of the specialist, and to the ignor-
ance of modern conditions which may be the defect of students too exclusively
devoted to ancient learning . . . The effects of the war in suspending university studies,
breaking up traditions, and shaking preconceived ideas, render possible changes more
fundamental than any committee would have proposed in ordinary times and than
the various vested interests would have tolerated before the war.74
In August 1916 the Prime Minister had appointed committees to investigate
the position of modern languages and science in schools and universities.
Both reported early in 1918. The ®rst, noting that a national scheme of
university scholarships had just been recommended, stressed the importance
of awarding some of these in modern languages.75 The science committee
All the witnesses we examined who have expressed any opinion on the subject have
been unanimous in condemning the retention of Greek as a necessary subject for a
degree at Oxford and Cambridge, and with this condemnation we are fully in
A Swansea steel-master, giving evidence before the Royal Commission on
University Education in Wales in 1917, said:
I took the chemistry school at Oxford . . . and have been engaged in the production of
special steels ever since I left college; and I can see very well now what was lacking in
the Oxford chemistry school in my time, and the enormous advantage which might
have accrued if we had been in touch with the practical industries . . . The opportunity
is there now. It was not there before the war.77
These statements and recommendations were important in themselves; but
their real signi®cance lies in the glimpse which they give of the climate
change brought by the war in every institution, and in Oxford not least.
   `Mr Raeburn' had too close a concern with the war's progress to look at its
effects. He was dominated by the thought that defects in the school and

     PP. 1916 viii. 388. The Committee had been appointed in March 1913.
     PP. 1917±18 viii. 131. See also p. 497 above (Strong, Oct. 1916).
     PP. 1918 ix. 433.
     Ibid. 529. See also resolutions of conference chaired by Lord Rayleigh, 3 May 1916.
     PP. 1917±18 xii. 619. The last two remarks quoted refer to the Welsh university colleges
rather than to Oxford.
870                            edwardian oxford
university systems were preventing the British from ®ghting the war with
the ef®ciency needed. `Three times this year,' he said, `we have missed
victories because of the badness of our staff work . . . It's because the sort of
man we turn out from our public schools has never learned how to . . . do
anything smartly and quickly.'78 That there was evidence to back this view
can hardly be doubted, although at Loos the commander-in-chief had been
far more at fault than his junior of®cers, and in war the search for scapegoats
seldom ceases.79 Possibly Oxford had failed some of its young men as badly
as had their public schools; but `Raeburn' may have been overlooking the
change, much stressed already in this volume, between the `muddied oafs'
about whom Kipling had written in 1901 and their successors ten years
later.80 Ronald Poulton, whose doings in Balliol were mentioned in Chapter
31, exempli®ed this change. He captained the University's rugby ®fteen in
1911, and the England team three years later. During this captaincy England
won the `triple crown' for the second year running; and in the ®nal match in
1914 against France he set a record by scoring four tries.81 By then he had
been capped seventeen times for England; but, though constantly muddied,
he was no oaf.
   Poulton's Oxford record, which included a second in the new Engineering
school, reveals a thoughtful man whose capacity to work hard was not
limited to rugby. By going to be trained in a large Manchester engineering
®rm, and taking an evening course in the city's college of technology, he
learned a good deal about the working class. He regarded trade unionism as
`the workman's only redress against exploitation', but was concerned that
some trades should have so much more political muscle than others. He
supported the Workers' Educational Association strongly, and pleaded in the
Sportsman for putting rugby `on an immovable basis among all classes of the
community'. After England had defeated Ireland at Twickenham in Febru-
ary 1914 he was found deep in theological argument with a member of the
Pusey House staff. He had been the secretary of the Balliol Boys' Club and
much of his time after he had gone down was given to boys' clubs and to
studying the problems of running them. Holding a Territorial commission
(after service in the Oxford OTC), he joined his battalion on 2 August 1914,
volunteered at once for overseas service, and was killed by a sniper at the age
of 25 on 5 May 1915. The tributes to him give a glimpse of the qualities
which contemporaries then hoped to ®nd in an Oxford man. `He . . . played,'
in the words of the Irish rugby captain, `for his side and never for himself . . .
It was as much a pleasure to play against him as with him.' A sergeant in

      Mr Britling (n. 50), 349.
      John Terraine, The First World War (1984 edn), 92±3.
      For Kipling's phrase see Ch. 31, n. 101.
      E. B. Poulton, Life of Ronald Poulton (1919), 222±7. For convenience the name of Poulton
is used here. For the change of name in the spring of 1914 see Ch. 31, n. 71.
                                       epilogue                                          871
a neighbouring battalion of a different regiment wrote that in his unit
Captain Poulton had been `looked on as a personal friend, and I think he
was known by every man in the British army'.82
   The complaints of late 1915 concerned Oxford's latest products. Even if
their education had not brought them to the highest competence, it had
certainly done nothing to impair their courage and tenacity. A rather differ-
ent question concerns the education of those Oxford men of earlier genera-
tions, including Asquith and Grey, who exercised a controlling in¯uence on
British policy in the immediately pre-war years. Why was the threat from
Germany, which seems (as always) so clear in retrospect,83 not seen clearly at
the time? Its nature may be brie¯y summarized. In Germany an unstable and
discredited Kaiser, and a Chancellor who commanded little political or
constitutional authority, were confronted by army leaders used to military
supremacy and convinced that it was slipping from them. This regime,
lacking both effective parliamentary control and a guiding hand, was drawn
always towards demagogic militarism, and eventually to the wild gamble of
war.84 The various German leaders had the rickety Austro-Hungarian em-
pire as their one reliable ally. By 1914 they dared not restrain Vienna from
seeking prestige by crushing the Serbs; and, once they judged the best time
for the `inevitable war' to have come, they had little inducement to exercise
this restraint. In May 1914 it took no more than a few days in Berlin for
Colonel House from Texas to realize how things stood.85
   The question posed is not one about the war crisis itself. Asquith's con-
duct of that is hard to fault. He held his Cabinet together with great skill
until the German government left him and his colleagues with only one
possible course of action. `A House of Commons,' Harold Begbie wrote,
`that had hesitated an hour after the invasion of Belgium would have been
swept out of existence by the wrath and indignation of the people.'86 No
British policy devised to deter Germany from making war could have over-
come isolationist attitudes at home, or had the slightest effect in Berlin,
without informed and determined leadership over a span of years from
both Liberals and Conservatives. Oxford does not seem to have contributed
much to supplying such leadership. Four men who stood high in British

     Ibid. 214, 219±20, 258±60, 298±306, 366; P. Guedalla, Supers and Supermen (1920), 248±53.
Engineering honours had become available in 1910. Poulton was one of four to gain them in
     Coming of the First World War (n. 37), 164±5; R. C. K. Ensor, England, 1870±1914 (1936),
469±71, 481±3; Lord Vansittart, The Mist Procession (1958), 99.
     On the `gamble' see Avner Offer, `Going to War in 1914: a Matter of Honour?', Politics and
Society, 23 (1995), 222; P. M. Kennedy (ed.), The War Plans of the Great Powers (1979), 213
(L. C. F. Turner).
     Burton J. Hendrick, Walter H. Page (2 vols, New York, 1923), i. 295±6, 299; Charles
Seymour, Intimate Papers of Colonel House (4 vols 1926±8), i. 267±70.
     [Harold Begbie], The Mirrors of Downing Street (1920), 51.
872                            edwardian oxford
politics during the pre-war periodÐLeo Amery, Herbert Samuel, J. A.
Simon, and F. E. SmithÐhad all gained Oxford ®rsts in the 1890s. Amery
and Simon had won ®rsts in Greats and All Souls fellowships. Both of the
Liberals had become cabinet ministers by 1914: both of the Conservatives
were prominent spokesmen on defence problems.87
   None of the four helped colleagues with fewer educational advantages to
go beyond party slogans and to think seriously about the dangers by which
the country was faced. Simon and Samuel spoke during the war crisis with
a notable disregard for what had long been known everywhere, namely the
German commanders' war plan to attack France by way of Belgium.88 At
Manchester on 25 July Simon adjured his hearers to resolve that, during the
crisis, `the part which this country plays shall from beginning to end be the
part of a mediator.'89 He did not explain how the British could remain
mediators if summoned either to help the Belgians under the terms of the
1839 treaty, or to stop the German navy from using the Channel to bombard
the French coast. On the evening of 2 August Samuel told his wife of his
continuing hope that the German army would not `invade Belgium'.90
Amery, having been in Berlin during the Boer War, had no illusions on
that score; but his view of British policy now seems remarkable. `We are
not a part of Europe,' he told Milner in May 1915,
even if the most important unit of the British community lies off the European coast.
The war against a German domination of Europe was only necessary because we had
failed to make ourselves suf®ciently strong and united as an Empire to be able to
afford to disregard the European balance.91
F. E. Smith wrote to his wife from France in October 1914 to express his
remorse for the extravagance which had left her short of money; `but the one
thing,' he added, `I never anticipated was what has happened.' Unfortunately
he had not been confronted by Miss Cannan's remark about the Kiel Canal.92
   On this issue the Prime Minister was a better advertisement for high
achievement at Oxford than any of these four. As early as November 1908
he told Balfour that the Germans' `internal conditions . . . were so unsatis-
factory that they might be driven to the wildest adventures'.93 But his later

     See, for example Parl. Deb. 4 July 1912, 5S xxxx. 1340±52 (Amery); F. E. Smith, Unionist
Policy and Other Essays (1913), 77±8.
     Amery referred to this plan openly, 4 July 1912 (n. 87 above).
     The Times, 27 July, 7e. See also Manchester Guardian, 27 July, 8c.
     Samuel Papers, House of Lords Record Of®ce, A 157/697, fos 54±5.
     To Milner, 26 May 1915: Leo Amery Diaries, 1896±1929, ed. John Barnes and David
Nicholson (1980), 116.
     P. 861. 15 Oct.: John Campbell, Birkenhead (1983), 384. In Sept. 1914 F. E. Smith told a
London meeting that Germany's aggressive intentions had been known for years, but that, until
4 Aug., they had been spoken of only `with a delicacy and reticence which were proper in times
of peace': The Times, 12 Sept., 10c, d.
     Balfour to Lansdowne, 6 Nov. 1908: K. Young, A. J. Balfour (1963), 271.
                                        epilogue                                           873
remarks did not show much understanding of the countries with which he
was dealing. He compared Bethmann Hollweg to Abraham Lincoln, and
attributed the harshness of the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia (23 July 1914)
to `the Austrians [being] quite the stupidest people in Europe'.94 He did not
ask whether these impossibly harsh terms might imply Berlin's sanction for
the Austrian leaders to shore up their crumbling in¯uence by smashing
Serbia.95 The `tranquil consciousness of effortless superiority' which he
had identi®ed humorously as Balliol's hallmark was no longer enough for
a statesman.96 These eminent Oxonians had never been taught to apply their
trained minds to the institutions and the problems of the world in which
they operated.97 The need for syllabuses which might throw light on the
present day had scarcely been appreciated in Oxford until the last years
before the war; and it would be some time before the dif®culties in teaching
and examining which applied to honours courses stretching to the contem-
porary world could be fully mastered. Only then would the validity of such
courses be unquestioned everywhere.98
   An absence of insight about the European situation certainly did not
betoken frivolity or lack of concern in the Premier or his colleagues. `War,'
Asquith wrote to Venetia Stanley on 3 August, `or anything that seems likely
to lead to war is always popular with the London mob . . . How one loathes
such levity.'99 Like his juniors he knew his University's defects: like him they
bore its stamp and held it in affection. During the First World War C. R.
Attlee would take an imaginary walk through Oxford when under shell-®re
or as zero hour neared;100 and as an ex-Prime Minister of 70 he testi®ed to
the `abiding love of the city and the University, and especially for his own
college' which his undergraduate years had given him.101 Lawrence Jones
took much the same view. Looking back after thirty-six years, he wrote:

       A. J. P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe (1954), 460 n.1; Asquith to Venetia
Stanley, 26 July 1914: H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia, ed. M. and E. Brock (1982) 125±6.
       For Berlin's knowledge of, and sanction for, the unacceptable terms of the Austrian
ultimatum see S. E. Miller, S. M. Lynn-Jones, and S. Van Evera, Military Strategy and the
Origins of the First World War (1991), 266, 273.
       Asquith was speaking at the dinner of Balliol MPs to celebrate his premiership: The Times,
23 July 1908, 12c.
       For Philip Kerr's forecast about a German attack on France through Belgium see Ch. 31,
n. 210.
       See Chester (n. 14), chs. 3, 4, and 5.
       Letters to Venetia, 148. Asquith's third son, Arthur (New College), who was to have
a distinguished war career, spoke in the same way: Champion Redoubtable: Diaries and Letters
of Violet Bonham Carter, 1914±45, ed. Mark Pottle (1998), 205.
       Earl Attlee mentioned this when receiving the Freedom of Oxford City, 28 Feb. 1956. I am
grateful to Professor M. R. D. Foot, who was present, for this information.
       C. R. Attlee, As It Happened (1954), 16. Clearly Attlee was not worried by having gone
through life `looking at things through Oxford spectacles' (John Perry, 1903, Pt 1, 502). He
might have been equally unimpressed by the theory (advanced in Walter Ellis's book, 1994)
about an `Oxbridge Conspiracy'.
874                              edwardian oxford
Towards the end of the ®rst Great War, when I was ill, severely wounded, half-
starved, sleepless, and a prisoner of war among the sands of Pomerania, it was Balliol
Chapel that rendered me ®rst-aid . . . When my attention had wandered during . . .
sermons, I had been used to read the memorial tablets on the Chapel walls . . . One of
these . . . was inscribed in Greek, a passage, not from the Gospels, but from . . . Aris-
totle. I knew just enough Greek to construe it after a fashion, and it was . . . in Greek
that I repeated it to myself for comfort in my troubles.102
       Edwardian Youth, 31±2. The tablet commemorates Evelyn Abbott and Sir John Conroy.
Translated the inscription reads: `Yet even in these [chance events] nobility shines through, when
a man bears with resignation many great misfortunes, not through insensibility to pain
but through nobility and greatness of soul': Nichomachean Ethics, I. 11, 1100 b 30. Aristotle
is discussing whether chance can affect virtue and happiness. For Abbott's misfortunes see
pp. 337±8 above. For Cecil Rhodes and an Aristotelian doctrine see the commentary to Plate 9.