Conference planning, 1930s style: “The Christian Attitude in Politics”

A curiosity: did this planned conference on “The Christian Attitude in Politics” ever happen, I wonder?

The writing is Elizabeth’s – and, despite the messy scrawl, the plans look fairly well developed. I would imagine that this dates from Elizabeth’s time at Oxford (so c. 1933-1936; there is a reference to the Oxford University Fascist Association), and is perhaps linked to her activities with the Labour Club there.

The conference, and mix of speakers, sounds fascinating – but I can’t help but think of it all in terms of family psycho-drama as well: before his death in 1920, Elizabeth’s father, Robert Aytoun, had been a Presbyterian minister (and Professor of Old Testament Literature and Religion) and this attempt to examine religion through a political lens seems in some way to be a product of the stark difference between her family’s religious background and her relatively recent (although ultimately permanent) loss of faith. While Elizabeth had declared herself an atheist when still at school, her mother and sisters remained firmly (although perhaps not particularly devotedly) believers. Many a letter from the late 20s and early 30s attests to Elizabeth’s mother’s “disappointment” at this atheist stance, and Edward Cadbury even wrote to her on the subject, lamenting the contrast between her life and her parents’ “lives of service”.

See below for a transcript, and links to more information on those involved.



The Christian Attitude to in Politics

1. Arnold Nash [Anglican minister, professor of divinity, and author of The University and the Modern World]- general open meeting if possible. To explain conference & main ideas for group.

2. Clifton Robins [actually, Robbins: detective novelist, Christian, and executive of the International Labour Organisation]. Christian contributions to politics.

3. Edwin Barker [who was he and what happened to him? – all I know is that he wrote an article on “British University Students and the Class War” in 1934, in which he warned of the rise of fascism in British universities, and seems to have edited a book on “The Responsible Church” in the 1960s, possibly under the aegis of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge]. The Christian in Industry.

4. Reasons for preserving the present system. Gordon Murray? [?]

5. A possible alternative to the present system. Lindesay (?) [probably Sandie Lindsay, a Scottish academic who, as Master of Balliol, was the first socialist to head an Oxford college, and who stood against Quintin Hogg in the city’s “Munich by-election” of 1938]

6. Christianity & War. Grossman. [? – it seems unlikely, but could it just be Henryk Grossman?]

7. Why a Christian should be a Fascist. (OU Fascist Sec?)

8. The advantages of atheism in politics. B. A. Farrell. [philosopher of psychiatry] Balliol.


Next Trinity Term

Specific issues – Is a plan necessary, & if so along what lines?

  1. Finance.
  2. Agriculture.
  3. Work & wages.
  4. Social services.

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if you have any thoughts, questions, suggestions - or (even better!) further information - about any of the topics covered on Red Thirties, then please either leave a comment or e-mail me at: Thanks for reading, Anna

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