430. A. D. Lindsay to Harrod , 13 February 1935 [a]

[Continues at 431 ]

From The Master, Balliol College, Oxford #

13 February 1935

My dear Harrod

May I just add this? [1] I don't think any of us yet know the right technique of social research. As the drunk man said in the train "I have my opinion and you have your prejudices" or vice versa. And what I above all want to do in these five years is to experiment and discuss. You seem to me to say "We Economists <clearly> know how to do it if you will only leave us alone." I don't believe you, and I have quite definite theoretical reasons for not believing you. You may have in your turn reasons against my lines on method. But I don't think from your argument you have ever faced the fact that the proposals I put forward are put forward for theoretical considerations of the same kind as yours. To take your examples. I think a proper [b] investigation into the working of the means Test would not perhaps be immediately practical but under several principles of social inquiry more important than or as important as anything discovered about the Trade Cycle. Most students of politics in this University agree with me. <Thus> can't we continue a plan of cooperative research or discussion about research which will try out these differences of method. I want half-timers [c] because I want a lot of time spent in investigating by experiment methods of research. [2] I want us able to come in on it and I think at the end of five years we should be immensely <+> [d] because we should have threshed out by practical experience how Oxford could best research in the social sciences. I don't think we know yet! I don't think anyone knows best. Flexner [3] is now putting all his vast money into trying to find out. I think we might beat him.

Does this move your <hard heart>?



  1. 1. It is not clear what stimulated this specific exchange. It took place, however, in the context of the reorganization of the Social Science studies which was taking place at Oxford in those months, in the light of a five-year grant to be asked of the Rockefeller Foundation. Harrod and Lindsay were both members of the Committee on a Scheme for the Development of Social Studies, which submitted recommendations on this subject to the Hebdomadal Council (see, for additional details, note 2 to essay 15 ).

    The position of Harrod and the younger economics tutors was represented in the "Memo. On Economic Studies in Oxford" (here as essay 15 ). The older fellows (A. Salter, Lindsay, W. G. S. Adams and H. D. Henderson) were apparently concerned by Harrod's memorandum, in view of the fact that he was a member of the Hebdomadal Council and "rather active in Oxford politics" (T. B. Kittredge to J. V. Van Sickle, 27 November 1934, in RF 1.1, Series 4015, Box 75, Folder 987). Lindsay's reaction was summarized as follows: he "seems to feel that [Harrod's] program is unduly specialized and wants a more generalized development involving definite cooperation between the groups interested in economics, politics, anthropology, psychology, etc. rather than highly specialized studies in one or more of these fields" (Kittredge to van Sickle, memorandum, 14 December 1934, in RF 1.1, Series 4015, Box 75, Folder 987). By this time, it was thought to be likely that Harrod's view would have prevailed and his memorandum would have been used as a basis for the economic research program (ibid.). See, for further details, Young and Lee, Oxford Economics and Oxford Economists (1993), pp. 122-24.

    A few days after this exchange between Lindsay and Harrod took place, in another memorandum to Van Sickle, Kittredge explained that "The divergence between `the economists' [...] and the older social scientists in the field of Political Theory, Social Philosophy, History, etc. still continues. The economists wish the new grant to be used primarily to relieve the teaching burden of the economics tutors in the various colleges, and to provide for the definite development of a School of Economics at Oxford. According to [N. F.] Hall the older group have in mind the organisation of a series of Round Table Study Groups to deal with problems which seem of immediate practical importance, with a view of publication of a series of reports. The younger group seem, however, to be the most active, and as there is a keen desire to reach agreement on a useful program, Hall feels that in the course of the next month or two a definite set of projects will be formulated." (19 February 1936; in RF 1.1, Series 401S, Box 75, Folder 988).

    The divergence seems to have been composed after Henderson proposed a scheme of research which was perceived as crossing to some extent the boundaries of disciplines (see letters 433 and 434 ). This eventuated in the formation of the Oxford Economists' Research Group.

    2. On 15 March 1935 the Committee on the Scheme for the Development of Social Studies suggested to the Hebdomadal Council that

    • One of the most effective ways of enabling the ordinary Oxford tutor to do more research work is the making of research grants or lectureships the holding of which implies some corresponding diminution of College work. The Committee thinks that certain of these research lectureships should be used at the same time to promote research in what may be called key subjects, and in enabling the research lecturer to stimulate and guide the research of others in this field. (Hebdomadal Council Papers, vol. 160, 17 January-30 March 1935, p. 205, OUA HC1/1/160)

    3. Simon Flexner, Director Emeritus of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York from 1903 to 1935, and Fellow of Balliol College.

    1. a. ALI, three pages on two leaves, in HPBL Add. 71185/141-142.

      b. Ms: underlined twice.

      c. Ms: «halftimers».

      d. Ms: two illegible words.

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