845. Harrod to Archibald Sinclair , 2 October 1938 [a]

[Answered by 850 R]

6 Beaumont Street, Oxford #

2 October 1938

Dear Sir Archibald Sinclair,

You were good enough to speak to me over the telephone to-day. [1] May I add a postscript?

Further contacts have confirmed my view of the crucial importance of to-morrow. Beneath the national relief and jubilation there is a strong feeling of criticism and belief that we are more than ever in the soup. [2] This must be galvanized at once, because this is the flood-tide [b] of acute awareness of our emergency. After the next few days we shall again be in the shallows of public indifference. 1 Unless people are told in tones loud and clear enough that there is an alternative to Chamberlain's view, sponsored by national leaders, if in fact they only have one view, Chamberlain's, put forcefully before them, they will come by dint of cogitating upon it to auto-suggest themselves into the belief that it is true.

I should not be in the least afraid of an immediate General Election (provided that there is an electoral pact, [3] which again will be easier to secure in the present state of feeling). I think that poorer people--perhaps because they are in closer contact with the brutalities of life--see the danger of the surrender policy more clearly than the rich. To be afraid of the present is to commit Chamberlain's fallacy with regard to foreign affairs. It is a fallacy to suppose that we shall be in a better position to appeal to the people in 3 or 6 months' time--unless of course another crisis is hot upon us, when the avenues of appeal will once more be closed. I think that the analogy of 1931 is quite wrong, because, though I think there was a cause for labour, it was not one which could be put across. The defence of democracy is one which can be.

Finally, may I say, if it is not impertinent, that for to-morrow more important than the question of when precisely Chamberlain went wrong or the fait accompli of Czecho-Slovakia, is the policy for the future. That is what alarms me most of all about Chamberlain. Of course we agree that, if Hitler has really been tamed, let us work with him. But it is necessary to insure ourselves against the opposite eventuality by cultivating the closest possible relations with Russia and with those small countries who still have a common interest with us in resisting aggression. In cultivating Germany Chamberlain has already snubbed many friends. This must be stopped. In his present policy and his professed policy for the future he is gambling on his optimistic interpretation of Hitler. Since the stake is our independent existence, this gamble is riskier than any Prime Minister is entitled to make. We must re-insure ourselves by a sufficient number of outside friendships to make the country safe.

After to-morrow there is the question of an electoral pact. That is where Chamberlainesque qualities are called for! I feel sure that it is possible by compromise.

Yours very sincerely

Roy Harrod

P.S. I have sent a copy of this to 2 places. 2

  1. 1. The exchange took place on the background of the Munich agreement, signed on 29 September, which accepted the division of the Sudeten. Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, hoped that the concession to Hitler would eventually prevent Britain's involvement in war. Harrod probably decided to approach Sinclair in this connection having read a statement by the leader of the Liberal opposition in which the belief was expressed that even if the recent action by the government had averted war, peace was not established. Sinclair maintained that a stable peace could be reached only on the basis of a system of collective security ("The Destiny of Europe. Sir Archibald Sinclair's Uneasiness", The Times, 1 October 1938, p. 6).

    2. The "strong feeling of criticism" found a vent into the formation of Popular Fronts against the dangers of fascism. On Harrod's participation in the local Popular Fronts campaign see notes 1 and 6 to press item 28 , note 1 to press item 30 and note 1 to essay 21 .

    3. Within a few days Harrod was among the promoters of an electoral pact in occasion of the Oxford City by-election: see note 1 to press item 28 , and the continuation of the correspondence with Sinclair.

    1. a. ALS, four pages on two leaves, in THRS III 23/4 (Churchill Archives Centre, courtesy of the Master and Fellows of Churchill College, Cambridge, and the Keeper and staff of Churchill Archives Centre).

      b. Ms: «floodtide».


1. The last two sentences are ticked in the margin by Sinclair.

2. Sinclair marked this sentence in the margin with a cross.


Welcome page

top of page

Return to index of this section

Go to previous page

Go to next page