897. Harrod, circular letter to 1,300 entrepreneurs , 22 February 1939 [a]

[Answered by 899 R and several other recipients [1] ]

University of Oxford, Institute of Statistics, 74 High Street, Oxford #

22 February 1939

Dear Sir,

I am writing on behalf of a group of economists in Oxford which is studying the question of trade fluctuation. Its [2] special interest is to bring the theory of the subject which, as you are aware, is of the greatest [3] importance for national economic and financial policy, into closer relation with the facts of business life.

We have interviewed a number of representative producers and traders with this object.

One department of our study is the influence of the rate of interest. This is usually deemed to be of paramount importance. But the answers, which we have received tend to throw some doubt on this assumption.

We are now extending our enquiries by sending a written list of questions to a large [4] number (about 1,300 [5] ). In order to obtain general acceptance for our final conclusions, we must be able to show that it is based on a wide sample. I therefore ask you most earnestly to be good enough to provide us with answers to the enclosed questions. A definite conclusion, based on ample evidence, might be of considerable national importance in influencing policy. [6]

Your reply will be treated as strictly confidential. In any summary of results, the identity of those who provide information will be rigidly suppressed. [7]

For an example of our method, I may refer you to the summary of the answers to our more restricted enquiries published in the Oxford Economic Papers, No. 1, December, 1938. 1 [8] This has evoked considerable interest and we hope that the result of this further investigation will evoke still more.

Hoping that you will be good enough to co-operate with us by providing answers,

Yours very truly,

R. F. Harrod [b]

  1. 1. A number of questionnaires came in with accompanying letters addressed to Harrod. Most of these merely announced whether or not they were providing the required information, while some added an explanation of the peculiarities of individual businesses. Seventy-six such letters are preserved in ABP, folders 47, 48 and 49.

    2. Draft (see source note a to this letter): «Our».

    3. The word «practical» in the draft was omitted at this point.

    4. Draft: «larger».

    5. Draft: «3000». It is not clear whether (nor why) the members of the group eventually decided to reduce the size of their sample, or whether the number written down by Harrod was a plain mistake. In fact, he himself mentioned about a thousand entrepreneurs in a letter to Veale on 16 January 1939: letter 888 R, [jump to page] .

    6. This statement was criticized as introducing a bias prejudicing the impartiality of the research: see letter 899 R.

    7. The replies to the questionnaire were analyzed by P. W. S. Andrews in "A Further Inquiry into the Effects of Rates of Interest", Oxford Economic Papers 3, 1940, pp. 33-73, where a facsimile of the questionnaire is reproduced (the questions are also cited in a circular letter to Builders drafted by Andrews and commented upon by Harrod, attached to letter 914 : see footnote [i] to [jump to page] ).

    8. J. E. Meade and P. W. S. Andrews, "Summary of Replies to Questions on Effects of Interest Rates", Oxford Economic Papers, 1, October 1938, pp. 14-31.

    1. a. T circular LS, one page, in ABP 49 (further copy in ABP 46). An undated manuscript draft in Harrod's hand, three pages on two leaves, is filed in ABP, folder 45. Besides the differences indicated in endnotes, the draft departs from the engrossed copy in a few stylistic details.

      b. Stamped.

1. Published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford (price 3s. 6d.) [Note printed at the foot of page].

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