Carr-Saunders, A. M.

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Carr-Saunders, A. M.


Alexander Morris Carr-Saunders, British sociologist, was born in 1886, the son of J. Carr-Saunders of Dorking, Surrey. He was educated at Eton and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he excelled in biology and was awarded a biological scholarship to study in Naples in 1908/1909. But even then his attention was shifting from biology to sociology, and he became deeply interested in social work among the underprivileged of the East End of London. He followed in the footsteps of William Beveridge, Clement Attlee, and many other social reformers by becoming subwarden of Toynbee Hall, an East End residential social club and cultural center for working people. He held this post in the year 1912/1913; during this time he also studied law and was called to the bar in 1913. He was a volunteer in the earliest days of World War i and served with the Royal Army Service Corps in France, Egypt, and Palestine, from 1914 to 1919. He married in 1929 and had three children.

In his first major work, The Population Problem: A Study in Human Evolution (1922), he used his biological training to assess relationships between resources and population in the past, thereby laying the foundation of modem demography. In the following year he was appointed Charles Booth professor of social sciences at the University of Liverpool, a post he held for 14 years. Eugenics (1926), A Survey of the Social Structure of England and Wales (written jointly with P. Caradog Jones, 1927), and The Professions (written jointly with P. A. Wilson, 1933) enhanced Carr-Saunders’ reputation and furthered the development of social science as a study at the university level. The Professions was the first comprehensive study of the development of the professions in Britain and is still invaluable. It was one of the first scholarly attempts to define the essential sociological characteristics of the professions and to point out their very special importance in the modern world—and to do both in a richly empirical work whose historical and demographic data are valuable in their own right. It was one of the very early contributions to what has since become the flourishing field of the sociology of the professions. At the request of Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs), Carr-Saunders undertook an investigation into world population at a time when few facts about the population of many countries were known and there had been very few attempts to survey the development of population through the ages. The result was a relatively slim volume, World Population (1936), which laid a firm foundation for subsequent studies by many workers and remains a standard work.

Carr-Saunders’ manifold but impartial interests in the field of the social sciences rendered his tenure of the directorship of the London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London), from 1937 to 1957, a very successful one, despite the interruption of World War n and the removal of the school to Cambridge from 1939 to 1945. Carr-Saunders served a term as vice-chancellor of the University of London, and he will always be remembered for the active part he played in the establishment of university colleges in the developing countries. As described in his New Universities Overseas (1961), semiautonomous colleges in special relationship with the University of London were designed eventually to become independent universities, which has in fact happened. Carr-Saunders may be regarded as the “father” of universities in Malaya, the Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Rhodesia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Jamaica.

Carr-Saunders retired from the London School of Economics in 1957 at the age of 70, and although he has spent most of his time in his cottage in the Lake District near his beloved mountains (he was a keen mountaineer and listed mountain climbing as his chief hobby), he has remained active. He enjoys country life and has occupied a succession of large country houses. From his collection of old masters—chiefly landscapes—he has loaned many paintings to the London School of Economics, where they have graced the walls of the social rooms. He has worked hard to enable all students to enjoy a wider social life in which music, art, and literature play a part.

Like many others vitally interested in the progress of mankind, Carr-Saunders has always been remote and detached in manner. Unwilling to suffer fools gladly, his own high standards of scholarship are largely responsible for the present status of sociology and demography. For his academic work he was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1946 and was awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Glasgow, Dublin, Grenoble, Columbia, Natal, Liverpool, and London, as well as by the University of Malaya, his own creation. He was knighted in 1946 and raised to knight of the British Empire on his retirement.

L. Dudley Stamp

[For the historical context of Carr-Saunders’ work, seePopulationand the biographies ofBeveridgeandWebb, Sidney andBeatrice. For discussion of the subsequent development of Carr-Saunders’ ideas, seePopulation, article onpopulation theories; Professions.]


1922 The Population Problem: A Study in Human Evolution. Oxford: Clarendon.

1926 Eugenics. New York: Holt.

(1927) 1937 Carr-Saunders, A. M.; and Jones, P.

Caradog. A Survey of the Social Structure of England and Wales as Illustrated by Statistics. 2d ed. Oxford: Clarendon.

(1933) 1964 Carr-Saunders, A. M.; and Wilson, P. A. The Professions. London: Cass.

1936 World Population: Past Growth and Present Trends. Oxford: Clarendon.

1938 Carr-Saunders, A. M.; Florence, P. S.; and Peers, R. Consumers Co-operation in Great Britain: An Examination of the British Co-operative Movement. London: Allen & Unwin.

1961 New Universities Overseas. London: Allen & Unwin.