Hammond, J. L. and Barbara

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Hammond, J. L. and Barbara



John Lawrence le Breton Hammond (1872-1949) was the son of a Yorkshire clergyman; Lucy Barbara Bradby (1873-1961), the daughter of the headmaster of Haileybury School. Both took greats at Oxford—Barbara with distinction—and it was by standards derived from Greece and Rome that they passed judgment on later times. When they married in 1901 Hammond was already deeply in volved in Liberal journalism; he published a study of the political career of Charles James Fox (1903) and for several years edited the Speaker, a weekly journal that later became the Nation. But from 1907, when he was appointed secretary to the Civil Service Commission, he gave his spare time to collaboration with Barbara. She had become deeply involved in research in public and private archives; it was his role to transmute her findings into vivid and arresting prose. In 1933 Oxford gave recognition to the parity of their contribution by conferring on each an honorary d.litt.

Their most widely read books, The Village Labourer (1911), The Town Labourer (1917), and The Skilled Labourer (1919), treat the period from the accession of George m to the first Reform Act and consist primarily of “a discussion of the lines on which Parliament regulated the lives and fortunes of a class that had no voice in its own destinies” ([1911] 1948, Preface). These were pathbreaking works, and, as is usual with such, it is not difficult to point to errors of fact and emphasis. It is now generally agreed that the enclosure of land was carried out less ruthlessly than they thought. Their use of the report of Sadler’s Committee of 1832 on the employment of children was uncritical. Their concentration on the records of the Home Office led them to present the abnormal cases brought to the notice of this department as though they were typical. But few historians would deny that the dismal account of class struggles presented in this trilogy is substantially accurate. In 1923 came their sympathetic, though critical, biography of Lord Shaftesbury (1923), to be followed two years later by an admirable background study, The Rise of Modern Industry (1925). In The Age of the Chartists; 1832-1854 (1930), they extended their inquiries to a later generation in which repeal of the Corn Laws, and the Ten Hours Act of 1847, the Public Health Act of 1848, and other measures reflected a growing sensitivity of the wealthier classes to the needs of the poor and the beginnings of what the Hammonds called “common enjoyment.” In none of these works did the authors pay much attention to strictly economic or demographic trends. But, at a time when the “depersonalization of history” has gone quite far enough, it is worth while to turn again to books which are emphatically about people and in which moral judgments are freely and forcefully expressed.

Lawrence Hammond was special correspondent of the Manchester Guardian at the Paris Peace Con ference in 1919 and the Conference on Ireland in 1921. He continued for the rest of his life to contribute articles, reviews, and occasional editorials to the paper and in World War II became a perma nent member of its staff. His later books are all biographical. James Stansfeld: A Victorian Champion of Sex Equality (1932) was written jointly with Barbara; but C. P. Scott of the Manchester Guardian (1934) and Gladstone and the Irish Nation (1938)—the greatest, if least known, of his works—are from his pen alone. They show his liberalism, insight, and command of words.

After his death in 1949, Barbara continued to follow her earlier interests: she lived to the age of 88, leaving an almost completed (but as yet un published) book on the enclosure of commons in the nineteenth century. The Hammonds were modest about their own achievements and generous toward opponents. Their books had wide pop ular appeal and, apart from quickening interest in the social life of the past, did much to shape contemporary opinion and policy.

T. S. Ashton


1903 Hammond, J. L. Charles James Fox: A Political Study. London: Methuen.

(1911) 1948 The Village Labourer. London: Longmans.→ First published as The Village Labourer; 1760-1832: A Study in the Government of England Before the Reform Bill.

(1917) 1949 The Town Labourer; 1760-1832: The New Civilisation. London: Longmans. (1919)

1927 The Skilled Labourer: 1760–1832. 2d ed. London: Longmans.

(1923) 1924 Lord Shaftesbury. 2d ed. New York: Harcourt.

(1925) 1947 The Rise of Modern Industry. 7th ed. Lon don: Methuen.

(1930) 1962 The Age of the Chartists; 1832-1854: A Study of Discontent. Hamden, Conn.: Shoe String Press.

1932 James Stansfeld: A Victorian Champion of Sex Equality. London: Longmans.

1934 Hammond, J. L. C. P. Scott of the Manchester Guardian. London: Bell.

(1938) 1964 Hammond, J. L. Gladstone and the Irish Nation. 2d ed. Hamden, Conn.: Shoe String Press.


Tawney, Richard H. 1960 J. L. Hammond: 1872–1949. British Academy, London, Proceedings 46:267–294. → Contains a bibliography of the Hammonds’ works on pages 293–294.

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