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The Life and Times of Thomas Balogh

A Macaw Among Mandarins

Author Text to Follow

Thomas Balogh (1905–1985) had a conspiratorial nature and deliberately kept to the shadows so that his substantial role in political life has been little known. His predictions were usually right and he looked at economic and political issues from unconventional angles, but he was an exasperating man who thrived on controversy. He made many enemies and had numerous fallings-out, especially with civil servants, and this affected the way his advice was perceived.

This first and only biography covers his life and work: from his youth in Budapest, to his coming to Britain in 1930 and being taken up by Keynes; his advance to being a well known if highly controversial political economist; his reputation as a brilliant though eccentric don at Balliol College, Oxford; his burgeoning interest in politics; and the time of his greatest influence as economic advisor to his close friend Harold Wilson.

Balogh’s interests in North Sea Oil and Gas exploitation and his criticism of governmental failure to exact higher revenue from the oil companies is documented and the analysis is a counterbalance to the official history. June Morris’s interpretation of Balogh’s relationship with Harold Wilson and Marcia Williams and, more particularly and perhaps more controversially, the relationship between Wilson and Williams, does not match those contained in the memoirs of Bernard Donoughue and Joe Haines. And there are correctives to some of the myths surrounding Wilson’s leadership of the Labour Party and his Prime Ministership.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-153-5
Hardback Price: £39.50 / $67.50
Release Date: March 2007
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-857-2
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: January 2017
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


List of Interviewees
Budda and Pest – Two Hungarian Economists

Introduction: A Talented but Volcanic Personality

1. Early Days
2. Settling in the West
3. The War Effort
4. A Don at Balliol
5. 'To avoid the post-war misery': The Attlee Government
6. Development Economics
7. Wilson and the Leadership Struggle
8. At No. 10: Battles and the Civil Service
9. At No 10: Battles and Policies
10. The Fight for North Sea Oil
11. Minister of State
12. Final Years

Epilogue: A Premier Economic Scholar

Notes and Abbreviations

The author successfully conveys the atmosphere of Whitehall in those troubled years, and captures the flavour of the times with uncanny accuracy.
Anthony Howard

June Morris has carefully and correctly assessed Balogh’s influence on British politics in general and the Labour Party and Harold Wilson and his circle in particular. She has also examined Balogh’s standing as an Oxford academic and his economic ideas, many of which were in advance of their time, in particular his views of developmental economics. Good use is made of her privileged access to Lord Balogh’s private papers and diaries, deposited at Balliol College, Oxford, which have not yet been made available to researchers. The author’s unlocking of their wealth of information is most exciting.
Dr M. D. Kandiah, Centre for Contemporary British History, Institute of Historical Research, University of London

Morris writes well about their relationship during Tommy’s years as the Prime Minister’s economic adviser and gives one of the more balanced accounts of life in Downing Street at the time … During all his time in Government, at first in Downing Street and later in the energy Department, Tommy played an active role in the development of policy on North Sea oil. His overriding aim was always to maximise the benefits accruing to the national economy from this new resource and to prevent the international oil companies from creaming off more than their due share of the wealth extracted from below the seabed. Tommy could legitimately take some credit for the favourable economic situation which later underpinned the Thatcher governments of the 1980s.
... Aside from these weighty issues of national policy, it is clear from my own and others’ experience, that Tommy was a gifted teacher whose insights illuminated parts which other tutors couldn’t reach. He was also a man who, though he made a lot of enemies, enjoyed the respect and friendship – and often the affection – of many talented people in public and academic life. He was a many-sided man and this book does him full justice.
Balliol College Record

Reviewed in the June 2018 issue of the Journal of Economic Literature (Volume 56, no. 2) and in the American Economic Association's electronic publications: e-JEL, JEL on CD, and EconLit.

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