Century of Endeavour

Albert Kahn Foundation: 1910s

(c) Roy Johnston 2003

(comments to rjtechne at iol dot ie)

(This includes some minor addenda from my sister. RJ 29/08/01.)

Albert Kahn Foundation: Background

The Deed of Foundation of the UK Centre for the AK Travelling Fellowships is dated 1910, and I have a copy. It is in the form of an agreement between Albert Kahn, of Paris, France, Banker, and the University of London, the latter being represented by Baron Loreburn (Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain), Baron Alverstone (Lord Chief Justice of England), JW Lowther (Speaker of the House of Commons), HA Miers (Principal of London University) and Baron Avebury. These were the initial Trustees.

I am indebted to the Librarian of University College London for a chance, on May 7 1998, to examine the Minutes of the meetings of Trustees and associated correspondence.

The Vice-Chancellors of all Universities in the UK, including the NUI and QUB and Dublin University, had the right to nominate candidates for the Fellowship. There were seven applicants for the first round of Fellows in 1910; two were appointed: S Ball, 53, philosophy, economics and political science; also EA Banians, 29, colonial history, Canadian economic development, historical and political geography, said to be politically a Liberal. The five other candidates were specialists in colonial constitutional law, history, philosophy, psychology, local taxation and English literature; their ages ranged from 37 to 53.

The 1911 Fellows appointed were Ivor Back, 31, medicine and surgery, and DH McGregor, 33, economics. Other applicants, of which there were eight, ranged in age from 21 to 38, and were specialists in mediaeval history, economic history, early English literature, maths and physics, geography, forestry and medicine. Most were over 30, and the 21-year old was a raw student, a trainee teacher. I have a copy of the Ivor Back Report (1911-12); it is an ill-structured chatty memoir, without table of contents or index, in the tradition of the English 'grand tour' traveller. I conjecture that the Albert Kahn Trustees would not have been pleased with it, and wanted to upgrade the standard.

The emphasis on politics, economics and geography continues in 1912, when there were 10 candidates, including HAL Fisher, whom JJ knew in Oxford. It is possible that it was Fisher who initially gave JJ the idea that he might apply, though he subsequently attributed the influence to Mahaffey, when in TCD. The successful candidates in 1912 were GL Dickenson, 49 (classics, history, political science) and PM Roxby, 31 (geography). The others were specialists in modern history (Fisher), religion, local government, education, zoology, economics; there were two colonial historians. I have also the Dickenson Report, dated October 1913. This is more scholarly in structure, with sections devoted to India, China and Japan, in the form of essays, in which he attempts to bring out what he sees as essential features in the culture.

After this the record gives less detail; we just get the successful ones. In 1913 we have Douglas Knopp from Sheffield, and in 1914 Joseph Johnston, AJ Ogilvie and WT Layton. The latter two however joined up for the war. There is a long gap then until 1920, when we get John Ewing from Edinburgh and Eileen Power from Cambridge, and then in 1922 Leonard Halford and Dudley Baxton from Oxford. The record then ceases.

There are some further insights from the Meiers correspondence, which would appear to have commenced in or around 1907, and indicated that Albert Kahn had been running Fellowships along these lines in France, and aspired to set up centres in the US, Japan and Germany as well as in the UK. There had been 33 awards in France, which included Charles Garnier who went on to become the Executive Secretary of the Foundation in Paris. There is also a reference to five in Japan and two in Germany.

I have an example of one of the earlier Reports, in fact the first, published in 1914, but relating to 1909-10, by Tongo Takabe, Professor of Sociology at the Imperial College in Tokyo. This was published in French by F Rieder, rue de Vaugirard, Paris. It gives a page or two to most European countries, as seen through Japanese eyes. This and the two other Reports mentioned above were in JJ's possession, and I suspect he must have got hold of them in order to make his own proposal having seen the background.

I also have lists of the members of the Societé Autour du Monde for 1914, 1922 and 1931. The 1914 list while being mostly French has a strong German component, and includes members from Russia, the US and Japan. Post-war the German component vanishes. There is a thesis for someone in the elucidation of the significance of the details of this list, but the basic message is that pre-1914 it was the makings of a real international network, while after the war its scope and influence declined, though clearly Garnier did his best to keep alive the liberal-democratic tradition, with his support of Scottish and Irish national aspirations. According to my sister, Garnier stayed in our house on several occasions during the 1920s; the contact continued up the the 1940s, and the present writer encountered him in 1939.

It would appear that Albert Kahn was consciously setting up to establish a network of people who he hoped would become influential in preventing war, and his method was to enable them to see how the world lived, learn from first-hand experience, and hopefully to set up correspondence networks. Gilles Baud-Berthier has been researching this historical background, attempting to fill in the gaps left by the Nazi theft of their archives.

(The E-mail contact for Gilles Baud-Berthier in the AKF in Paris is gbb@club-internet.fr)

Regrettably the Miers file comes to an end in 1913, and I was unable to find any more in UCL.

It would appear that JJ would have been substantially younger than the average, at 24. It would also appear that he was nominated via Oxford, probably at the suggestion of HAL Fisher, rather than via Trinity College, as I can find no record of his nomination in the TCD Board minutes. There are records of other nominees from TCD in later years. I have been unable to find an record of his proposal, which must have been convincing, and probably made the case for generalising his classical training towards economics, in the light of his Oxford experiences.

Albert Kahn Foundation Archive in Paris

The following includes material extracted from the AK Foundation 'Chronicle of Events', by the writer in a visit on April 26 1997. Their archive at that time was incomplete, having suffered during the 1939 war from looting by the Nazis. Subsequently their archive has, at least partially, been recovered, and some additional material has emerged, for which I am indebted to the Directeur Mme Beausoleil and Anne Besoulle the archivist.

There is a letter from my father to the Foundation dated 10/07/14, in English (his French being rusty), placing himself on record as taking up the Fellowship. He declared the intention of arriving in Paris on July 25, and touring France, Germany, Austria and Italy with my mother, whom he had newly married, with the aid of '..a small two-seated mtor-car of a reliable make..'.

This would have been the Peugeot, which subsequently became part of the family folk-lore.

There is a further letter, explicitly to Garnier, dated 10/08/14, which records that they had started out on their tour but only got as far as Dieppe, for the European part of their tour, when they had to turn back on account of the war situation. JJ had aleady bought the car in France; he hoped to get it returned to Ireland, where he proposed to donate it to the military, for use in the context of the defence of Ireland, and he declared the intention of joining some force dedicate to this objective.

Evidently at this time he thought the project was 'off', but it subsequently was resurrected, perhaps with the aid of Mahaffey, who was motivated to get JJ out of the TCD environment, where at the time he was redundant, the place beeing awash with classical studies Fellows.

There is a printed French-language version of an article by JJ, dated 1914, translated by one Sophie de Riemsdyk, entitled 'L'Ideal coopeatif de l'Irlande rurale'. I have not identified a source in any Irish co-operative publication, and it may be that he wrote this specially in the context of his Albert Kahn Fellowship proposal, to help set his agenda, which certainly moved in this direction in India. It is based on a concept of 'rural civilisation', leaned heavily on the Templecrone experience, and attempted to link the IAOS agenda with pre-urban Irish tribal tradition, seen as an alternative development model to Viking/Norman urbanism. There is a reference to the idea of the Greek city-state, and a realisation of the need to deal with the problem of rural gombeen-capital. It is a foreshadowing of his subsequent 1940s paper An Economic Basis for Irish Rural Civilisation (JSSISI xviii, 1, 1947-8).

On February 7 1915 there is a reference to JJ being on a trip round the world, from which AE Ovilvie and WT Layton, the other AK Travelling Fellows, had been pre-empted by the war. His Report was not published until after the war. My mother's journal of the trip gives some additional insights.

There is among JJ's papers a handwritten letter in French from M Chesneau, dated September 19 1916. I find it impossible to decypher, but it is probably to do with his visit in connection with the analysis of French agricultural procedures. In this context he also was accredited as an Irish Times correspondent by the Editor John E Healy. So JJ was wearing two hats in France in 1916; his primary one was his Albert Kahn Fellowship, under which banner he wrote his report, but he had also sold the idea to the Irish Times.

I have been unable to unearth what JJ wrote for the Irish Times, but he certainly wrote in the London Times, and I have made the material available in the 1910s political module of the hypertext.

There is a reference to an article in the Irish Times 'If France Ruled Ireland' on September 27 and October 3 1916, but no reference to authorship. This undoubtedly was JJ anonymously, and was outside the terms of reference of his Irish Times accreditation, taking further advantage of his 1916 French economic field-work. It is referenced in the January-April 1917 issue of the AK Bulletin, as being part of the results of his 1916 French agriculture studies.

In 1917 JJ is on record as having presented 'La Plus Grande France' (Probus, Colin, 1915) to the library, along with his 'Food Production in France in time of war'.

On 1/7/1917, p87-88, there is a reference to a memo on Anglo-Irish relations in the context of the Empire, with the Canadian analogy, in an appendix. Also GL Dickenson on European Anarchy.

Fragments from JJ's Papers

There was a correspondence extending between 1917 and 1949 between JJ and Charles Garnier who was executive secretary of the AKF. I have copied this, and the copies I hope to be able to deposit, along the rest of this material, in the Linenhall Library in Belfast. The originals I hope to be able to deposit with the reconstructing AK archive in Paris. I have prepared some notes on the Garnier letters, which are organised by decade. The first series throw some light on JJ's attempts post-1916 to promote a political settlement, along all-Ireland Home Rule lines, with additional insights from Canada. The second series, in the 1920s, throw some light on JJ's attempts to mobilise French public opinion in support of the emerging Free State. The later letters are less intense, but illustrate the ongoing friendship, which continued up to the early 50s. I treat them in the overall AK context, rather than as a stream of their own.

There is an additional file of documents relating to JJ's contact with the AK Foundation. This contains his 1916 pass issued by the Paris prefecture, and accreditation documents to do with the his Rockefeller Fellowship. There is also a postcard from Muneyama Kamiya, of Wakayama, Japan, dated August 2 1914, declaring the intention of sending the photo wich he had taken of JJ and my mother on top of Mount Fuji.

The Travelling Fellowship Report
JJ's Report was not published until 1920, due to the war. It relates to the periods November 1914 to September 1915; it is a substantial document, covering India at length, with Irish comparisons, and analysis in depth of the role of the agricultural co-operative movement among producers. The treatments of China, Japan and the USA are more superficial but insightful. I append an outline summary of this Reports, and hope eventually to be able to append the report in full.

Food Production in France (1916)

The 1916 addendum to his Albert Kahn Travelling Fellowship Report, which is a study of food production in France during the War, I also abstract, and hope eventually to append in full, as it is an important document showing the evolution of his economic thinking, and concern for the reward of the primary producer.

This suggests a hypertext development procedure. Where I hotlink to an abstract or an overview, declaring the intent eventually to provide the text in full, the abstract will probably end up in the hypertext at book-publishing-time, while the full text may eventually become available as the hypertext develops in depth in the web-site.)

JJ's AK Report

The AK 'Moscow' archive has thrown up a letter from the AK Trustees in London University to Garnier, dated 26 November 1920, recording the sending of 100 copies of JJ's AK Report to Paris, the printing being delayed due to the war. I have not yet discovered any record of where these went; presumably they had a library distribution list.

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Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 2003