James Chuter Ede: Humane Reformer and Politician

by Stephen Hart (m. 1968)

James Ede book cover









This book is about one Christ's alumnus, James Chuter Ede, written by another Christ's alumnus, Stephen Hart (m. 1968).

James Chuter Ede (1882-1965) served the longest term of office as Home Secretary in the last 200 years, three weeks more than Theresa May. He is the only senior member of Attlee's legendary 1945 cabinet not yet to have found a biographer. His contribution to that government - and in Robert Harris's words, 'We still live in the society shaped by Clement Attlee' - although largely unsung, was immense. Alongside towering achievements such as Bevan's NHS, his own measures, in administrative, legal and social reform, did much to set the seal on Labour's reforming programme, including the Criminal Justice Act 1948, paving the way for the abolition of capital punishment. Previously, working with RA Butler, he provided a major contribution to the Education Act 1944. Equally interesting for historians and readers of history is how Ede's life and career present a political, cultural and social account, in his journey from Victorian family life with a Liberal background, through Cambridge and the Unitarian religion, to Labour politics, working in education and local government. He represented suburban Mitcham and then industrial South Shields in Parliament, where his performances were legendary in an age of oratory - low-key, yet cutting and decisive. This will be an important contribution to the burgeoning interest in the historiography of post World War II Labour Britain.

The author: Stephen Hart obtained his PhD at Aston University, and followed a successful career as a solicitor specialising in commercial law. He shares some of his subject's experience, coming from suburban Surrey and studying at the same Cambridge College - Christ's - for which he wrote the page on Ede in its Distinguished Members page. He has also been involved in Labour Party politics, as local councillor and in Parliamentary elections.

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