JEBB, Richard (1874-1953)

Scope and Content

Correspondence and papers of Richard Jebb, 1885-1953, principally comprising correspondence 1884-1953 (correspondents include Leopold Stennett Amery, Lionel Curtis, Lord Grey, Sir Edward Grigg (later Lord Altrincham), W. Mackenzie King, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Alfred, Lord Milner, Sir Charles Tupper, and Sir Fabian Ware); also notebooks, journals of tours of colonies in 1898-1900 and 1905-1906, and diaries; photograph albums, mostly relating to tours of colonies; printed articles by Richard Jebb; drafts of Studies in Colonial Nationalism and a third volume of The Imperial Conference ; carbon copies of Jebb's speeches and articles; reviews of publications; press cuttings from Morning Post leaders and articles and press cuttings from other newspapers including articles by Jebb and scrap book of cuttings on the Imperial conference, 1907; materials relating to the East Marylebone election, 1910; accounts and bound proceedings of colonial conferences, 1887, 1894, 1897 and 1902.

Administrative / Biographical History

Richard Jebb was born in 1874. His father was a landowner in Wales and Shropshire and his uncle, Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb, was a renowned classical scholar, historian and MP - the identities of the two Richards were sometimes confused. Educated at Marlborough College and New College, Oxford, he was going to enter the Indian Civil Service but the deaths of his father and brother made him financially independent. He had demonstrated an early interest in the Empire and, following a period (1897-1901) travelling overseas, visiting many of the colonies, he began his career as an Empire'publicist' and journalist on his return home in 1902.
Though originally a Free Trader and advocate of Imperial Federation, his first major article, 'Colonial Nationalism' in Empire Review (Aug 1902) rejected both in favour of a system of mutual preference in trade and a political arrangement that recognised the colonies' own sense of nationhood and for autonomy. He continued this theme, calling for 'alliance' rather than federation, in his first and most influential book, Studies in Colonial Nationalism (1905), which aimed to give Britons a true account of opinion in the self-governing colonies. The book was enthusiastically received in Australia and Canada. Jebb declared himself a follower of Joseph Chamberlain and Tariff Reform and became increasingly involved in this cause.
He wrote on imperial matters for the Morning Post , and developed contacts with Conservative and colonial politicians. Both activities continued during his second tour of the empire in 1905-1906; interest in the ideas put forward in Studies in Colonial Nationalism brought Jebb meetings with senior figures in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. On his return, he continued writing and campaigning, and visited the West Indian colonies in 1909. In the general election of January 1910 he fought a bitter campaign in East Marylebone, London, as a Tariff Reform candidate against the official Unionist Conservative candidate. Despite support from Dominion politicians, Jebb came last amid a degree of public ridicule, from the Daily Express in particular. He withdrew from party politics, convinced that 'influence' was a more effective means of advancing his views. In 1911 he resigned from the Morning Post following its decision to pursue a less pro-Tariff Reform line.
In 1911 Jebb published the two-volume The Imperial Conference (the Jebb Papers include a draft of a third volume), in which he argued for the need to turn the conference into a permanent body to develop foreign and economic policy. In his next book, The Britannic Question (1913), he countered the idea of an Empire Parliament, suggested by Lionel Curtis's Round Table Group, with his own proposal for a 'Britannic Alliance' managed through a permanent Imperial Conference.
The outbreak of war in 1914 effectively ended Jebb's career in public life. A new system of imperial arrangements was quickly developed and Jebb had no opportunity for involvement. He served in Britain as an instructor for most of the war, following which he returned to live in the family home in Ellesmere, Shropshire, taking an active role in local affairs. He continued to write on imperial matters, especially at the time of Imperial Conferences. In The Empire in Eclipse (1926) he reiterated his views, but they were no longer influential. Richard Jebb died in Ellesmere on 25 June 1953.


Correspondence is arranged chronologically; other materials are arranged by record types, as listed above.

Access Information

Open although advance notice should be given. Access to individual items may be restricted under the Data Protection Act or the Freedom of Information Act.

Other Finding Aids

See link to repository description.

Archivist's Note

Compiled 2000, revised by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project, Aug 2001, revised by Sarah Drewery, 2008.

Separated Material

The University of Melbourne, Australia holds Jebb's correspondence with Alfred Deakin; The National Library of Australia holds Jebb's correspondence with Alfred Deakin, 1906-1923 (Ref: MS 339), correspondence with various figures in Australia, 1905-1916 (Ref: MS 813), the papers of Walter Murdoch, 1905-1916 (Ref MS 2897), and the papers of John Andrew La Nauze (Ref: MS 5248); British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics holds Jebb's correspondence with the Tariff Commission, 1908-1921.

Conditions Governing Use

A photocopying service is available, at the discretion of the Library staff. Copies are supplied solely for research or private study. Requests to publish, or to quote from, original material should be submitted to the Information Resources Manager.

Custodial History

Some of Richard Jebb's books and papers were given to ICS by his son, Richard L. Jebb, following his father's death in 1953. Lionel R. Jebb made a further, larger deposit of his grandfather's papers in 1986. In 1987 the Royal Commonwealth Society donated a series of letters from Richard Jebb to Evans Lewin, librarian at the Royal Commonwealth Society between 1919 and 1934. A further accession was received from the Australian High Commission, 2003.