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The Papers of Lord Salter

Reference Code: GBR/0014/SALT

Scope and Contents

Personal and political papers; with notes and correspondence collected by Professor Sidney Aster in the course of writing the official biography of Salter.


  • Creation: 1916 - 1975

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of Lord Arthur Salter, SALT.

Biographical / Historical

James Arthur Salter, known as Arthur, was born on 15 March 1881 at Oxford, the eldest of the four sons of James Edward Salter, a member of an Oxford firm of boat builders who became mayor of the city, and his wife Julia Maria Millin, the daughter of a draper. Salter was educated at Oxford High School and won a scholarship at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he read Greats, graduating in 1903 with a double first. After graduation he received a senior scholarship to pursue his studies in history, law, and economics for a further year. In 1904 Salter won a place in the Civil Service, choosing the Home over Indian and Colonial services. He spent the next seven years in the transport department of the Admiralty, then in 1911 was transferred to a new and energetic department set up to operate the national insurance scheme established by Lloyd George. He was shortly appointed private secretary to C. F. G. Masterman, and then in 1913 promoted to be assistant secretary of the Insurance Commission. On the outbreak of the First World War, Salter was recalled to the Admiralty, where he was responsible for the administration of its rapidly growing financial branch. When the department became the Ministry of Shipping, in January 1917, he was appointed Director of Ship Requisitioning, in charge of the planning and allocation of allied merchant tonnage and of liaising with the United States over shipbuilding. In 1918 Salter established, with John Anderson and Jean Monnet, the Inter-Allied Maritime Transport Council, which he chaired. In 1919, Salter served as one of the secretaries of the Supreme Economic Council in Paris, and played a critical role in the establishment of the League of Nations, heading up the Economic and Financial Section of the League Secretariat. In 1920, he was temporarily made Secretary-General of the Reparations Commission. In 1922 he returned to his directorship in the League Secretariat in Geneva, where he worked on the financial and economic reconstruction of Europe, notably in the stabilization of the currencies of Austria and Hungary, and the resettlement of refugees in Greece and Bulgaria. Salter also served as an adviser to the Indian and Chinese governments, and organised the World Economic Conference in 1927. Salter resigned from the League in 1931, believing it lacked the powers it needed to fulfil its primary mission, and returned to London. The next phase of his career was devoted to politics, academia, and public affairs. During the 1930s, in addition to journalism and publishing, he served as a member of the Economic Advisory Council, and as chair of the Railway and Roadway Conference and the National Railway Staff Tribunal. In 1934, he was appointed to the newly-created Gladstone Professorship of Political Theory and Institutions at Oxford. He was also made a Professorial Fellow of All Souls, the college which provided him with an intellectual home for the rest of his life. In the late 1930s, he was a key member of the All Souls Foreign Affairs Group, an unofficial committee which met regularly to discuss problems in British foreign policy. On the outbreak of the Second World War, Salter was appointed as joint parliamentary secretary to the new Ministry of Shipping set up by Neville Chamberlain, and held a similar position in Winston Churchill’s coalition government. He also became vice-chairman of the Anglo-French Co-ordination Committee, under Jean Monnet. In March 1941, following the beginning of lend-lease, Churchill made Salter Head of the British Shipping Mission to Washington. Over the next two years he successfully reprised his role from the First World War, pressing upon the United States administration the need for a vast programme of new shipbuilding and construction. A skilled negotiator and sociable colleague, Salter ensured that Britain established a solid and equitable partnership with the United States over control of allied shipping. He secured offices for his team to work alongside their American counterparts in the Commerce Building in Washington, DC, where he was known affectionately as ‘Little Arthur’. In 1937, Salter had been approached by representatives of all three parties to stand as the candidate for the parliamentary seat of Oxford University, and was duly elected with an absolute majority. Unattached to any political party, he held the seat as an Independent until the university seats were abolished in February 1950. A year later, he was invited to stand for Ormskirk at a by-election as a Conservative. After re-election in the 1951 general election, he was appointed Minister of State for Economic Affairs in the Treasury. In 1952, he became Minister of Materials, in charge of winding up his ministry and disposing of surplus government stocks. In October 1953, he left the government and was elevated to the peerage, as Baron Salter of Kidlington. In June 1940 Salter married, in Washington DC, his American partner Ethel Mather Bagg, widow of Arthur Bullard, who had been one of Salter’s league colleagues in Geneva. Ethel was well-connected to many of the leading figures in the United States government, including Eleanor Roosevelt, and greatly assisted Salter’s work in Washington during the Second World War. She died in October 1969, on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth while returning with Salter from New York. There were no children. Salter was appointed CB (1918), KCB (1922), PC (1941), and GBE (1944). For his service in Europe, he was appointed Officer of the Couronne Belgique in 1919, Commander of the Légion d’honneur in 1920, and Commendatore of the Crown of Italy in 1922. He received the Chinese decoration of the Brilliant Jade in 1937. He was made an honorary fellow of Brasenose College, and on retiring from his Professorial Fellowship at All Souls in 1974 he was immediately re-elected to an honorary fellowship there. He also received honorary doctorates from Oxford, Manchester, Vienna, Harvard, Columbia, McGill, California, and Amherst. Lord Salter died at his home in Chelsea, London on 27 June 1975. His publications included: Allied Shipping Control: An Experiment in International Administration (1921); The Economic Consequences of the League (1927); The World’s Economic Crisis and the Way of Escape, with John Maynard Keynes, William Beveridge, et al (1932); Recovery: The Second Effort (1932); Political Aspects of the World Depression (1932); The Modern State, with Leonard Woolf, Eustace Percy, Mrs Sidney Webb, W.G.S. Adams, ed. Mary Adams (1933); ‘Economic Nationalism: Can it Continue?’ in ‘What is Ahead of Us?’, ed. G.D.H. Cole and Sidney Webb (1937); Statistics and the Public (1937); Security: Can We Retrieve It? (1939); Personality in Politics: Studies of Contemporary Statesmen (1942); Memoirs of a Public Servant (1961); Slave of the Lamp: A Public Servant’s Notebook (1967).


20 archive box(es)

Language of Materials



The papers were originally arranged into series and initially catalogued to file level by Sidney Aster.

Other Finding Aids

Copies of the collection level description and catalogue are available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge and the National Register of Archives, London.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were collected by Sidney Aster following the accidental destruction of the archive, after it had been removed from Lord Salter's London residence and placed in storage in July 1976. Aster undertook to collect Lord Salter's surviving papers during the course of researching his official biography, obtaining personal reminscences and extant primary documents from Salter's friends, relations, and professional associates. Correspondence detailing Aster's collecting can be found in SALT 7.

Related Materials

Correspondence between Lord and Lady Salter and Sir Edward Spears is contained within the Spears papers (SPRS 1/302).

The diaries of Mary Agnes Hamilton were extracted from Sidney Aster's correspondence with the Adamson family (within SALT 7) in 2018 and given a separate collection code [HMTN].


The papers were in the personal possession of Sidney Aster during the preparation of his monograph 'Appeasement and All Souls: A Portrait with Documents, 1937-1939' (Cambridge: Camden Fifth Series, Royal Historical Society, 2005), and the official biography of Lord Salter, 'Power, Policy, and Personality: The Life and Times of Lord Salter' (independently published, 2016).


This collection level description was prepared in 2018 by Heidi Egginton, using biographical information obtained from Who's Who, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and Salter's obituaries in The Times.


Salter, James Arthur, 1881-1975, Baron Salter of Kidlington, civil servant, politician, and political scientist

2014-05-21 08:20:16+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087