Read the LSE History blog by Sue Donnelly.
LSE IDEAS Director Michael Cox on Margaret Gowing
Margaret Gowing (1921-1998) was probably one of the most significant women ever to have studied at the LSE. Arriving at the School from a working class background in 1938 she had the very great privilege - as she herself recognised – of being taught by some of the intellectual giants of the LSE including Lionel Robbins, von Hayek, R H Tawney, Ronald Coase, Vera Anstey, H L Beales, and above all Eileen Power who reignited her interest in economic history and history as a meaningful subject.
Graduating with a First in 1941 she first moved into the Civil Service for the duration of the war before being ‘spotted’ by the great Australian historian Keith Hancock who was then editing a massive series on Britain on the home front during WWII. Margaret not only wrote a wonderful study on the British War Economy with Hancock, but effectively went on to become one of the series editors. Working with Hancock also brought her into close contact with another author in the same series, Richard Titmuss, whose Problems of Social Policy really made his reputation and as a result secured him a Chair at the LSE.
Through the 1950s Margaret continued working in the Cabinet Office, but in 1959, secured a new position with the UK Atomic Energy Authority and set about transforming our understanding of the British nuclear programme with such monumental works as Britain and Atomic Energy 1939-1945 (1964) and its two-volume sequel, Independence and Deterrence (1974), written with the assistance of her friend and collaborator Lorna Arnold.
In all three volumes , she offered what one observer has termed “a characteristically clear-eyed account of the fashioning and implementation of British policy with regard to atomic energy from the outbreak of the war until October 1952”.
Her election first to the British Academy in 1975, and 13 years later to the Royal Society, recognised equally the quality and the breadth of her work and placed her, with Sir Karl Popper and Joseph Needham, and now Nick Stern of the LSE’s Grantham Institute, among the tiny handful of those who have been Fellows of both bodies.