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Roy Douglas 1924-2020

We are sorry to record the death on 11 December of one of our founders and former Chairman, Roy Douglas, at the age of 95.

Roy was something of a polymath, with an early interest in dinosaurs long before they were popular. He took a degree in Zoology at King’s College London and a doctorate in Zoology at the University of Edinburgh. He then became a tutor in Biology at Battersea Polytechnic, but due to a reorganisation of the courses this came to an end and he decided to read for the Bar, being called in 1956 as a Member of Gray’s Inn.

He was starting to practise when changes at Battersea Polytechnic (by then Battersea College of Technology) led him to resume his career there, although he made use of his legal knowledge in his first book – Law for Technologists, published in 1964. When Battersea College became the University of Surrey, Roy was appointed as senior lecturer in General Studies (of which Biology and Law formed a part), at its new campus at Guildford, eventually becoming Emeritus Reader until his formal retirement in the late 1980s. However, he continued to give lectures until he was in his late 80s.

Roy had a lifelong interest in politics, having joined the Liberal Party when he was sixteen. While at King’s College London he served as Chair of its Liberal Association. He later became President and then Chair of the National League of Young Liberals. He stood for the Liberal Party at five Parliamentary elections: in Merton and Morden in 1950, Bethnal Green in 1951 and 1955 and Gainsborough in 1959 and 1964. Roy’s interest in land value taxation was a natural part of his interest in classic Liberalism as it had developed in the last years of the nineteenth century, the cornerstones of Liberal economic politics being land value taxation and its complement, free trade; of his many books, the one that he was most proud of was a survey of the Land Question in the UK called Land, People and Politics. Land value taxation and free trade remained as key and distinctive elements of British Liberalism until the early 1970s. At that time, Roy was serving on the council of the Liberal Party, and in the run-up to the 1975 United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, he chaired the Liberal “No to the Common Market” Campaign. That was probably the last occasion when the Liberal Party made a stand for what it had so long championed. A new generation had grown up which no longer understood its significance, paving the way for the merger with the then recently-formed Social Democratic Party, an alliance which would previously have been unthinkable.

Roy and a group of like minded people then set up the Campaign at some time around 1985, originally within the Liberal Democratic Party, but it was soon decided that the Campaign should break away to become a free-standing campaigning organisation, which he chaired until a few years ago.

Roy married Jean Roberts on 1 January 1955 and they had four children and four grandchildren. Roy was always friendly, approachable and hospitable, and a lucid speaker who would argue his case convincingly. He wrote extensively on political and economic history. His books provide important insights into the state of current politics and deserve to be better known.

  • Law For Technologists (London – Gee 1964) The History of the Liberal Party 1895 – 1970 (London – Sidgwick & Jackson 1971)
  • Land reform in the British Isles and Adam Smith and Free Trade (Editor) (London – International Union for International Land Value Taxation 1974)
  • Essays in Anti-Labour History : Responses to the Rise of Labour in Britain (Ed – Kenneth D Brown); Chapter 5 Labour in Decline, 1910-14 by Roy Douglas (London – Macmillan Press 1974 ISBN-13 : 978-0333152294)
  • Land, People & Politics : A History of the Land Question in the United Kingdom, 1878-1952 (London – Allison & Busby 1976; New York – St Martin’s Press 1976)
  • In The Year of Munich (London – Macmillan Press; New York – St Martin’s Press 1977)
  • The Advent of war, 1939-40 (London – Macmillan Press 1978; New York – St Martin’s Press 1979)
  • Critics of Henry George: An Appraisal of Their Strictures on Progress and Poverty (Ed – Robert V Andelson); Chapter 3 Laveleye: A Critic Ripe for Conversion. (Roy Douglas) (Wiley-Blackwell – 1979 ISBN: 978-1-405-11825-5)
  • From War to Cold War, 1942-1948 (New York – St Martin’s Press 1981) New Alliances 1940-41 (New York – St Martin’s Press 1982) 1939,
  • A Retrospect Forty Years After: Proceedings of a Conference Held At the University of Surrey, 27 October 1979 (Editor) (Hamden, Connecticut -Archon Books 1983)
  • World Crisis and British Decline, 1929-56 (Basingstoke – Macmillan 1986; New York – St Martin’s Press 1986)
  • The World War, 1939-1945 : the Cartoonists’ Vision (London & New York – Routledge 1990)
  • Surrey: The Rise of a Modern University (Guildford – University of Surrey 1990)
  • Between the Wars, 1919-1939 : The Cartoonists’ Vision (London & New York – Routledge 1992)
  • Great Nations Still Enchained : The Cartoonists’ Vision of Empire, 1848-1914 (London & New York – Routledge 1993)
  • Great War 1914-18: The Cartoonists’ View (London & New York – Routledge 1995)
  • Drawing Conclusions, A Cartoon History of Anglo-Irish Relations 1798-1998 (Belfast – Blackstaff 1998)
  • Taxation in Britain Since 1600 (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire – Macmillan; New York – St Martin’s Press 1999)
  • Ireland Since 1690 : A Concise History (with Liam Harte and Jim O’Hara) (Belfast – Blackstaff 1999; Lincolnwood, Illinois – Contemporary Books 2000)
  • Liquidation of Empire : The Decline of the British Empire (Basingstoke, Hampshire – Houndmills; New York – Palgrave/ Macmillan 2002)
  • Liberals : The History of the Liberal and Liberal Democratic Parties (London & New York – Hambledon and London 2005 – IBSN 1 85285 353 0)
  • Eastbourne From Old Photographs (Stroud, Gloucestershire – Amberley Publishing 2014 – IBSN 978-1445 63322 0)
  • Why Land Matters Today (Henry George Foundation 2015 – ISBN-13 : 978-0903980128) Redhill and Reigate Through Time (Stroud, Gloucestershire – Amberley Publishing 2016 – IBSN 978-4456 3323 7)