DICKINSON, Goldsworthy Lowes (1862-1932)
Plaque erected in 1956 by London County Council at 11 Edwardes Square, Kensington, London, W8 6HE, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Literature, Politics and Administration
THIS WAS THE LONDON HOME OF G.LOWES DICKINSON Author and Humanist HE WAS BORN 1862 AND DIED 1932
Erected by private subscription in 1956 and immediately incorporated by the LCC into the official scheme.
The author and humanist Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson developed the initial plans for the League of Nations and helped shape the discipline now known as International Relations. From 1912 until 1920 he lived at 11 Edwardes Square in Kensington, where he is now commemorated with a blue plaque.
THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
Goldsworthy ‘Goldie’ Lowes Dickinson was an active commentator on history and politics from the 1890s onwards. Based mostly in Cambridge, he used 11 Edwardes Square as a London pied-à-terre from 1912 until 1920 while he was teaching at the London School of Economics. The outbreak of the First World War – or the ‘black horror of inconceivability’ as he called it – changed the course of his career. In 1914, only weeks after war was declared, Dickinson called for the establishment of a ‘league of nations’. He was one of the first people to use this term, and conceived of the league as an organisation for arbitration and conciliation to prevent future wars. He formed a pressure group within the governing Liberal Party, and travelled to the Hague and the United States to promote his scheme.
In 1916 Dickinson published The European Anarchy. Writing against the jingoistic atmosphere of the time, he argued that it wasn’t the character of the German people or the aggressive politics of the German state that caused the war. Instead the root of all conflict between great powers, he said, lies in the ‘anarchy’ of the international system – a chronic state of war in which countries are constantly trying to achieve supremacy over one another.
The League of Nations was finally set up in January 1920, and was replaced by the United Nations in 1945–6.
Dickinson developed his views on international relations with such works as War: Its Nature, Cause and Cure (1923) and The International Anarchy, 1904–14 (1926). According to EM Forster, it was only with the publication of the latter that Dickinson reached ‘a truce in his own heart. He could do no more against the powers of evil, he had no new weapons in his armoury’. Dickinson didn’t return to the subject of international relations in his writing but published works instead on Plato and Goethe, remaining intellectually active up until his death.
Dickinson was a great influence on the writers and thinkers of the Bloomsbury group – among them Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, and Virginia and Leonard Woolf. EM Forster wrote a biography of him in 1934, but Dickinson’s own autobiographical writings – published posthumously in 1973 – were rather more frank. In them he revealed that he was gay, and that he fell in love with the art critic Roger Fry while at Cambridge University in the 1880s. The two men maintained a close friendship, but not – according to Dickinson – a romantic one.
Dickinson died on 3 August 1932 and was cremated at Golders Green in London on 8 August.