Obituary: H. V. Hodson

H. V. HODSON was a distinguished editor of the Sunday Times not of the previous dispensation, but of the one before that. Before Rupert Murdoch acquired the paper and installed Andrew Neil to make it what it is today, it enjoyed under Denis Hamilton and then Harry Evans what many recall as a golden age, characterised by aggressive investigative journalism, uninhibited cultural reporting and irrepressible features.

Harry Hodson's Sunday Times was very different but in its way equally successful. Under his editorship, which lasted from 1950 to 1961, the circulation roughly doubled and passed one million, then a prodigious figure for a serious newspaper. Hodson found its proprietor, the first Viscount Kemsley, so difficult that on at least one occasion he came close to resignation. For, where Kemsley was a crusty conservative on social as well as political and economic issues, Hodson was a liberal conservative, in favour, for example, of liberalisation of the laws concerning homosexuality.

Hodson's intellectual pedigree, in fact, was that of liberal imperialism in general, and of the brand associated with the group known as Milner's Kindergarten in particular. The Kindergarten came together as a group of very able young men, including the politician and novelist John Buchan, the constitutional scholar Lionel Curtis, the banker Robert Brand and many others, who were determined to create a liberal regime in South Africa that would reconcile the Afrikaner and British South Africans; their interest in Africans was limited to vague paternalistic goodwill.

There was a close link between the Kindergarten and All Souls College, Oxford, to which Harry Hodson was elected, from Balliol, in 1928. As a young academic, Hodson's interest was in the British Empire, and his standpoint was that of a liberal imperialist, concerned to devise structures that would allow gradual progress in the direction of self- government. It is fair to say that he and his colleagues were so aware of opposition from blimps and business interests alike that they were cautious to the verge of immobilism.

Hodson took on first the assistant editorship, then from 1934 the editorship, of the Kindergarten's house journal, The Round Table. He also carried out with probity and intellectual clarity a number of assignments on behalf of what would now be called the Establishment, of which he was a card- carrying member. With his elegant bowler hat and rolled umbrella, and fastidious good manners, not to mention his membership of Brooks's Club and his Mastership of the Mercers' Company, one of the wealthiest and most influential City livery companies, he both looked the part and clearly enjoyed playing it. As a young don he published a number of books about the world economic crisis and about imperial problems, from the point of view of benevolent rulers, rather than from that of the ruled.

On the outbreak of the Second World War he became head of what was called the Empire Division of the Ministry of Information. In 1941 he was sent to India as the "Reforms Commissioner" in New Delhi. Those experiences informed a series of books about the future of empire, of which the most notable was perhaps The Great Divide: Britain-India-Pakistan, published in 1969. By that time, in a way that seems quaint today, he had become the assistant editor and later the editor of one of the most influential newspapers in the country with virtually no previous journalistic experience.

Even more quaint, to those who have worked on Sunday newspapers in less leisurely times, was the clause in his contract that allowed him not to have to come into the office on Saturdays except in times of dire emergency. Although Hodson had good personal relations with Roy Thomson and indeed with the brasher, very non-All Souls journalists brought into the paper by the new regime, it was clear that the new journalism was not for him.

Instead he found an ideal niche from which to contribute his knowledge of high politics and international affairs as Director - he preferred to call it "Provost" - of the Anglo-American "think-tank" (not a term that would have appealed to Harry Hodson) at Ditchley Park, the Palladian mansion of Ronald and Marietta Tree in the north Oxfordshire woods. There he presided over conferences that encouraged high-minded thinking of what came to be called an "Atlanticist" tone. Alternative visions were discouraged in a civilised manner, and the prevailing idea was the special relationship Britain might have as the ally of the United States.

In later years Hodson served as the editor of the Annual Register and as a consultant, and for a long time continued to attend weekly leader conferences at the Sunday Times. As an Anglican layman he also took an active part in Old Chelsea Church.

It is hard to recall Harry Hodson's life without the feeling that he was a devoted and civilised servant of a number of lost causes, among them the British Empire, the ideal of a gentlemanly journalism, and a special relationship between a rampantly self-confident America and a diminished Britain.Henry Vincent Hodson, journalist: born London 12 May 1906; Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford 1928-35; Assistant Editor, The Round Table 1931-34, Editor 1934-39; Director, Empire Division, Ministry of Information 1939-41; Reforms Commissioner, Government of India 1941- 42; Principal Assistant Secretary/head of Non-Munitions Division, Ministry of Production 1942-45; Assistant Editor, Sunday Times 1946-50, Editor 1950-61; Provost of Ditchley 1961-71; Master, Mercers' Company 1964-65; Editor, Annual Register 1973-88; married 1933 Margaret Honey (four sons); died London 27 March 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform