Stephen Frowen: Anglo-German economist
Horst Otto Frowein (Stephen Francis Frowen), economist: born Wuppertal, Germany 22 May 1923; Editor, The Bankers' Magazine 1956-62; Lecturer, Woolwich Polytechnic (now Greenwich University) 1962-66; Senior Lecturer, Surrey University 1967-87; Bundesbank Professor of Monetary Economics, Free University of Berlin 1987-88; Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Economics, University College London 1989-2007; Senior Research Associate and Fellow Commoner, St Edmunds College, Cambridge 1991-2007; married 1949 Irina Minsker (one son, one daughter); died Henfield, West Sussex 21 December 2007
Thursday 10 January 2008
As a scholar, teacher and editor, the economist Stephen Frowen significantly advanced his subject and was of great influence in his native country, Germany, and in the UK, his adopted home from 1949. He was an inspired mediator between two rather different academic cultures in the turbulent times after the Second World War, and a reliable friend to all those who approached him.
He was born Horst Otto Frowein in 1923 in Germany, and grew up in the affluent circumstances of his industrialist family. The young Horst Frowein, a practising Christian, who in later years would devote a plaque in memory of Dietrich Bonnhoeffer to his Cambridge college, left school in opposition to the compulsions of the Nazi regime. He took up an apprenticeship in a shipping company and was later called up into the army, to the medical service. After recovered from a bout of diphtheria and later with long-lasting tuberculosis, he caught up with his Abitur (equivalent to A-levels) and began his studies in economics at the universities of Cologne and Würzburg and finally, after the war, at the University of Bonn.
There he co-founded the "Club of Bonn Students", with the aim of restoring relations with foreign countries, and he was recommended for the diplomatic service. It was also in Bonn that he met Norbert Kloten, who was to become one of the most influential economists in Germany as scholar, economic advisor and central banker; their friendship lasted until Kloten's death in 2006. Both Kloten's and Frowen's last published academic work is a contribution to the book Germany's Economic Performance: from unification to Euroization (2007), which I edited on behalf of the Anglo-German Foundation.
According to Kloten, after graduation in summer 1948 Frowein suddenly disappeared. Rumours had it that he had met Irina Minsker, a colonel of the British Army of the Rhine, who taught German literature at Leeds University and held lectures at an international summer school at Bonn University. In fact, he also needed medical treatment to his lungs and he and Irina escaped to Switzerland, where they got married in March 1949, after which they stayed for their honeymoon in the Ticino. His beloved wife was buried two days before his own death.
Frowein's first years in England were, as he himself sometimes described it, "comparable to a 'male war-bride'", a lovely understatement of how difficult it must have been in those days to pursue a career in Great Britain coming from Germany. In this respect it was decisive that he met George Shackle, who taught him economics at postgraduate level at Leeds University. Their intellectual and personal relationship – moving from teacher and student to scholar and colleague and then to friendship – is documented by Frowen in the highly acclaimed book Economists in Discussion: the correspondence between G.L.S. Shackle and Stephen F. Frowen, 1951-1992 (2003). Frowen wrote an obituary for Shackle in The Independent in 1992, one of several he contributed to the paper over the years, including for Norbert Kloten.
After five years in England, in 1954 he became assistant editor, and two years later chief editor, of The Bankers' Magazine (established 1844, now The Financial World). By then he had converted to Catholicism and been baptised under the name of Stephen Francis. He anglicised his surname by dropping the "i" and adopting an early-medieval version of what in Germany is a highly respected family name – all making it rather difficult for his German friends and colleagues to trace "Hans Otto Frowein".
Frowen, however, never cut his close ties to academia in Germany, which intensified under his editorship of The Bankers' Magazine. Finally, he decided to enter academia in the UK himself, first at Woolwich Polytechnic (now Greenwich University), and then as a Senior Lecturer in Economics at Surrey University from 1967 to 1987. After his official retirement, he took up an Honorary Research Fellowship in the Department of Economics at University College London; became a Senior Research Associate at the Von Hügel Institute, St Edmunds College, Cambridge in 1991, where he was elected Follow Commoner in 1999; and accepted an Honorary Professorship at Birmingham University's Institute for German Studies in 1995. But this was only half of his activities.
The other half of his work lay in Germany, where he held visiting professorships at the universities at Würzburg, Frankfurt and Berlin. He was the inaugural holder of the Chair for Monetary Economics, founded by the Deutsche Bundesbank at the Free University Berlin on the 750th anniversary of the city of Berlin.
The amazing aspect of Frowen as a wanderer between two worlds is that not only was he intellectually and culturally at home in both places, but he acted as an inspired mediator between academics, bankers and central bankers of Germany and the UK. He did this by repeatedly organising conferences, anxious to achieve an exchange of experiences and academic discussions, in particular in the presence of divergent concepts regarding the conduct of monetary policy in particular and economic policy in general in Germany and Britain. On these occasions, Frowen combined the qualities of an English gentleman with a German sense of order and efficiency.
Frowen received two Festschriften in his honour: 50 Years of the German Mark (2001), which I edited, and one by another of his disciples, Philip Arestis, Contemporary Issues in Money and Banking (1988), which went into a second edition. Frowen was awarded a knighthood of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great in 1996, and received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1993. He was a member of the Reform Club and the Pen Club.
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