Obituary: Muriel Grindrod
Wednesday 12 January 1994
ANYBODY WHO knew Muriel Grindrod during the last 40 years of her long life would associate her with Italian affairs and specifically with the British Italian Society to which she gave devoted (and unpaid) service as editor of the society's journal Rivista. But it was long after she had first joined the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in 1927 that she started to specialise in Italian questions. It was only in the Forties that she became a considerable expert on Italy and made the acquaintance of a large number of distinguished Italian politicians and intellectuals who at the time were planning the construction of a post-Fascist
Grindrod was born in 1902, daughter of an inspector of schools in Suffolk. She went to school at Ipswich and subsequently, when her father was transferred to Somerset, at Bath High School (where she was a contemporary of Barbara Cartland). From there she went to Girton College, Cambridge, in 1921 and took Part One of the Classical tripos in her first year, then switched to Modern and Medieval Languages for Part Two. When she came down she spent a year at the Sorbonne before taking the job of research assistant to Sir Charles Bell and immersing herself in Tibetan affairs.
She then accepted an appointment at Chatham House, initially as assistant to Professor Arnold Toynbee. This was to be her base until his retirement in 1962, though she travelled a great deal and spent a year in the late Twenties working in the German Institute for International Affairs in Hamburg. During the Second World War her section of Chatham House was incorporated into the Foreign Office research department at Balliol College, Oxford, and it was there that she fully developed her expertise in Italian current affairs. She became editor of the Chatham House journal The World Today in 1952 and of International Affairs as well, from 1956 to 1962.
I had known Muriel Grindrod slightly since the Seventies but I only got to know her well when I became chairman of the British Italian Society in 1983. She had by then become the very heart of the society, since she had known all the founding members from its beginning in 1941 and had herself been editor of the society's journal since 1948. She was invariably helpful not only over the management and editing of Rivista but also in recruiting suitable lecturers for the society's programme. Her skill as an editor ensured that Rivista made a significant contribution to Anglo- Italian understanding and it was for this that the Italian government appointed her Commendatore of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1974. She continued as editor of Rivista until her death.
Trim in figure, with fair hair and blue eyes, Muriel was always well turned out and neat in appearance. She had a diffident manner but was always charming and lively in conversation. Her knowledge of Italian literature and of the Italian scene was formidable but it was often hard to get her to express her own opinion; still harder to get her to talk of her own achievements. Yet she was author of a book Italy (1968) and later of The Rebuilding of Italy 1945-55 (1955) which were both well received and she continued to write well on a number of Italian topics such as the Cassa del Mezzogiorno, the independent society set up by the Italian government to promote the development of Southern Italy. She also took a close interest in translations from Italian, having herself been an occasional translator for the Western European Union in the Sixties and Seventies.
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