Reddaway's Early Life and Career

An important observation about Reddaway’s early academic career is that he was always an outstanding student. Following his education at Oundle School, he won a scholarship to read Natural Sciences at King’s College, Cambridge. However, he was persuaded by his Tutors to study for Part I of the Mathematical Tripos instead of chemistry, and he was the only student to achieve a First Class for that examination. Rather than continuing with Part II of the Mathematical Tripos, in his final two years in Cambridge, Reddaway studied economics. This was motivated, as he explains in his reflective essay ‘Recollections of a Lucky Economist’ (Reddaway 1995), by his concern with mass unemployment and the ‘desire to understand why the world was suffering from “poverty in the midst of potential plenty”’ (ibid.: 3) which prevailed in Britain during the early 1930s. Reddaway admitted that his multidisciplinary academic trajectory, from the sciences to mathematics to economics was beneficial to his studies on many occasions (see ibid.).[1]

Reddaway’s academic career began when he was still an undergraduate in Cambridge. He visited Moscow in 1934 as an expert to advise Gosbank, and with the approval of the Bank of England (for whom he had arranged to work upon graduation), he conducted independent research about the Soviet financial system. After submitting an account of his experiences in Russia, he won Cambridge University’s coveted Adam Smith Prize. He sent a copy of his winning essay to Keynes who liked the work and recommended it to Macmillan for publication. The book, The Russian Financial System (Reddaway 1935), enjoyed a long shelf life. It could still be found on London School of Economics reading lists 30 years later.

Reddaway came from a top Cambridge academic family, and benefited from growing up within Cambridge and the consequent familiarity of the Cambridge milieu. His father, a historian and a Fellow of King’s College, was the Censor (head) of Fitzwilliam House before that institution was granted college status in 1966. This connection with Cambridge gave young Reddaway enormous self-confidence and opened for him many doors, which otherwise might not have been so open. After graduation, Reddaway was recommended by Keynes to go and work with a close friend of his, Australian statistician and political economist Professor Lyndhurst Falkiner Giblin, who had just been promoted to be a member of the policy making committee of the Australian central bank. From 1936 to 1938, Reddaway spent two extremely successful years in Australia. During this period, he wrote a celebrated review of Keynes’s General Theory, which is still regarded as one of the best on the subject. He also had an opportunity to testify as an expert independent assessor in a trade union case demanding the revision of the Australian wage-fixing system[2] at the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in 1937. Reddaway managed to persuade the judge to give workers a pay rise instead of a wage cut which the employers demanded. This award came to be known as ‘The Reddawage’ and served the country for 15 years.

On his return to Cambridge from Australia in 1938, Reddaway was appointed to a Fellowship at Clare College and to a Lectureship at the Faculty of Economics. Around this time, he also married Barbara Bennet, who was a great organiser and a close companion of Brian.[3] The Reddaways were not extravagant people and spent their money with care, but took many family holidays both in the UK and abroad. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Reddaway served with the Board of Trade and was responsible for introducing the clothes rationing system in the country. He also acted as UK representative in a British, American and Canadian investigation into ‘The Impact of War on Civilian Consumption’ (1945), and aided with the post-war development of the Census of Production and the Census of Distribution (see Reddaway 1995). He also helped as an advisor to many governments of British colonies (including Cyprus in 1949 and Sierra Leone in 1955) to establish consumer price indices.

After the war, Reddaway returned to Cambridge and took a full and active role in College and University teaching as well as in University administration. He was popular with the students and was regarded as a brilliant teacher in the Faculty of Economics. He changed the nature of teaching economics in Cambridge and made it much more of a subject in applied economics, following in the footsteps of the legendary Cambridge economist, Alfred Marshall, who also favoured applied economics to economic theory.

Alongside gaining influence within the department, Reddaway was also appointed to some significant positions within the University hierarchy such as being a syndic of Cambridge University Press. At the same time, his qualities and merit began to be recognised outside the University in the highest government circles. He was sought after by governments for appointments to Royal Commissions such as that on the newspapers and the press, the Prices and Incomes Board, and other similar bodies. He was also greatly in demand by many foreign governments as well as international agencies. At one time, he served as the Director of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation’s Economics Department in Paris and made many foreign friends who still remember his Directorship with pleasure. He was a multilingual economist fluent in French and German. He also learnt Spanish when he was to go to Argentina as an advisor to the government. However, despite all this public recognition, Reddaway’s primary focus remained on teaching, research, and examining for the Faculty of Economics in Cambridge.

  • [1] His contributed chapter entitled ‘The Chemical Industry’ for The Structure of British Industry (Burn1958) serves as a prime example of how Reddaway brought to significance his diverse academic interestsand background.
  • [2] The Australian system of wage fixing had consisted of a general minimum wage which would be adjustedquarterly based on the retail price index.
  • [3] There is an excellent short introduction to the relationship between Brian and Barbara compiled byReddaway’s four children, entitled Brian Reddaway (8 January 1913—23 July 2002) and Barbara Reddaway(15 August 1912—15 September 1996) — Memories, edited by their son Lawrence Reddaway (LawrenceReddaway 2003).
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