Fonds LAYT - Papers of Lord Layton

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Papers of Lord Layton


  • 1895-1966 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

163 boxes; paper

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Walter Layton was born in London on 15 March 1884, the son of Alfred and Mary Layton. He attended St George's Chapel choir school in Windsor, King's College School, Westminster City School, and then attended University College London, where he graduated in 1903, took a further course at University College London, and went to Trinity College Cambridge to read for the new economics tripos. He achieved first classes in both parts of the tripos and was appointed a Lecturer in 1908. From 1909 to 1914 Layton was a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College and produced his best-known work 'An Introduction to the Study of Prices' (1912).

In 1915 he was appointed director of requirements and programmes for the Ministry of Munitions, where he worked until 1918, while also serving on the Milner mission to Russia and the Balfour mission to America. He participated in negotiating the military and economic clauses of the treaty of Versailles in 1919. Subsequently, he was a member of the Consultative Economic Committee of the League of Nations. From 1922 to 1938 he was editor of 'The Economist', and chairman from 1944 to 1963. He was also chair of the 'News Chronicle' and 'The Star' in 1930-40 and 1944-50. He was knighted in 1930.

During the 1920s and 1930s Layton became involved in politics as a liberal, and stood unsuccessfully for parliament. He advised the government on a variety of economic issues, including the abortive plan to create a European customs union under the control of the League of Nations. His highest profile work in developing Liberal policy was as chairman of the executive committee of the Liberal Industrial Inquiry, which produced the 'Yellow Book' of 1928.

During the Second World War he worked in the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Production, and was Head of the Joint War Production Staff, resigning in 1943 to return to 'The Economist' and the 'News Chronicle'. After the war he served as vice-president of the Council of Europe Consultative Assembly from 1949 to 1957, and was created Baron Layton in January 1947.

In 1910 Layton married Eleanor Dorothea Osmaston, and together they had seven children. Eleanor died from cancer in 1959, and Walter died on 14 February 1966 in London.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Gift of Lord Layton and the Honorable David Layton, 1984.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The papers consist of correspondence, writings, printed material, documents, photographs and other materials covering all aspects of Layton's career and interests. Amongst them are papers about the setting up of the Ministry of Munitions in World War I, and the Ministry of Production in World War II; reparations negotiations; the development of 'The Economist' and the 'News Chronicle'; the first conference of the League of Nations after World War I; the beginnings of the Council of Europe; the Simon Commission; and the Liberal Industrial Enquiry.

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Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • German

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    Finding aids

    A printed finding aid is available in the library, as are cards in the card catalogue. The summary has been uploaded.

    Uploaded finding aid

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    Publication note

    David Hubback, 'No Ordinary Press Baron: A Life of Walter Layton'. London, c1985.

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        Archivist's note

        Collection level description created by Diana Smith in June 2019, using the typescript finding aid.

        Accession area