Grand Obsession

Lord Milner

Lord Alfred Milner (1854-1925), a founder and “father-figure” of the Round Table movement.

Shortly after the dawn of the 20th century, there emerged in Britain a small but influential political pressure group that called itself the Round Table movement. Its avowed goal was to preserve and consolidate the British Empire — a world-embracing imperial structure that the Round Table’s members argued was a positive force for good and international morality, and yet which was threatened by the rise of rival powers in Europe and the Americas. Even though the Round Table never succeeded in persuading Imperial politicians to pursue policies that would have converted the British Empire’s ramshackle political structure into a federal system like that of the United States, the movement enjoyed notable successes in other areas

Studying the Round Table movement poses an interesting challenge for historians. While the amount of literature written about the Round Table has slowly increased over the years, there are many areas of investigation that have yet to be fully or even cursorily explored. One reason for this was the reticence of the movement’s past members to discuss the Round Table’s history and objectives openly and objectively, creating an atmosphere of suspicion around the group. This atmosphere has led many researchers and even some professional historians to characterize the Round Table movement as a kind of political conspiracy, belief in which is, of course, the “kiss of death” for the careers of serious historians. Worried about being tarred with the charge of being a “conspiracy theorist,” most historians thus avoid topics that, if pursued, might lead them into that academically dangerous field.

It is my purpose here to lift some of the obscurity that still surrounds the Round Table movement by providing resources for scholars and non-scholars alike who may not know a great deal about the Round Table, but who have an interest in learning more about the group. In doing so, I provide source bibliographies, a definitive membership list, historical articles, book reviews, and research materials such as letters of correspondence and excerpts from my own journal entries concerning my study of the Round Table.

Since it is my own research that is the focus of this page, a word of explanation is necessary for the title, “Grand Obsession.” For several years starting in the early 1980s, I made research into the Round Table one of the focal points of my activities — so much so that my father complained that I had developed what he called a “grand obsession.” Perhaps he was right because, more than 30 years later, the Round Table is still a matter of interest and curiosity for me. And while it no longer can qualify as a focal point for my academic or professional life, I still believe that knowledge of this group can give one important insights into the organizations and people that help to make the world the way it is.

Major Sections

The Round Table Movement: A Bibliography

The Council on Foreign Relations and the Institutes of International Affairs: A Bibliography

The Institute of Pacific Relations: A Bibliography

Round Table Membership List (1909-2000)

Book Reviews

Round Table-Related Research Correspondence

Historical Articles

Round Table Movement Research Diary Entries