Geoffrey Dawson

George Geoffrey Dawson (25 October 1874 – 7 November 1944) was editor of The Times from 1912 to 1919 and again from 1923 until 1941. His original last name was Robinson, but he changed it in 1917. He married Hon. Margaret Cecilia Lawley, daughter of Arthur Lawley, 6th Baron Wenlock in 1919.

Geoffrey Dawson
George Geoffrey Robinson

(1874-10-25)25 October 1874
Skipton-in-Craven, Yorkshire, England
Died7 November 1944(1944-11-07) (aged 70)
London, England
EducationMagdalen College, Oxford
OccupationCivil servant, editor

Early lifeEdit

Dawson was born 25 October 1874, in Skipton-in-Craven, Yorkshire, the eldest child of George Robinson, a banker, and his wife Mary (née Perfect). He attended Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford. His academic career was distinguished; he took a First in Classical Moderations in 1895 and a First in Literae Humaniores ('Greats') in 1897.[1] In 1898 he was elected a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, a position he held for the rest of his life.[2] He chose a career in civil service, entering in 1898 by open examination. After a year at the Post Office, he was transferred to the Colonial Office and in 1901 he was selected as assistant private secretary to Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain. Later the same year Dawson obtained a similar position with Lord Milner, high commissioner in South Africa.[3]

As Milner's assistant, Dawson participated in the establishment of British administration in South Africa in the aftermath of the Boer War. While there, he became a member of "Milner's kindergarten",[4] a circle of young administrators and civil servants whose membership included Leo Amery, Bob Brand, Philip Kerr, Richard Feetham, John Buchan and Lionel Curtis. United by a common aspiration for Imperial Federation, all later became prominent in the "round table of Empire Loyalists".[5]

Career in journalismEdit

Milner wanted to ensure the support of the local newspapers after his return to England. He persuaded the owners of the Johannesburg Star to appoint Dawson as the paper's editor. Dawson later parlayed this post into a position as the Johannesburg correspondent of The Times; and then attracted the attention of Lord Northcliffe, owner of The Times, who appointed him editor of the paper in 1912.[citation needed]

Dawson was unhappy, however, with the way that Northcliffe used the paper as an instrument to further his own personal political agenda and broke with him, stepping down as editor in February 1919. Dawson returned to the post in 1923 after Lord Northcliffe's death, when the paper's ownership had passed to John Jacob Astor V. Bob Brand had become the Astors' brother-in-law, and it is thought that he introduced Dawson to the Astors' circle at Cliveden, the so-called Cliveden set presided over by Nancy Astor.[citation needed]

In his second stint as editor, Dawson began to use the paper in the same manner as Lord Northcliffe had once done, to promote his own agenda. He also became a leader of a group of journalists that sought to influence national policy by private correspondence with leading statesmen. Dawson was close to both Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain. He was a prominent proponent and supporter of appeasement policies, after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. He was a member of the Anglo-German Fellowship.[6] Candid news despatches from Berlin by Norman Ebbut that warned of warmongering were rewritten in London to support the appeasement policy.[7][8] Dawson explained to Lord Lothian on 23 May 1937: "I should like to get going with the Germans. I simply cannot understand why they should apparently be so much annoyed with The Times at this moment. I spend my nights in taking out anything which I think will hurt their susceptibilities and in dropping little things which are intended to soothe them".[9]

In March 1939, however, The Times reversed course and called for war preparations.[10] Dawson was a lifelong friend and dining companion of Edward Wood, later Lord Halifax, who was Foreign Secretary in the period 1938–1940. He promoted the policies of the Baldwin/Chamberlain governments of the period 1936–1940. Dawson retired in September 1941 and died 7 November 1944 in London. He was succeeded as editor by Robert Barrington-Ward.


  • "The Prospects of a United South Africa" . The Empire and the century. London: John Murray. 1905. pp. 521–538.


  1. ^ Oxford University Calendar 1905, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1902, pp. 119, 175.
  2. ^ Dictionary of National Biography 1941-1950, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1959, p.204.
  3. ^ Dictionary of National Biography 1941-1950, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1959, p.204.
  4. ^ A.M. Gollin, Proconsul in Politics : A Study of Lord Milner in Opposition and in Power, London : Macmillan, 1964, pp. 41-2. ISBN 0218512929 ISBN 9780218512922.
  5. ^ Driver, C. J./ Sampson, Anthony (Foreword By). Patrick Duncan: South African and Pan-Africanist, p. 20, ISBN 978-085255773-0.
  6. ^ Stevenson, William. A Man Called Intrepid. Globe Pequot (2000), p. 232. ISBN 978-1-58574-154-0.
  7. ^ Gordon Martel, ed. The Times and Appeasement: The Journals of A L Kennedy, 1932-1939 (2000).
  8. ^ Frank McDonough, "The Times, Norman Ebbut and the Nazis, 1927-37." Journal of Contemporary History 27#3 (1992): 407-424.
  9. ^ Martin Gilbert, Prophet of Truth: Winston S. Churchill, 1922–1939 (London: Minerva, 1990), p. 850.
  10. ^ The Office of the Times. The History of The Times: The 150th Anniversary and Beyond 1912-1948 (2 vol. 1952), 2:960-63.


External linksEdit

Media offices
Preceded by
George Earle Buckle
Editor of The Times
Succeeded by
Henry Wickham Steed
Preceded by
Henry Wickham Steed
Editor of The Times
Succeeded by
Robert Barrington-Ward