Coefficients (dining club)

From Wikispooks
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Group.png Coefficients (dining club)  
(Dining club)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Founder• Beatrice Webb
• Sidney Webb
Membership• Leo Amery
• Arthur Balfour
• Carlyon Bellairs
• Henry Birchenough
• Robert Cecil
• Clinton Edward Dawkins
• James Louis Garvin
• Edward Grey
• Richard Burdon Haldane
• William Hewins
• Halford John Mackinder
• Leopold Maxse
• Alfred Milner
• Theodore Morison
• Henry Newbolt
• C. F. G. Masterman
• W. F. Monypenny
• Frederick Scott Oliver
• William Pember Reeves
• Charles à Court Repington
• Bertrand Russell
• Michael Sadler
• John Hugh Smith
• Beatrice Webb
• Sidney Webb
• Josiah Wedgwood
• H. G. Wells
A private gathering of British imperialists and socialist reformers on how to defend and expand the "liberal" British Empire

The Coefficients was a monthly dining club founded in 1902 by the Fabian campaigners Sidney and Beatrice Webb as a forum for British socialist reformers and imperialists of the Edwardian era.[1] The name of the dining club was a reflection of the group's focus on "efficiency".[2]

Alfred Milner spoke of his vision for the future at one of its meetings in 1903:

“We must have an aristocracy - not of privilege, but of understanding and purpose - or mankind will fail. The solution does not lie in direct confrontation. We can defeat democracy because we understand the workings of the human mind, the mental hinterlands hidden behind the persona. I see human progress, not as the spontaneous product of crowds of raw minds swayed by elementary needs, but as a natural but elaborate result of intricate human interdependencies.”
Alfred Milner (1903)  [3]

British Empire

The Webbs came up with the idea of the dinner club as a forum for "serious discussions and to formulate or propose political policy", but shortly after its founding the members "abandoned immediate political goals" but continued to meet and discuss issues of interest. Haldane hosted the first dinner at his home in December 1902.[2]

Bertrand Russell wrote" 1902, I became a member of a small dining club called the Coefficients, got up by Sidney Webb for the purpose of considering political questions from a more or less Imperialist point of view. It was in this club that I first became acquainted with H. G. Wells, of whom I had never heard until then. His point of view was more sympathetic to me than that of any member. Most of the members, in fact, shocked me profoundly. I remember Amery's eyes gleaming with blood-lust at the thought of a war with America, in which, as he said with exultation, we should have to arm the whole adult male population. One evening Sir Edward Grey (not then in office) made a speech advocating the policy of Entente, which had not yet been adopted by the Government. I stated my objections to the policy very forcibly, and pointed out the likelyhood of its leading to war, but no one agreed with me, so I resigned from the Club. It will be seen that I began my opposition to the first war at the earliest possible moment."[4]

The group was further divided over the issue of Tariff Reform following Joseph Chamberlain's resignation as Secretary of State for the Colonies and the increasing dominance of the pro-Unionist membership, which favoured Chamberlain and his tariff reform policies, contributed to the club's dissolution in 1909.[5] Amery would invite those Coefficients supporting reform to form a new club called "The Compatriots".[6]

H.G Wells described it in his memoirs:

The main focus of the Webb's Coefficients appeared to center on determining the strategy best suited to defending and expanding the "liberal" British Empire against the increasingly aggressive encroachments of Germany since it had become unified under the leadership of militarist Prussia in then recent decades. Wells and other idealists argued that "The British Empire . . . had to be the precursor of a world-state or nothing . . . It was possible for the Germans and Austrians to hold together in their Zollverein (tariff and trade bloc) because they were placed like a clenched fist in the centre of Europe. But the British Empire was like an open hand all over the world. It had no natural economic unity and it could maintain no artificial economic unity. Its essential unity must be a unity of great ideas embodied in the English speech and literature.".[7]

Wells identified Coefficient member Edward Grey as a promoter of the opposing British strategy of provoking Germany to attack France, without adequate warning of consequent British intervention, so that Germany could be laid low sooner than later while the British Navy was still supreme. Grey was the highly influential Foreign Minister for Britain in the years preceding WWI who persuaded a reluctant cabinet that Britain should enter the war because of German violation of Belgian neutrality.[8]

Printed minutes of its meetings are held by the British Library of Political and Economic Science (the LSE library).


The Webbs proposed that the club's membership reflect the entire gamut of political beliefs, and "proposed to collect politicians from each of the parties". Representing the Liberal Imperialists were Sir Edward Grey and Richard Burdon Haldane; the Tories were represented by economist William Hewins and editor of the National Review Leopold Maxse; and the British military was represented by Leo Amery, an "expert on the conditions of the army", and Carlyon Bellairs, a naval officer.[2]

The club's membership included:[9]

Wells was recruited because he was deemed "capable of original thoughts on every subject" and proved to be "an especially active member".[2]


  1. Bertrand Russell (1993). The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell. p. 452. ISBN 0-415-10462-9
  2. a b c d Gollin, Alfred M. (1984). No Longer an Island: Britain and the Wright Brothers, 1902-1909. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 231. ISBN 978-0804712651.
  3. Quoted in Daniel Estulin TransEvolution page 171
  4. The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell Volume I, page 230
  5. Russell, Bertrand (1985). The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 12: Contemplation and Action (1902-14). London: George Allen & Unwin. p. 452. ISBN 9780049200951
  6. Russell, Bertrand (1985). The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 12: Contemplation and Action (1902-14). London: George Allen & Unwin. p. 452. ISBN 9780049200951
  7. Experiment in Autobiography by H. G. Wells page 652.