Wickham Steed

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Henry Wickham Steed
Henry Wickham Steed by Charles Haslewood Shannon.jpg
Wickham Steed in 1920
Born Henry Wickham Steed
(1871-10-10)10 October 1871
Long Melford, Suffolk, England
Died 13 January 1956(1956-01-13) (aged 84)
Wootton, England
Education Winchester College
New College, Oxford
Occupation Journalist, editor, and historian

Henry Wickham Steed (10 October 1871 – 13 January 1956) was a British journalist and historian. He was editor of The Times from 1919 until 1922.

Life[edit]

Born in Long Melford, England, Steed was educated at Sudbury Grammar School and the universities of Jena, Berlin and Paris. While in Europe he demonstrated an early interest in social democracy and met with a range of left-wing figures, including Friedrich Engels, Wilhelm Liebknecht, August Bebel, and Alexandre Millerand. His encounters formed the basis of his first book, The Socialist and Labour Movement in England, Germany & France (1894).

Foreign correspondent[edit]

Appointed by Joseph Pulitzer as Paris correspondent for the New York World, Steed joined The Times in 1896 as a foreign correspondent, working briefly out of Berlin before transferring successively to Rome ( from 1897 until 1902) and then Vienna (1902–13). In 1914 he moved to London to take over as foreign editor of The Times. During his time in Vienna he acquired a deep contempt for Austria-Hungary.[1] An anti-Semite and an Germanophobe, in an editorial published in The Times on 31 July 1914, Steed labeled efforts to stop the impending war as "a dirty German-Jewish international financial attempt to bully us into advocating neutrality".[2] From 22 July 1914 on, Steed in close agreement with The Times' proprietor, Lord Northcliffe, took a very bellicose line and in editorials written on 29 July and 31 July, Steed urged that the British Empire should enter the coming war.[3]

Seen as a leading expert on Eastern Europe, Steed's views had much influence with decision-makers such as high level bureaucrats and Cabinet politicians in the First World War and its aftermath. During the war, Steed befriended anti-Habsburg émigrés such as Edvard Beneš, Ante Trumbić, Tomáš Masaryk and Roman Dmowski and advised the British government to seek the liquidation of Austria-Hungary as a war aim. In particular, Steed was a very strong advocate of uniting all of the South Slavic peoples such as the Croats, the Serbs, the Slovenes, etc. into a federation to be called Yugoslavia. The British Ambassador to Italy claimed in a diplomatic dispatch that Steed's fondness for the Yugoslav concept deprived from a relationship he maintained for a number of years "filially I believe rather maritally" with a Slavic woman from the Balkans.[1] In October 1918, Steed met with the Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić to gain his support for the Yugoslav concept; Steed was deeply angered when he learned that Pašić saw the new state as merely as extension of greater Serbia and had no intention of sharing power with the Croats or the Slovenes.[1] Steed charged Pašić with being a new "sultan" and severed his friendship with Paśić.[1]

Editor of The Times[edit]

When the editor of The Times, Geoffrey Dawson, resigned from his post in February 1919, Steed was Northcliffe's first choice to succeed him. Steed had worked closely with Northcliffe during the war, becoming an adviser to him on foreign affairs. Steed also possessed an additional factor that marked him out in Northcliffe's eyes: his obsequiousness. Steed was forced to contend with Northcliffe throughout most of his tenure as editor, as the press baron retained considerable control over the affairs of the newspaper.

After the war, Steed strongly disapproved of the Bolshevik regime in Russia. In an editorial written in another Northcliffe paper, the Daily Mail on 28 March 1919, Steed accused the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, whom Steed detested of betraying the White Russians because of a plot by "international Jewish financiers" and the Germans to help the Bolsheviks stay in power.[4]

In 1920, Steed endorsed the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion as genuine in an editorial in The Times. In the same editorial, Steed blamed the Jews for World War I, the Bolshevik regime and called Jews the greatest threat to the British Empire. However, in 1921, when The Times’s Constantinople correspondent proved that The Protocols were a forgery, Steed retracted his endorsement of The Protocols.

Despite being Northcliffe's personal choice for the editorship, by 1922 the press baron was increasingly frustrated with Steed's failure to return The Times to profitability. After Northcliffe's death in August 1922, the paper's new owners, John Jacob Astor and John Walter, dismissed Steed on 24 October and brought back Dawson as editor.

Final years[edit]

In 1923 Steed became editor of Review of Reviews (1923–30), the journal established by William Thomas Stead in 1890. In the early 1930s, he was one of the first English speakers to express alarm about the new German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. In 1934, he caused sensation with an article claiming to have evidence of secret German experiments in airborne biological warfare.[5] This alarmed the British government sufficiently to start stockpiling vaccines,[6] although a retrospective analysis by the epidemiologist Martin Hugh-Jones has suggested that Steed's evidence could not have amounted to much.[7]

He died in Wootton, West Oxfordshire.

In media[edit]

Steed, played by actor Andrew Keir, appears in the 1974 miniseries Fall of Eagles, bringing a rumour of the impending Bosnian crisis to the attention of King Edward VII, Georges Clemenceau, and Alexander Izvolsky.

Works[edit]

  • The Habsburg Monarchy (1913)
  • A Short History of Austria-Hungary and Poland (1914)
  • The Press (1938)
  • Our War Aims (1939)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d Margaret Macmillan, Paris 1919, p. 114f.
  2. ^ Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War, p. 32, 195.
  3. ^ Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War, p. 217.
  4. ^ Margaret Macmillan, Paris 1919, p. 80.
  5. ^ H. Wickham Steed, "Aerial warfare: secret German plans", Nineteenth Century and After 116 (1934), 1–15.
  6. ^ Brett Holman, Airminded: The Wickham Steed affair in popular culture, 17 February 2007
  7. ^ Martin Hugh-Jones, 'Wickham Steed and German biological warfare research', Intelligence and National Security 7 (1992), 379–402.

Bibliography

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Geoffrey Dawson
Editor of The Times
1919–1922
Succeeded by
Geoffrey Dawson