E. H. Carr
|Edward Hallett Carr|
28 June 1892|
London, United Kingdom
|Died||3 November 1982
London, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Historian · diplomat · international relations theorist · journalist|
|Known for||Studies in Soviet history; creating the realist–utopian didactic in international relations theory; and outlining radical historiographical principles in his book What Is History?|
|Spouse(s)||Anne Ward Howe
Edward Hallett "Ted" Carr CBE FBA (28 June 1892 – 3 November 1982) was an English historian, diplomat, journalist and international relations theorist, and an opponent of empiricism within historiography.
Carr was best known for his 14-volume history of the Soviet Union, in which he provided an account of Soviet history from 1917 to 1929, for his writings on international relations, particularly The Twenty Years' Crisis, and for his book What Is History?, in which he laid out historiographical principles rejecting traditional historical methods and practices.
Educated at the Merchant Taylors' School, London, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, Carr began his career as a diplomat in 1916; three years later, he participated at the Paris Peace Conference as a member of the British delegation. Becoming increasingly preoccupied with the study of international relations and of the Soviet Union, he resigned from the Foreign Office in 1936 to begin an academic career. From 1941 to 1946, Carr worked as an assistant editor at The Times, where he was noted for his leaders (editorials) urging a socialist system and an Anglo-Soviet alliance as the basis of a post-war order. Afterwards, Carr worked on a massive 14-volume work on Soviet history entitled A History of Soviet Russia, a project that he was still engaged on at the time of his death in 1982. In 1961, he delivered the G. M. Trevelyan lectures at the University of Cambridge that became the basis of his book, What Is History? Moving increasingly towards the left throughout his career, Carr saw his role as the theorist who would work out the basis of a new international order.
Carr was born in London to a middle-class family, and was educated at the Merchant Taylors' School in London, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a First Class Degree in Classics in 1916. Carr's family had originated in northern England, and the first mention of his ancestors was a George Carr who served as the Sheriff of Newcastle in 1450. Carr's parents were Francis Parker and Jesse (née Hallet) Carr. They were initially Conservatives, but went over to supporting the Liberals in 1903 over the free trade issue. When Joseph Chamberlain proclaimed his opposition to free trade and announced in favour of Imperial Preference, Carr's father, for whom all tariffs were abhorrent, changed his political loyalties.
Carr described the atmosphere at the Merchant Taylors School as: "...95% of my school fellows came from orthodox Conservative homes, and regarded Lloyd George as an incarnation of the devil. We Liberals were a tiny despised minority." From his parents, Carr inherited a strong belief in progress as an unstoppable force in world affairs, and throughout his life a recurring theme in Carr's thinking was that the world was progressively becoming a better place. With his belief in progress was a tendency on Carr's part to decry pessimism as mere whining from those who could not appreciate the benefits of progress. In 1911, Carr won the Craven Scholarship to attend Trinity College at Cambridge. At Cambridge, Carr was much impressed by hearing one of his professors lecture on how the Peloponnesian War influenced Herodotus in the writing of the Histories. Carr found this to be a great discovery—the subjectivity of the historian's craft. This discovery was later to influence his 1961 book What Is History?.
Like many of his generation, Carr found World War I to be a shattering experience as it destroyed the world he knew before 1914. Carr was later to write that the pre-1914 world was "...solid and stable. [...] It was a good place, and it was getting better. He joined the British Foreign Office in 1916, resigning in 1936. Carr was excused from military service for medical reasons. Carr was at first assigned to the Contraband Department of the Foreign Office, which sought to enforce the blockade on Germany, and then in 1917 was assigned to the Northern Department, which amongst other areas dealt with relations with Russia.
As a diplomat, Carr was later praised by the Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax as someone who had "distinguished himself not only by sound learning and political understanding, but also in administrative ability". At first, Carr knew nothing about the Bolsheviks. Carr later recalled: "I had some vague impression of the revolutionary views of Lenin and Trotsky, but knew nothing of Marxism; I'd probably never heard of Marx". By 1919, Carr had become convinced that the Bolsheviks were destined to win the Russian Civil War, and approved of the Prime Minister David Lloyd George's opposition to the anti-Bolshevik ideas of the War Secretary Winston Churchill on the grounds of realpolitik. Carr was to later to write that in the spring of 1919 he "was disappointed when he [Lloyd George] gave way (in part) on the Russian question in order to buy French consent to concessions to Germany on Upper Silesia, Danzig and reparations"
In 1919, Carr was part of the British delegation at the Paris Peace Conference and was involved in the drafting of parts of the Treaty of Versailles relating to the League of Nations. During the conference, Carr was much offended at the Allied, especially French, treatment of the Germans, writing that the German delegation at the peace conference were "cheated over the "Fourteen Points", and subjected to every petty humiliation". Beside working on the sections of the Versailles treaty relating to the League of Nations, Carr was also involved in working out the borders between Germany and the newly reborn state of Poland. Initially, Carr favoured Poland, urging in a memo in February 1919 that Britain recognize Poland at once, and that the German city of Danzig (modern Gdańsk, Poland) be ceded to Poland. In March 1919, Carr fought against the idea of a Minorities Treaty for Poland, arguing that the rights of ethnic and religious minorities in Poland would be best guaranteed by not involving the international community in Polish internal affairs. By the spring of 1919, Carr's relations with the Polish delegation had declined to a state of mutual hostility.
Carr's tendency to favour the claims of the Germans at the expense of the Poles led the British historian Adam Zamoyski to note that Carr "...held views of the most extraordinary racial arrogance on all of the nations of Eastern Europe". Carr's biographer, Jonathan Haslam, wrote in a 2000 essay that Carr grew up in a place where German culture was deeply appreciated, which in turn always coloured Carr's views towards Germany throughout his life. As a result, Carr supported the territorial claims of the Reich against Poland. In a letter written in 1954 to his friend, Isaac Deutscher, Carr described his attitude to Poland at the time: "The picture of Poland that was universal in Eastern Europe right down to 1925 was of a strong and potentially predatory power".
After the peace conference, Carr was stationed at the British Embassy in Paris until 1921, and in 1920 was awarded a CBE. At first, Carr had great faith in the League, which he believed would prevent both another world war and ensure a better post-war world. In the 1920s, Carr was assigned to the branch of the British Foreign Office that dealt with the League of Nations before being sent to the British Embassy in Riga, Latvia, where he served as Second Secretary between 1925–29. In 1925, Carr married Anne Ward Howe, by whom he had one son. During his time in Riga (which at that time possessed a substantial Russian émigré community), Carr became increasingly fascinated with Russian literature and culture and wrote several works on various aspects of Russian life.
Carr learnt Russian during his time in Riga in order to read Russian writers in the original. In 1927, Carr paid his first visit to Moscow. Carr was later to write that reading Alexander Herzen, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and the work of other 19th-century Russian intellectuals caused him to re-think his liberal views.:80 Carr wrote under the influence of reading various Russian writers he found his "liberal moralistic ideology" lacking and that "very intelligent people [...] looked at the world through very different eyes". He noted that this caused him to react "more and more sharply against the Western ideology".:80 Starting in 1929, Carr started to review books relating to all things Russian and Soviet and to international relations in several British literary journals and later towards the end of his life, the London Review of Books. In particular, Carr emerged as the Times Literary Supplement's Soviet expert in the early 1930s, a position he still held at the time of his death in 1982 Because of his status as a diplomat (until 1936), most of Carr's reviews in the period 1929–36 were published either anonymously or under the pseudonym "John Hallett". In the summer of 1929, Carr began work on a biography of the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, during which the course of researching Dostoevsky's life, Carr befriended Prince D. S. Mirsky, a Russian émigré scholar living at that time in Britain.
Beside studies on international relations, Carr's writings in the 1930s included biographies of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1931), Karl Marx (1934), and Mikhail Bakunin (1937). An early sign of Carr's increasing admiration of the Soviet Union was a 1929 review of Baron Pyotr Wrangel's memoirs where Carr wrote:
"It is not longer possible for any sane man to regard the campaigns of Kolchak, Yudenich, Denikin and Wrangel otherwise than as tragic blunders of colossal dimensions. They were monuments of folly in conception and of incompetence in execution; they cost, directly and indirectly, hundreds of thousands of lives; and except in so far as they may have increased the bitterness of the Soviet rulers against the "White" Russians and the Allies who half-heartedly supported them, they did not deflect the course of history by a single hair's breadth".
In an article entitled "Age of Reason" published in the Spectator on 26 April 1930, Carr attacked what he regarded as the prevailing culture of pessimism within the West, which he blamed on the French writer Marcel Proust. Carr wrote:
"It was about the turn of the [20th] century that the trouble began. It did not come from the rebels or radicals...It came rather with men like Kipling and Rostand, men loyal to the core to the old traditions, men of genius-and yet who somehow did not quite pull it off...The great days of the glory of man and his achievements were numbered. The vein was petering out; in some strange way it no longer came off. It was, men said, the end of the Victorian Age...It was once the vulgar ambition of mankind to make something out of nothing; Proust brought perfection to the more genteel pastime of resolving everything into nothingness".
In the early 1930s, Carr found the Great Depression to be almost profoundly shocking as the First World War. In an article entitled "England Adrift" published in September 1930, Carr wrote:
"The prevailing state of mind in England to-day is one of defeatism or...skepticism, of disbelief in herself. England has ceased to have ideas, or if, she has them, to believe in the possibility of their fulfillment. Alone among the Great Powers she has ceased to have a mission...The government of the day has so little faith in its capacity to tackle the major problems of our generation that it invites the other parties to assist with their advice (imagine Mr Gladstone invoking the assistance of Lord Beaconsfield!), and the principle opposition party, knowing full well there is no solution, declines the invitation and keeps its hands free to wash them of the consequences...We have no convictions beyond a vague sort of fatalism".
Further increasing Carr's interest in a replacement ideology for liberalism was his reaction to hearing the debates in January 1931 at the General Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, and especially the speeches on the merits of free trade between the Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vojislav Marinkovich and the British Foreign Secretary Arthur Henderson. Carr wrote:
"At Geneva I followed some of the debates about the economic crisis, which seemed to spell the bankruptcy of capitalism. In particular I was stuck by the fact that everyone professed to believe that tariff barriers were a major cause of aggravation of the crisis, but that practically every country was busy erecting them. I happened to hear a speech by some minor delegate (Yugoslav, I think) which for the first time in my experience put the issue clearly and urgently. Free trade was the doctrine of economically powerful states, which flourished without protection, but would be fatal to weak states. This came as a revelation to me (like the revelation at Cambridge of the relativism of historiography), and was doubly significant because of the part played by free trade in my intellectual upbringing. If free trade went, the whole liberal outlook went with it." 
It was at this time that Carr started to admire the Soviet Union. Carr wrote in a book review in February 1931:
"They [the Soviets] have discovered a new religion of the Kilowatt and the Machine, which may well be the creed for which modern civilization is waiting.... This new religion is growing up on the fringes of a Europe which has lost faith in herself. Contemporary Europe is aimlessly drifting, refusing to face unpalatable facts, and looking for external remedies for her difficulties. The important question for Europe at the present time is... whether the steel production of the Soviet Union will overtake that of Great Britain and France... whether Europe can discover in herself a driving force, an intensity of faith comparable to that now being generated in Russia".
In a 1932 book review of Lancelot Lawton's Economic History of Soviet Russia, Carr dismissed Lawton's claim that the Soviet economy was a failure, and praised the British Marxist economist Maurice Dobb's extremely favourable assessment of the Soviet economy. Carr concluded that "as regards economic development, Professor Dobb is conclusive". Beside writing on Soviet affairs, Carr also commented on other international events. In an essay published in February 1933 in the Fortnightly Review, Carr blamed what he regarded as a putative Versailles treaty for the recent accession to power of Adolf Hitler Carr wrote that in the 1920s, German leaders like Gustav Stresemann were unable to secure sufficient modifications of the Versailles treaty, owing to the intractable attitude of the Western powers, especially France, and now the West had reaped what it had sown in the form of the Nazi regime. However, despite some concerns about National Socialism, Carr ended his essay by writing that:
"The crucial point about Hitlerism is that its disciples not only believe in themselves, but believe in Germany. For the first time since the war a party appeared outside the narrow circles of the extreme Right which was not afraid to proclaim its pride in being German. It will perhaps one day be recognized as the greatest service of Hitlerism that, in a way quite unprecedented in German politics, it cut across all social distinctions, embracing in its ranks working men, bourgeoisie, intelligentsia and aristocrats. "Germany Awake!" became a living national faith".
Initially, Carr's political outlook was anti-Marxist and liberal. In his 1934 biography of Karl Marx, Carr presented his subject as highly intelligent man and a gifted writer, but one whose talents were devoted entirely for destruction. Carr argued that Marx's sole and only motivation was a mindless class hatred. Carr labelled dialectical materialism gibberish, and the labour theory of value doctrinal and derivative. Carr wrote that:
"The pseudo-Marxist is a pathetic figure. He knows that Marxism is moonshine, but he still nourishes the hope of finding in it a gleam to follow."
Speaking of the differences between the fascist regimes and the Soviet Union, Carr wrote:
"the only difference between the so-called "dictatorship of the proletariat" and the dictatorships which prefer to hoist other flags is that the one proclaims its Marxist paternity whereas the others deny it."
Despite his hostile appraisal of Marx, Carr ended his book by writing that recent developments in the Soviet Union meant that Marx had:
"...a claim to be regarded as the most far-seeing genius of the nineteenth century and one of the most successful prophets in history"
Carr went on to write:
"There are now few thinking man who will dismiss with confidence the Marxian assumption that capitalism, developed to its highest point, inevitably encompasses its own destruction." 
Likewise, Carr praised Marx for emphasizing the importance of the collective over the individual. Carr wrote that:
"In a sense, Marx is the protagonist and forerunner of the whole twentieth century revolution of thought. The nineteenth century saw the end of the period of humanism which began with the Renaissance-the period which took as its ideal the highest development of the faculties and liberties of the individual...Marx understood that, in the new order, the individual would play a minor part. Individualism implies differentiation; everything that is undifferentiated does not count. The Industrial Revolution would place in power the undifferentiated mass. Not man, but mass-man, not the individual, but the class, not the political man, would be the unit of the coming dispensation. Not only industry, but the whole of civilization, would become a matter of mass-production."
In view of his later conversion to a sort of quasi-Marxism, Carr was to find the passages in Karl Marx: A Study in Fanaticism criticizing Marx to be highly embarrassing, and refused to allow the book to be republished. Carr was to later call his Marx biography his worst book, and complained that he had written it only because his publisher had made a Marx biography the precondition of publishing the biography of Mikhail Bakunin that he was writing. In his books such as The Romantic Exiles and Dostoevsky, Carr was noted for his highly ironical treatment of his subjects, implying that their lives were of interest but not of great importance. In the mid-1930s, Carr was especially preoccupied with the life and ideas of Bakunin. During this period, Carr started writing a novel about the visit of a Bakunin-type Russian radical to Victorian Britain who proceeded to expose all of Carr regarded as the pretensions and hypocrisies of British bourgeois society. The novel was never finished or published.
As a diplomat in the 1930s, Carr took the view that great division of the world into rival trading blocs caused by the American Smoot Hawley Act of 1930 was the principal cause of German belligerence in foreign policy, as Germany was now unable to export finished goods or import raw materials cheaply. In Carr's opinion, if Germany could be given its own economic zone to dominate in Eastern Europe comparable to the British Imperial preference economic zone, the U.S. dollar zone in the Americas, the French gold bloc zone and the Japanese economic zone, then the peace of the world could be assured. In a memo written on 30 January 1936, Carr wrote:
"Since I think everyone is now agreed that it is dangerous to sit indefinitely on the safety-valve, and that Germany must expand somewhere, I feel that there is an overwhelming case for the view that the direction in which Germany can expand with a minimum of danger or inconvenience to British interests (whether political or economic) is in Central and South-Eastern Europe..."
Carr's views on appeasement caused much tension with his superior, the Permanent Undersecretary Sir Robert Vansittart, and played a role in Carr's resignation from the Foreign Office later in 1936 In an article entitled "An English Nationalist Abroad" published in May 1936 in the Spectator, Carr wrote "The methods of the Tudor sovereigns, when they were making the English nation, invite many comparisons with those of the Nazi regime in Germany" In this way, Carr argued that it was hypocritical for people in Britain to criticize the Nazi regime's human rights record Because of Carr's strong antagonism to the Treaty of Versailles, which he viewed as unjust to Germany, Carr was very supportive of the Nazi regime's efforts to destroy Versailles through moves such as the Remilitarisation of the Rhineland in 1936 Carr later wrote of his views in the 1930s that "No doubt, I was very blind".
International relations scholar
In 1936, Carr became the Woodrow Wilson Professor of International Politics at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and is particularly known for his contribution on international relations theory. Carr's last words of advice as a diplomat was a memo urging that Britain accept the Balkans as an exclusive zone of influence for Germany. Additionally in articles published in the Christian Science Monitor on 2 December 1936 and in the January 1937 edition of Fortnightly Review, Carr argued that the Soviet Union and France were not working for collective security, but rather "...a division of the Great Powers into two armored camps", supported non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War, and asserted that King Leopold III of Belgium had made a major step towards peace with his declaration of neutrality of 14 October 1936. Two major intellectual influences on Carr in the mid-1930s were Karl Mannheim's 1936 book Ideology and Utopia, and the work of Reinhold Niebuhr on the need to combine morality with realism.
Carr's appointment as the Woodrow Wilson Professor of International Politics caused a stir when he started to use his position to criticize the League of Nations, a viewpoint which caused much tension with his benefactor, Lord Davies, who was a strong supporter of the League. Lord Davies had established the Wilson Chair in 1924 with the intention of increasing public support for his beloved League, which helps to explain his chagrin at Carr's anti-League lectures. In his first lecture on 14 October 1936 Carr stated the League was ineffective and that:
"I do not believe the time is ripe...for the establishment of a super-national force to maintain order in the international community and I believe any scheme by which nations should bind themselves to go to war with other nations for the preservation of peace is not only impracticable, but retrograde".
In the same lecture, Carr stated:
"If European democracy binds its living body to the putrefying corpse of the 1919 settlement, it will merely be committing a particularly unpleasant form of suicide".
In 1937, Carr visited the Soviet Union for a second time, and was impressed by what he saw.:60 During his visit to the Soviet Union, Carr may have inadvertently caused the death of his friend, Prince D. S. Mirsky. Carr stumbled into Prince Mirsky on the streets of Leningrad (modern Saint Petersburg, Russia), and despite Prince Mirsky's best efforts to pretend not to know him, Carr persuaded his old friend to have lunch with him. Since this was at the height of the Yezhovshchina, and any Soviet citizen who had any unauthorized contact with a foreigner was likely to be regarded as a spy, the NKVD arrested Prince Mirsky as a British spy; he died two years later in a Gulag camp near Magadan. As part of the same trip that took Carr to the Soviet Union in 1937 was a visit to Germany. In a speech given on 12 October 1937 at the Chatham House summarizing his impressions of those two countries, Carr reported that Germany was "...almost a free country". Unaware apparently of the fate of his friend, Carr spoke in his speech of the "strange behaviour" of his old friend, Prince Mirsky, who had at first gone to great lengths to try to pretend that he did not know Carr during their accidental meeting in Leningrad. Carr ended his speech by arguing that it was unfair for people in Britain to criticize either of the two dictatorships, who, Carr asserted, were only reacting to the problems of the Great Depression. Carr stated:
"But let us look a little at the historical perspective. Both the German and Russian regimes, today, represent a reaction against the individualistic ideology prevailing at any, in Western Europe, for the last hundred and fifty years...The whole system of individualist laissez-faire economy has we know, broken down. It has broken down because production and trade can only be carried out on a nationwide scale and with the aid of State machinery and State control. Now, State control has come in its most naked and undisguised form precisely where the individualist tradition was the weakest, in Germany and Russia".
In the 1930s, Carr was a leading supporter of appeasement. In the 1930s, Carr saw Germany as the victim of the Versailles treaty, and Hitler as a typical German leader, attempting like every other previous German leader since 1919 to overthrow that settlement.:79 In his writings on international affairs in British newspapers, Carr criticized the Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš for clinging to the alliance with France, rather than accepting that it was his country's destiny to be in the German sphere of influence. At the same time, Carr strongly praised the Polish Foreign Minister Colonel Józef Beck, who with his balancing act between France, Germany, and the Soviet Union as "a realist who grasped the fundamentals of the European situation" and argued that his polices were "from the Polish point of view...brilliantly successful". Starting in the late 1930s, Carr started to become even more sympathetic toward the Soviet Union, as Carr was much impressed by the apparent achievements of the Five-Year Plans, which stood in marked contrast to the seeming failures of capitalism in the Great Depression.
His famous work The Twenty Years' Crisis was published in July 1939, which dealt with the subject of international relations between 1919 and 1939. In that book, Carr defended appeasement under the grounds that it was the only realistic policy option. At the time the book was published in the summer of 1939, Neville Chamberlain had adopted his "containment" policy towards Germany, leading Carr to later ruefully comment that his book was dated even before it was published. In the spring and summer of 1939, Carr was very dubious about Chamberlain's "guarantee" of Polish independence issued on 31 March 1939, which he regarded as an act of folly and madness. In April 1939, Carr wrote in opposition to Chamberlain's "guarantee" of Poland that: "The use or threatened use of force to maintain the status quo may be morally more culpable than the use or threatened use of force to alter it".
In The Twenty Year's Crisis, Carr divided thinkers on international relations into two schools, which he labelled the realists and the utopians. Reflecting his own disillusion with the League of Nations, Carr attacked as "utopians" those like Norman Angell who believed that a new and better international structure could be built around the League. In Carr's opinion, the entire international order constructed at Versailles was flawed and the League was a hopeless dream that could never do anything practical.
Carr argued against the view that the problems of the world in 1939 were the work of a clique of evil men and dismissed Arnold J. Toynbee's view that "we are living in an exceptionally wicked age". Carr asserted that the problems of the world in 1939 were due to structural political-economic problems that transcended the importance of individual national leaders and argued that the focus on individuals as causal agents was equivalent to focusing on the trees rather the forest. Carr contended that the 19th century theory of a balance of interests amongst the powers was an erroneous belief and instead contended that international relations was an incessant struggle between the economically privileged "have" powers and the economically disadvantaged "have not" powers. In this economic understanding of international relations, "have" powers like the United States, Britain and France were inclined to avoid war because of their contented status whereas "have not" powers like Germany, Italy and Japan were inclined towards war as they had nothing to lose. In Carr's opinion, ideological differences between fascism and democracy were beside the point as he used as an example Japan, which Carr argued was not a fascist state but still a "have not" power. Carr attacked Adam Smith for claiming there was a "harmony of interests" between the individual and their community, writing that "the doctrine of the harmony of interests was tenable only if you left out of account the interests of the weak who must be driven to the wall". Carr claimed after World War I, the American President Woodrow Wilson had unfortunately created an international order based on the doctrine of "harmony of interests" through the "utopian" instrument of the League of Nations with disastrous results. Carr argued that the only way to make the League (which Carr otherwise held in complete contempt by 1939) an effective force for peace was to persuade Germany, Italy and Japan to return to the League by promising them that their economic grievances could and would be worked out at the League. Carr called The Twenty Year's Crisis:
"not exactly a Marxist work, but strongly impregnated with Marxist ways of thinking, applied to international affairs"
The distinction between "have" and "have not" nations perhaps reflected the influence of the theory first propagated by Enrico Corradini and later adopted by Benito Mussolini of the natural conflict between "proletarian" nations like Italy and "plutocratic" nations like Britain. In The Twenty Years' Crisis, Carr wrote:
"When Herr Hitler refuses to believe that "God has permitted some nations first to acquire a world by force and then to defend this robbery with moralising theories", we have an authentic echo of the Marxist denial of a community of interest between "haves" and "have-nots", of the Marxist exposure of the interested character of "bourgeois" morality..."
In The Twenty Years' Crisis, Carr argued that the entire peace settlement of 1919 was flawed by the decisions of the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, the French Premier Georges Clemenceau and above all the American President Woodrow Wilson to impose a sterile international order in the post-war world. In particular, Carr claimed that what he saw as the basis of the post-1919 international order, namely the combination of 19th century style laissez-faire capitalism and the nationalism inspired by the principle of national self-determination, made for a highly defective peace settlement, and hence a very dangerous world. Carr later wrote that:
"The Twenty Years' Crisis was written with the deliberate aim of counteracting the glaring and dangerous defect of nearly all thinking about international politics in the English-speaking countries from 1919 to 1939-the almost total neglect of the factor of power".
In Carr's opinion, the repeated demands made by Adolf Hitler for lebensraum (living space) was merely a reflection of Germany being a "have not" power (like many in interwar Britain, Carr misunderstood the term lebensraum as referring to a zone of exclusive economic influence for Germany in Eastern Europe). In Carr's view, the belligerence of the fascist powers was the "natural cynical reaction" to the empty moralizing of the "have" powers, who refused to make any concessions until the state of international relations had been allowed to seriously deteriorate. Carr argued that on moral and practical grounds the Treaty of Versailles had done a profound wrong to Germany and that the present state of world tensions in 1939 was caused by the inability and/or unwillingness of the other powers to readdress that wrong in a timely fashion. Carr defended the Munich Agreement as the overdue recognition of changes in the balance of power. In The Twenty Years' Crisis, Carr was highly critical of Winston Churchill, whom Carr described as a mere opportunist interested only in power for himself. Writing of Churchill's opposition to appeasement, Carr stated
"The realist will have no difficulty in recognizing the pragmatic, through no doubt unconscious adjustment of Mr. Churchill's judgments to his policy of the moment."
In the same book, Carr described the opposition of realism and utopianism in international relations as a dialectic progress. Carr described realism as the acceptance that what exists is right and the belief that there is no reality or forces outside history such as God. Carr argued that in realism there is no moral dimension and that what is successful is right and that what is unsuccessful is wrong. Carr argued that for realists there are no basis for moralizing about the past, present or the future and that "World history is the World Court". Carr rejected both utopianism and realism as the basis of a new international order and instead called a synthesis of the two. Carr wrote that:
"Having demolished the current utopia with weapons of realism we still need to build a new utopia of our own, which will fall to the same weapons".
Though Carr was highly sympathetic towards the realist case in international relations and rejected utopianism as the basis of the international order, Carr described realism as lacking :"a finite goal, an emotional appeal, a right of moral judgment, and a ground for action".
Norman Angell, one of the "utopian" thinkers attacked by in The Twenty Years' Crisis called the book a "completely mischievous piece of sophisticated moral nihilism" In a review, Angell commented that Carr's claim that international law was only a device for allowing "have" nations to maintain their privileged position provided "aid and comfort in about equal degree to the followers of Marx and the followers of Hitler". Angell maintained that Carr's claim that "resistance to aggression" was only an empty slogan on the part of the "have" nations meant only for keeping down the "have not" nations was a "veritable gold mine for Dr. Goebbels". In response to The Twenty Years' Crisis, Angell wrote a book entitled Why Freedom Matters intended to rebut Carr. Another of the "utopian" thinkers attacked by Carr, Arnold J. Toynbee wrote that reading The Twenty Years' Crisis left one "in a moral vacuum and at a political dead point". Another "utopian", the British historian R.W. Seton-Watson wrote in response that it was "simply farcical" that Carr could write of morality in international politics without mentioning Christianity once in his book. In a 2004 speech, the American political scientist John Mearsheimer praised The Twenty Years' Crisis and argued that Carr was correct when he claimed that international relations was a struggle of all against all with states always placing their own interests first.:139 Mearsheimer maintained that Carr's points were still as relevant for 2004 as for 1939 and went on to deplore what he claimed was the dominance of "idealist" thinking about international relations among British academic life:140 Carr immediately followed up The Twenty Year's Crisis with Britain : A Study of Foreign Policy From The Versailles Treaty to the Outbreak of War, a study of British foreign policy in the inter-war period that featured a preface by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax. Carr ended his support for appeasement, which had so vociferously expressed in The Twenty Year's Crisis in the late summer of 1939 with a favourable review of a book containing a collection of Churchill's speeches from 1936–38, which Carr wrote were "justifiably" alarmist about Germany. After 1939, Carr largely abandoned writing about international relations in favour of contemporary events and Soviet history. Carr was to write only three more books about international relations after 1939, namely The Future of Nations; Independence Or Interdependence? (1941), German-Soviet Relations Between The Two World Wars, 1919–1939 (1951) and International Relations Between The Two World Wars, 1919–1939 (1955). After the outbreak of World War II, Carr stated that he was somewhat mistaken in his prewar views on Nazi Germany. In the 1946 revised edition of The Twenty Years' Crisis, Carr was more hostile in his appraisal of German foreign policy then he had been in the first edition in 1939. Through The Twenty Years' Crisis was published just months before World War II began, the Japanese historian Saho Matusumoto wrote that in a sense, Carr's book began the debate on the origins of World War II.
Some of the major themes of Carr's writings were change and the relationship between ideational and material forces in society. Carr saw a major theme of history was the growth of reason as a social force. Carr argued that all major social changes had been caused by revolutions or wars, both of which Carr regarded as necessary but unpleasant means of accomplishing social change. Carr saw his major task in all of writings of finding a better way of working out social transformations. Carr maintained that every revolution starting with the French Revolution had helped to move humanity in a progressive direction but had failed to complete their purpose because of the lack of the essential instruments to finish the revolutionary project. Carr asserted that social changes had to be linked with a realistic understanding of the limitations of social changes in order to build lasting institutions capable of maintaining social change. Carr claimed that in modern industrial society that a dialogue between various social forces was the best way of achieving a social transformation "toward goals which can be defined only as we advance towards them, and the validity of which can only be verified in a process of attaining them".
World War II
During World War II, Carr's political views took a sharp turn towards the left. Carr spent the Phoney War working as a clerk with the propaganda department of the Foreign Office. As Carr did not believe Britain could defeat Germany, the declaration of war on Germany on 3 September 1939 left him highly depressed.
In March 1940, Carr resigned from the Foreign Office to serve as the writer of leaders (editorials) for The Times. In his second leader published on 21 June 1940 entitled "The German Dream", Carr wrote that Hitler was offering a "Europe united by conquest". Carr went on to write:
"There must and will be a new order in Europe. But this cannot be achieved through the overweening ambition of one man or one country in defiance of the will of the majority of Europeans and of the whole world outside of Europe. To speculate on better ways of building the new order would at the present time be to divert energy from far more urgent tasks. But two conditions must at least be fulfilled. The new European order cannot be achieved through conquest but only through co-operation and it must unite Europe with the non-European world, not divide Europe from it."
In a leader of 1 July 1940 Carr wrote that the first conclusion to be drawn from the present war was that "the conception of the small national unit, not strong enough for an active role in international politics, but enjoying all the prerogatives and responsibilities of a sovereignty, has been rendered obsolete by modern armaments and the scope of modern warfare". Carr ended by writing:
"Europe can no longer afford a multiplicity of economic units, each maintaining its independent economic system behind a barbed wire of tariffs, quotas, exchange restrictions and barter agreements...Over the greater part of Western Europe the common values for which we stand are known and prized. We must indeed beware of these values in purely nineteenth-century terms. If we speak of democracy, we do not mean a democracy which maintains the right to vote but forgets the right to work and the right to live. If we speak of freedom, we do not mean a rugged individualism which excludes social organization and economic planning. If we speak of equality, we do not mean a political equality nullified by social and economic privilege. If we speak of economic reconstruction we think less of maximum production (through this too will be required) than of equitable distribution".
In a leader during the summer of 1940, Carr defended the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states under the grounds that this was "not merely pressure from Moscow, but sincere recognition that this was a better alternative than absorption into a new Nazi Europe".
Carr served as the assistant editor of The Times from 1941 to 1946, during which time he was well known for the pro-Soviet attitudes that he expressed in his leaders (editorials) he wrote. After June 1941, Carr' s already strong admiration for the Soviet Union was much increased by the Soviet Union's role in defeating Germany.
In one of his first leaders Carr for the Times, he declared:
"The PRIME MINISTER expressed the mood of the nation when he declared that our only present war aim is victory. Nevertheless the British will to victory is still bound up with the conviction that our war aims stand on a different plane from those of the enemy, and that victory for our aims will point the way to a new social and international order in Europe".
Carr called the war aim of "destroying Hitlerism" insufficient, and demanded that the British government express "a definite picture of what we are fighting for, both to hearten our own people at home and to counteract German propaganda abroad" In a leader of 5 December 1940 entitled "The Two Scourges", Carr wrote that only by removing the "scourge" of unemployment could one also remove the "scourge" of war. Such was the popularity of "The Two Scourges" that it was published as a pamphlet in December 1940, during which in its first print run of 10,000 it completely sold out. In a speech given in December 1940, Carr declared his views about the war that in his opinion:
"This is not altogether a national war, it is to a certain extent a social war, a revolutionary war; as a political revolution it is not simply confined to one country but is more or less world-wide".
Carr's left-wing leaders caused some tension with the editor of the Times, Geoffrey Dawson, who felt that Carr was taking the Times in a too radical direction, which led Carr for a time being restricted only to writing on foreign policy. After Dawson's ouster in May 1941 and his replacement with Robert M'Gowan Barrington-Ward, Carr was given a free rein to write on whatever he wished. In turn, Barrington-Ward was to find many of Carr's leaders on foreign affairs to be too radical for his liking. Carr's leaders were noted for their advocacy of a socialist European economy under the control of an international planning board, and for his support for the idea of an Anglo-Soviet alliance as the basis of the post-war international order. In one of his leaders, Carr stated "The new order cannot be based on the preservation of privilege, whether the privilege be that of a country, of a class, or of an individual." Carr himself later described his attitude to the Soviets during his stint at the Times:
"In the Times I very quickly began to plug the Russian alliance; and when this was vindictated by Russian endurance and Russian victory, it revived my faith in the Russian revolution as a great achievement and a historical turning point. It was obvious that the Russia of the Second World War was a very different place from the Russia of the First-terms of people as well of material resources. Looking back on the thirties, I came to feel that my preoccupation with the purges and brutalities of Stalinism had distorted my perspective. The black spots were real enough, but looking exclusively at them destroyed one's vision of what was really happening".
Unlike many of his contemporaries in war-time Britain, Carr was against a Carthaginian peace with Germany, and argued for a post-war reconstruction of Germany along socialist lines. In Carr's opinion, National Socialism was not the natural result of Deutschtum (Germanism), but rather of capitalism. Carr claimed that once capitalism was removed from German society, the social forces that gave birth to fascism would wither away and die. On his leaders on foreign affairs, Carr was very consistent (and correct) in arguing after 1941 that once the war ended, it was the fate of Eastern Europe to come into the Soviet sphere of influence, and claimed that any effort to the contrary was both vain and immoral. In a leader of August 1941 entitled "Peace and Power", Carr wrote that power in Eastern Europe:
"...can fall only to Germany or to Russia. Neither Great Britain nor the United States can exercise, or will agree to exercise, any predominant role in these regions...There can be no doubt that British and Russian-and it may be added, American-interests alike demand that Russian influence in Eastern Europe should not be eclipsed by that of Germany."
In December 1941, Carr wrote "...in Europe, Great Britain and Soviet Russia must become the main bulwarks of a peace which can be preserved, and can be made real, only through their joint endeavour." In a memo sent to the British diplomat Frank Roberts (who had criticized Carr's views about the Baltic states) on 16 January 1942 Carr wrote:
"After the collapse of Russia and Germany the Baltic States enjoyed an almost accidental independence during the twenty years interregnum from 1919 to 1939. Apart from this interval in history it was always true that they would have fallen within the orbit either of Russia or Germany, and it is now more certain than ever in an age which has exposed the illusions of neutrality in Europe. The winning of the war means that they will fall within the orbit of Russia".
Between 1942–45, Carr was the Chairman of a study group at the Royal Institute of International Affairs concerned with Anglo-Soviet relations. Carr's study group concluded that Stalin had largely abandoned Communist ideology in favour of Russian nationalism, that the Soviet economy would provide a higher standard of living in the Soviet Union after the war, and it was both possible and desirable for Britain to reach a friendly understanding with the Soviets once the war had ended. In 1942, Carr published Conditions of Peace followed by Nationalism and After in 1945, in which he outlined his ideas about the post-war world should look like. In his books, and his Times leaders, Carr urged for the post-war world, the creation of a socialist European federation anchored by an Anglo-German partnership that would be aligned with, but not subordinated to the Soviet Union against the country that Carr saw as the principal post-war danger to world peace, namely the United States.
In his 1942 book Conditions of Peace, Carr argued that it was a flawed economic system that had caused World War II and that the only way of preventing another world war was for the Western powers to fundamentally change the economic basis of their societies by adopting socialism. Carr argued that the post-war world required a European Planning Authority and a Bank of Europe that would control the currencies, trade, and investment of all the European economies. One of the main sources for ideas in Conditions of Peace was the 1940 book Dynamics of War and Revolution by the American Lawrence Dennis In a review of Conditions of Peace, the British writer Rebecca West criticised Carr for using Dennis as a source, commenting "It is as odd for a serious English writer to quote Sir Oswald Mosley" In a speech on 2 June 1942 in the House of Lords, Viscount Elibank attacked Carr as an "active danger" for his views in Conditions of Peace about a magnanimous peace with Germany and for suggesting that Britain turn over all of her colonies to an international commission after the war.
In a leader of 10 March 1943 Carr wrote that:
"There can be no security in Western Europe unless there is also security in Eastern Europe, and security in Eastern Europe is unattainable unless it is buttressed by the military power of Russia. A case so clear and cogent for close co-operation between Britain and Russia after the war cannot fail to carry conviction to any open and impartial mind."
In the same leader Carr argued for:
"ungrudging and unqualified agreement on the supposition that "If Britain's frontier is on the Rhine", it might just as pertinently be said-though it has not in fact been said-that Russia's frontier is on the Oder, and in the same sense."
The leader of 10 March 1943 led to a protest from the Polish Ambassador, Count Edward Raczyński, who wrote in response that he "knew what Carr's idea of Eastern Europe was, but it is not the idea of the Poles, and they knew well what Russia would mean by friendly governments".
The next month, Carr's relations with the Polish government were further worsted by the storm caused by the discovery of the Katyn Forest massacre committed by the NKVD in 1940. In a leader entitled "Russia and Poland" on 28 April 1943, Carr blasted the Polish government for accusing the Soviets of committing the Katyn Forest massacre, and for asking the Red Cross to investigate Carr wrote that:
"Every Polish statesmen and every Polish student of history knows his country imperatively needs the friendship of at least one of her greater neighbours, east and west. No Pole today can contemplate the deliberate co-operation of Germany...Yet the action of the Polish government ten days ago beyond a doubt played, in fact though not in intention, directly into German hands [Carr is referring here to the Polish request for the Red Cross to investigate the Katyn Forest massacre] ...Any Polish quarrel with Russia, whatever its origin, necessarily injures the cause of both Poland and of the United Nations."
"The Chair is a "Wilson Chair" and was certainly intended to be a Chair for the Exposition of the League of Nations idea, and the founder has a right to be rather upset when he finds his professor carrying on a sort of anti-Wilson and anti-League campaign. It is not as if you merely criticised the League and wanted it changed and developed; you consider it fundamentally wrong and Wilson's principles as self-contradictory".
In reply to Murray, Carr wrote:
"May I suggest a closer parallel than yours? Would a Newton Professor of Physics be precluded from arguing that Einstein had demonstrated the inadequacy and over-simplification of Newton's laws".
Lord Davies who had been extremely unhappy with Carr almost from the moment that Carr had assumed the Wilson Chair in 1936 launched a major campaign in 1943 to have Carr fired, being particularly upset that through Carr had not taught since 1939, he was still drawing his professor's salary Lord Davies's efforts to have Carr fired failed when the majority of the Aberystwyth staff supported by the powerful Welsh political fixer Thomas Jones sided with Carr.
In December 1944, when fighting broke out in Athens, Greece between the Greek Communist front organization ELAS and the British Army, Carr in a Times leader sided with the Greek Communists, leading to Winston Churchill to condemn him in a speech to the House of Commons. Churchill called Carr's leader defending E.L.A.S "a melancholy document" that in his opinion reflected the decline of British journalism. Carr claimed (correctly) that the Greek EAM was the "largest organised party or group of parties in Greece" that "appeared to exercise almost unchallengeable authority" and called for Britain to recognize the EAM as the legal Greek government. The Anglo-American historian Robert Conquest accused Carr of hypocrisy in supporting the EAM/ELAS, noting Carr was violating his own "Might is Right" precepts of international power politics, in which the stronger power was always in the right, regardless of the facts of the case. Since Britain was a much stronger power in the world than the Greek Communists, Conquest argued that Carr by his own standards should have been on the British side during the fighting in Athens in December 1944.
In contrast to his support for E.A.M/E.L.A.S, Carr was strongly critical of the legitimate Polish government in exile and its Armia Krajowa (Home Army) resistance organization. In his leaders of 1944 on Poland, Carr urged that Britain break diplomatic relations with the London government and recognize the Soviet sponsored Lublin government as the lawful government of Poland. In a Times leader of 10 February 1945, Carr questioned whether the Polish government in exile even had the right to speak on behalf of Poland. Carr wrote that it was extremely doubtful whether the London government had "an exclusive title to speak for the people of Poland and a liberum veto on any move towards a settlement of Polish affairs". Carr went to argue that "The legal credentials of this Government are certainly not beyond challenge if it were relevant to examine them: the obscure and tenuous thread of continuity leads back at best to a constitution deriving from a quasi-Fascist coup d'état". Carr ended his leader with the claim that "What Marshal Stalin desires to see in Warsaw is not a puppet government acting under Russian orders, but a friendly government which, fully conscious of the supreme importance of Russo-Polish concord, will frame its independent policies in that context." 
In a May 1945 leader, Carr blasted those who felt that an Anglo-American "special relationship' would be the principal bulwark of peace, writing that:
"It would be the height of unwisdom to assume that an alliance of the English-speaking world, even it were to find favour with American opinion could form by itself the all-sufficient pillar of world security and render superfluous any other foundation for British policy in Europe."
As a result of Carr's leaders, the Times became popularly known during World War II as the three pence Daily Worker (the price of the Daily Worker was one penny). Commenting on Carr's pro-Soviet leaders, the British writer George Orwell wrote in 1942 that:
"all the appeasers, e.g. Professor E. H. Carr, have switched their allegiance from Hitler to Stalin".
Reflecting his disgust with Carr's leaders in the Times, the British civil servant Sir Alexander Cadogan, the Permanent Undersecretary at the Foreign Office wrote in his diary: "I hope someone will tie Barrington-Ward and Ted Carr together and throw them into the Thames." Carr was to elaborate on these ideas he had first advocated in Conditions of Peace in his 1945 book Nationalism and After. In that book, Carr wrote "The driving force behind any future international order must be a belief...in the value of individual human beings irrespective of national affinities or allegiance." Carr argued that just as the military was under civilian control, that likewise so should "the holders of economic power...be responsible to, and take their orders from, the community in exactly the same way". Carr claimed it was necessary to create "maximum social and economic opportunity" for all, and argued that this would be achieved via an international planning authority that would control the world economy, and provide for "increased consumption for social stability and equitable distribution for maximum production". Carr described his views at the time as:
"Like a lot of other people, I took refuge in Utopian visions of a new world order after the war; after all, it was on the basis of such visions that a lot of real constructive work was done, and Churchill lost sympathy by being openly impatient of them. I began to be a bit ashamed of the harsh "realism" of The Twenty Years' Crisis and in 1940–41 wrote the highly Utopian Conditions of Peace -a sort of liberal Utopia, mixed with a little socialism but very little Marxism. It was my most popular book to date because it caught the current mood. But it was pretty feeble."
In 1945 during a lecture series entitled The Soviet Impact on the Western World, which were published as a book in 1946, Carr argued that "The trend away from individualism and towards totalitarianism is everywhere unmistakable", that Marxism was the by far the most successful type of totalitarianism as proved by Soviet industrial growth and the Red Army's role in defeating Germany and that only the "blind and incurable ignored these trends". During the same lectures, Carr called democracy in the Western world a sham, which permitted a capitalist ruling class to exploit the majority, and praised the Soviet Union as offering real democracy. Carr claimed that Soviet social policies were far more progressive than Western social policies, and argued democracy was more about social equality than political rights. During the same series of lectures, Carr argued that:
"It was Marshal Stalin who, consciously or unconsciously usurping Woodrow Wilson's role in the previous war, once more placed democracy in the forefront of Allied war aims."
Carr went on to argue that:
"The degree of moral favour for the social purposes of Soviet policy which is, according to all observers, generated among the citizens of the Soviet Union is an answer to those critics who used to argue that Marxism could never be successful because it lacked moral appeal."
Finally, Carr claimed that:
"The social and economic system of the Soviet Union, offering-as it does-almost unlimited possibilities of internal development, is hardly subject to those specific stimuli which dictated expansionist policies to capitalist Britain in the 19th century...there is nothing in Soviet policy so far to suggest that the east-west movement is likely to take the form of armed aggression or military conquest. The peaceful penetration of the Western world by ideas emanating from the Soviet Union has been, and seems likely to remain, a far important and conspicuous symptom of the new East-West movement. Ex Oriente Lux."
One of Carr's leading associates, the British historian R.W. Davies was later to write that Carr's view of the Soviet Union as expressed in The Soviet Impact on the Western World was a rather glossy, idealized picture that owed much to war-time propaganda about "our gallant Russian ally", and to Carr's very considerable faith in the Soviet Union as offering a superior social system to the West.
In 1946, Carr started living with Joyce Marion Stock Forde, who was to remain his common law wife until 1964. In 1947, Carr was forced to resign from his position at Aberystwyth. The Marxist historian Christopher Hill wrote that in the late 1940s "it was thought, or pretended to be thought, that any irregularity in one's matrimonial position made it impossible for one to be a good scholar or teacher." In November 1946, Carr was involved in a radio debate with Arnold J. Toynbee on Britain's position in the world. Though Carr expressed support for Toynbee's idea of British neutrality in the emerging Cold War, Carr rejected his idea that Britain "liquidate without too many qualms our political commitments and economic outposts in other continents". Carr declared that "The trouble about politics and economics is that if you run away from them they are apt to run after you-especially if you occupy as Britain does, a conspicuous and coveted and vulnerable position". In the late 1940s, Carr started to become increasingly influenced by Marxism. His name was on Orwell's list, a list of people which George Orwell prepared in March 1949 for the Information Research Department, a propaganda unit set up at the Foreign Office by the Labour government. Orwell considered these people to have pro-communist leanings and therefore to be inappropriate to write for the IRD.
In May–June 1951, Carr delivered a series of speeches on British radio entitled The New Society, that attacked capitalism as a great social evil and advocated a planned economy with the British state controlling every aspect of British economic life. Carr was a reclusive man who few knew well, but his circle of close friends included Isaac Deutscher, A. J. P. Taylor, Harold Laski and Karl Mannheim. Carr was especially close to Deutscher. Deutscher's widow was later to write of the deep, if unlikely friendship that was stuck between:
"...a self-educated, former member of the Polish Communist Party – Marxist by conviction, Jewish by origin – who was a refugee from Hitler and Stalin stranded in London; and, on the other side, an English historian who was an unmistakable product of Cambridge, a former member of the Foreign Office, schooled in a diplomatic service famous as a bastion of British traditionalism".:78–79
In 1948, Carr condemned British acceptance of an American loan in 1946 as the marking the effective end of British independence. Carr wrote that:
"The acceptance of the American loan with the conditions attached to it in 1946 was the turning point at which Britain ceased to control her own economic destinies. It is still arguable that the conditions should have been rejected and the consequences of rejection faced. The results of acceptance were perhaps psychological even more than practical. But the practical results should not be ignored. Through the conditions were never fully enforced, the fiasco of sterling convertibility in the summer of 1947 was extremely costly; and American objections to European economic union continued well into 1947-by which time the practical difficulties of its realization had enormously increased...The American loan opened the way to a silent infiltration of American influence into almost every walk of British public life. It is today almost impossible to imagine the appointment to any important public post (including posts in the Armed Forces and in the civil service as well as in industry) of anyone not persona grata in corresponding American circles. To be pro-American pays handsome dividends: to be known as anti-American is a bar to promotion to a responsible position in any walk of life. Worst of all, British dependence on the United States is now taken for granted in quite broad sections of the population and had [sic] bred a widespread sense of hopelessness and incapacity to help ourselves, so that American help and American patronage which were intended to provide a stimulus to increased productivity in Britain are in danger of producing the opposite result.".
Carr went on to write that the best course for Britain was to seek neutrality in the Cold War and that "peace at any price must be the foundation of British policy". Carr ended by writing:
"It may be that the question whether war breaks out between Russia and America affects us far more than the question whether we can increase the productivity of labour or improve the organization of industry or the distribution of consumer goods. But the point is that we can hardly do anything about the first question and a great deal about the second".
Carr took a great deal of hope from the Soviet–Yugoslav split of 1948. In an essay entitled "Spectre of Communism" published in the Times on 2 July 1948, Carr wrote:
"It is this identification of Communist ideology with Soviet power, pointed by the looser, but none the less patent, defence of western democratic ideas and capitalist practices with the power of the United States, which makes the present international conjuncture so dark and menacing...That the two strongest Powers in the world today have become the centres of groups of nations formed on the basis not of old-fashioned alliances of power politics, but of contending views on the way in which society should be organized, enhances the dangers of conflict in a way which no contemporary observer can ignore. It would be a striking reversal of existing trends if Yugoslavia succeeded in vindicating for herself either a position of independent authority within the Soviet alliance or a right to stand alone outside it"
Throughout the remainder of Carr's life after 1941, his outlook was basically sympathetic towards Communism and its achievements. In the early 1950s, when Carr sat on the editorial board of the Chatham House, he attempted to block the publication of the manuscript that eventually became The Origins of the Communist Autocracy by Leonard Schapiro on the grounds that the subject of repression in the Soviet Union was not a serious topic for a historian. As interest in the subject in Communism grew, Carr largely abandoned international relations as a field of study. In part, Carr's turn away from international relations was due to his increasing scepticism about the subject. In 1959, Carr wrote to his friend and protégé Arno J. Mayer, shortly after he began teaching international relations at Harvard warning against attempts to turn international relations into a separate subject apart from history, which Carr viewed as a foolish attempt to sever a sub-discipline of history by turning it into a discipline of its own. In 1956, Carr did not comment about the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Uprising while at the same time condemning the Suez War.
In his few books about international relations after 1938, despite a change in emphasis, Carr's pro-German views regarding inter-war international relations continued. For an example, in his 1955 book International Relations Between the Two World Wars, 1919–1939, Carr claimed that the German default on timber reparations in December 1922, which sparked the 1923 Ruhr crisis, was very small and explained that the French reaction in occupying the Ruhr was grossly disproportionate to the offence. As the American historian Sally Marks noted, even in 1955 this was a long-discredited pro-German "myth", and that in fact the German default was enormous, and Germany had been defaulting on a large scale and a frequent basis since 1921.
In 1966, Carr left Forde and married the historian Betty Behrens. That same year, Carr wrote in an essay that in India where "liberalism is professed and to some extent practised, millions of people would die without American charity. In China, where liberalism is rejected, people somehow get fed. Which is the more cruel and oppressive regime?" One of Carr's critics, the British historian Robert Conquest, commented that Carr did not appear to be familiar with recent Chinese history, because, judging from that remark, Carr seemed to be ignorant of the millions of Chinese who had starved to death during the Great Leap Forward. In 1961, Carr published an anonymous and very favourable review of his friend A. J. P. Taylor's contentious book The Origins of the Second World War, which caused much controversy. In the late 1960s, Carr was one of the few British professors to be supportive of the New Left student protestors, who, he hoped, might bring about a socialist revolution in Britain. In a 1969 introduction to the collection of essays, Heretics and Renegades and Other Essays by Carr's friend, Isaac Deutscher, Carr endorsed Deutscher's attack on George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four on the grounds that Nineteen Eighty-Four could not be an accurate picture of the Soviet Union as Orwell had never visited that state.
Carr exercised wide influence in the field of Soviet studies and international relations. The extent of Carr's influence could be seen in the 1974 festschrift in his honour, entitled Essays in Honour of E.H. Carr ed. Chimen Abramsky and Beryl Williams. The contributors included Sir Isaiah Berlin, Arthur Lehning, G. A. Cohen, Monica Partridge, Beryl Williams, Eleonore Breuning, D. C. Watt, Mary Holdsworth, Roger Morgan, Alec Nove, John Erickson, Michael Kaser, R. W. Davies, Moshe Lewin, Maurice Dobb, and Lionel Kochan. The contributors examined such topics as the social views of Georges Sorel, Alexander Herzen and Mikhail Bakunin; the effect of the Revolution of 1905 on Russian foreign policy, Count Ulrich von Brokdorff-Rantzau and German–Soviet relations; and developments in the Soviet military, education, economy and agriculture in the 1920s–1930s. Another admirer of Carr is the American Marxist historian Arno J. Mayer, who has stated that his work on international relations owes much to Carr.
During his last years, Carr continued to maintain his optimism in a better future, in spite of what he regarded as grave setbacks. In a 1978 interview in The New Left Review, Carr called capitalism a crazy economic system that was doomed to die. In the same interview, Carr complained about what he called "obsessive hatred and fear of Russia", stating "an outburst of national hysteria on this scale is surely the symptom of a sick society". In a 1980 letter to his friend Tamara Deutscher, Carr wrote that he felt that the government of Margaret Thatcher had forced "the forces of Socialism" in Britain into a "full retreat". In the same letter to Deutscher, Carr wrote that "Socialism cannot be obtained through reformism, i.e. through the machinery of bourgeois democracy". Carr went on to decry disunity on the Left, and wrote:
"What worries me is not only what is happening in this country today, but my preoccupation with what happened in the 30s. The hard-liners denied that Brüning was a lesser evil than Hitler, and refused to co-operate with the Social Democrats. I don't know that in the draft chapters [of Twilight of the Comintern] I have specifically attacked this view, but that is certainly the slant of the whole narrative. Trotsky denounced this line from the start, and in the last forty years I cannot think of any writer who has defended it. Have we all been wrong? And should we really deny that Callaghan is a lesser evil than Thatcher?
Another thought. Lenin in the 1920s wanted the Communists 'to help the MacDonalds and the Snowdens to defeat the Lloyd Georges and the Churchills'. Are Callaghan and Healey so much worse than M[acDonald] and S[nowden]?"
Though Carr regarded the abandonment of Maoism in China in the late 1970s as a regressive development, he saw opportunities, and wrote to his stock broker in 1978: "a lot of people, as well as the Japanese, are going to benefit from the opening up of trade with China. Have you any ideas?". In one of his last letters to Tamara Deutscher, shortly before his death in 1982, Carr expressed a great deal of dismay at the state of the world, writing that "The left is foolish and the right vicious.":85 Carr wrote to Deutscher that the sort of socialism envisioned by Marx could never be achieved via the means of democracy, but complained that the working class in Britain were not capable of staging the revolution needed to destroy British capitalism.:85 Carr criticized what he regarded as an excessive preoccupation in the West with the human rights situation in the Soviet Union, blasted the European Left for naïveté, and Eurocommunism as a useless watered-down version of Communism.:85 Carr wrote to Deutscher:
"What can one think of "Eurocommunists" who have produced no programme of their own, but are prepared at the drop of a hat to rub shoulders with declared counter-revolutionaries (anti-Lenin, anti-Marx) and Cold Warriors? This must be meat and drink to the hardliners in the Kremlin. Back to the "united front from Trotsky to Chamberlain?" At least Trotsky never did that. Where are we going? There are too many war-mongers around the world at present for comfort. Cannot the New Left go back to Nuclear Disarmament? Also perhaps a bit naïve, but healthier.":85
Carr ended his letter by saying that he did not believe that the British proletariat, or any of the other Western proletariats, had the willingness and/or the capacity to stage the sort of revolutions that Marx had predicated, and that because of his lack of faith in the revolutionary potential of the Western working classes, he could not be a Marxist.:85 Beside the issue about the non-imminence of a workers' uprising in the West, Carr stated that he was in otherwise complete agreement with all of the main tenets of Marxism.:85 In a letter to Deutscher, Carr wrote he had been convinced of the "bankruptcy of capitalism" since the 1930s, but that:
"It would be fair to say that I have always been more interested in Marxism as a method of revealing hidden springs of thought and action, and debunking the logical and moralistic facade, erected around them, than in the Marxist analysis of the decline of capitalism. Capitalism was clearly on the way out, and the precise mechanism of its downfall did not seem to me all that interesting.".:84–85
Carr added that he "could not see the Western proletariat, the progeny of Western bourgeois capitalism, as the bearer of the world revolution in its next stage".:85 Shortly before his death, Carr wrote that he believed:
"I cannot indeed foresee for western society in anything like its present form any prospect but decline and decay, perhaps but not necessarily ending in dramatic collapse. But I believe that new forces and movements, whose shape we cannot yet guess, are germinating beneath the surface, here or elsewhere. That is my unverifiable Utopia, and I suppose I should call it "socialist" and I am to this extent Marxist. But Marx did not define the content of socialism except in a few Utopian phrases; and nor can I".
A latter day controversy concerning Carr surrounds the question of whether he was an anti-Semite. Carr's critics point to his being champion of two anti-Semitic dictators, Hitler and Stalin, in succession, his opposition to Israel, and to most of Carr's opponents, such as Sir Geoffrey Elton, Leonard Schapiro, Sir Karl Popper, Bertram Wolfe, Richard Pipes, Adam Ulam, Leopold Labedz, Sir Isaiah Berlin, and Walter Laqueur, being Jewish. Carr's defenders, such as Jonathan Haslam, have argued against the charge of anti-Semitism, noting that Carr had many Jewish friends (including such erstwhile intellectual sparring partners such as Berlin and Namier), that his last wife Betty Behrens was Jewish and that his support for Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the Soviet Union in the 1940s–50s was in spite rather than because of anti-Semitism in those states.
History of Soviet Russia
After the war, Carr was a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and then Trinity College, where he published most of his popular works—A History of Soviet Russia and What Is History? He remained at Trinity College until his death. He was a tutor in Politics at Balliol College, Oxford from 1953 to 1955, when he became a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. In the 1950s, Carr was well known as an outspoken admirer of the Soviet Union. Carr's writings include his History of Soviet Russia (14 vol., 1950–78). During World War II, Carr was favourably impressed with what he regarded as the extraordinary heroic performance of the Soviet people, and towards the end of 1944 Carr decided to write a complete history of the Soviet Russia from 1917 comprising all aspects of social, political and economic history in order to explain how the Soviet Union withstood the German invasion. The resulting work was his 14 volume History of Soviet Russia, which took the story up to 1929.
Carr's friend and close associate, the British historian R. W. Davies, was to write that Carr belonged to the anti-Cold-War school of history, which regarded the Soviet Union as the major progressive force in the world, and the Cold War as a case of American aggression against the Soviet Union.:59 Carr criticized those Anglophone historians who, he felt, had unfairly judged the Soviet Union by the cultural norms of Britain and the United States. In 1960, Carr wrote that "much of what has been written in the English speaking countries during the last ten years about the Soviet Union" has been influenced by Western scholars' inability to understand the country.
Carr began his magnum opus by arguing that the 1917 October Revolution was a "proletarian revolution" forced on the Bolsheviks. Carr argued that "it was the masses who drove their hesitating and temporising leaders down the path of revolution."
In Carr's view, Soviet history went through three periods in the inter-war era and was personified by the change of leadership from Vladimir Lenin to Joseph Stalin. After an initial period of chaos, Carr wrote that the dissolution of the Russian Constituent Assembly in January 1918 was the last "tearing asunder of the veil of bourgeois constitutionalism", and that henceforward, the Bolsheviks would rule Russia their own way. Carr, like many others, argued that the emergence of Russia from a backward peasant economy to a leading industrial power was the most important event of the 20th century. The first part of a History of Soviet Russia comprised three volumes entitled The Bolshevik Revolution, published in 1950, 1952, and 1953, and traced Soviet history from 1917 to 1922. The second part was intended to comprise three volumes called The Struggle for Power, which was intended to cover 1922–28, but Carr instead decided to publish a single volume labelled The Interregnum that covered the events of 1923–24, and another four volumes entitled Socialism in One Country, which took the story up to 1926. The final volumes in the series were entitled The Foundations of the Planned Economy, which covered the years until 1929. Originally, Carr had planned to take the series up to Operation Barbarossa in 1941 and the Soviet victory of 1945, but his death in 1982 put an end to the project.
Carr argued that Soviet history went through three periods in the 1917–45 era. In the first phrase was the war communism era (1917–21), which saw much rationing, economic production focused into huge centres of manufacturing, critical services and supplies being sold at either set prices or for free, and to a large extent a return to a barter economy. Carr contended that the problems in the agrarian sector forced the abandonment of war communism in 1921, and its replacement by the New Economic Policy (NEP). During the same period saw what Carr called one of Lenin's "astonishing achievements", namely the gathering together of nearly all of the former territories of Imperial Russia (with the notable exceptions of Finland, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) under the banner of the Soviet Union. In the NEP period (1921–28), Carr maintained that the Soviet economy became a mixed capitalist-socialist one with peasants after fulfilling quotas to the state being allowed to sell their surplus on the open market, and industrialists being permitted to produce and sell agricultural and light industrial goods.
Carr contended that the post-Lenin succession struggle after 1924 was more about personal disputes than ideological quarrels. In Carr's opinion, "personalities rather than principles were at stake". Carr argued that the victory of Stalin over Leon Trotsky in the succession struggle was inevitable because Stalin was better suited to the new order emerging in the Soviet Union in the 1920s than Trotsky. Carr stated "Trotsky was a hero of the revolution. He fell when the heroic age was over." Carr argued that Stalin had stumbled into the doctrine of "Socialism in One Country" more by accident than by design in 1925, but argued that Stalin was swift to grasp how effective the doctrine was as a weapon to beat Trotsky with. Carr wrote
"It was easy, on the basis of the new doctrine, to depict Stalin as the true expositor of Bolshevism and Leninism and his opponents as the heirs of those who had resisted Lenin and denied the Bolshevik creed in the past. Unwittingly Stalin had forged for himself an instrument of enormous power. Once forged, he was quick to discover its strength, and wielded it with masterful skill and ruthlessness."
Beside reviewing the politics and economics of the 1920s, Carr also devoted considerable space to the Soviet constitution of 1922, the relationship between the Soviet Socialist Republics and Moscow, efforts to "revitalize" the soviets (councils), the development of the Red Army and the OGPU. Writing of the OGPU, Carr noted that since the Bolsheviks had eliminated all of their enemies outside of the Party by the mid-1920s: "The repressive powers of the OGPU were henceforth directed primarily against opposition in the party, which was the only effective form of opposition in the state." Reflecting his background as a diplomat and scholar on international relations, Carr provided detailed treatment of foreign affairs with a focus on both the Narkomindel and the Comintern. In particular, Carr examined the relationship between the Soviet Communist Party and the other Communist parties around the world, the Comintern's structure, the Soviet reaction to the Locarno Treaties, and the early efforts (ultimately successful in 1949) to promote a revolution in China.
The third phrase was the period of the Five-Year Plans beginning with the First Five-Year Plan in 1928, which saw the Soviet state promoting the growth of heavy industry, eliminating private enterprise, collectivising agriculture, and of quotas for industrial production being set in Moscow. In Carr's opinion, the changes wrought by the First Five Year Plan were a positive development.:60 Carr argued that the economic system that existed during the N.E.P. period was highly inefficient, and that any economic system based on planning by the state was superior to what Carr saw as the disorganized chaos of capitalism.:60 Carr accepted the Soviet claim that the so-called "kulaks" existed as a distinct class, that they were a negative social force, and as such, the "dekulakisation" campaign that saw at least 2 million alleged "kulaks" deported to the Gulag in 1930–32 was a necessary measure that improved the lives of the Soviet peasantry.:62–63 R.W. Davies, Carr's associate and co-writer on the History of Soviet Russia, expressed some doubts to Carr about whatever the "kulaks" actually existed, and thought the term was more an invention of Soviet propaganda than a reflection of the social conditions in the Soviet countryside.
Accompanying these social-economic changes were the changes in the leadership. Carr argued that Lenin saw himself as the leader of an elite band of revolutionaries who sought to give power to the people and wanted a world revolution. By contrast, Carr claimed that Stalin was a bureaucratic leader who concentrated power in his own hands, ruled in a ruthless fashion, carried a policy of "revolution from above", and by promoting a merger of Russian nationalism and Communism cared more for the interests of the Soviet Union than for the world Communist movement. However, Carr argued that Stalin's achievements in the making the Soviet Union a great industrial power by and large outweighed any of the actions for which he is commonly criticized. Carr claimed that Stalin played both the roles of dictator and emancipator simultaneously, and argued that this reflected less the man than the times and place in which he lived. Carr wrote that: "Stalin's personality, combined with the primitive and cruel traditions of the Russian bureaucracy, imparted to the revolution from above a particularly brutal quality." 
A book that was not part of the History of Soviet Russia series, though closely related due to common research in the same archives, was Carr's 1951 book German-Soviet Relations Between the Two World Wars, 1919–1939. In that book, Carr blamed British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939, accusing him of deliberately snubbing Stalin's offers of an alliance. As such, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was the only policy the Soviets could have followed in the summer of 1939. Carr argued that the British "guarantee" of Poland given on 31 March 1939 was a foolhardy move that indicated Chamberlain's preference for an alliance with Poland as opposed to an alliance with the Soviet Union. Carr argued that the Anglo-French delegation sent to travel on Moscow by ship in August 1939 to negotiate were unimpressive diplomats and their unwillingness and inability to pressure the Poles to grant to transit rights to the Red Army reflected a fundamental lack of interest in reaching an alliance with the Soviet Union. By contrast, Carr argued that the willingness of the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to come to Moscow anytime by plane with full powers to negotiate whatever was necessary to secure a German-Soviet alliance reflected the deep German interest in reaching an understanding with the Soviets in 1939. According to Carr, the "bastion" created by means of the Pact, "was and could only be, a line of defence against potential German attack." An important advantage (projected by Carr) was that "if Soviet Russia had eventually to fight Hitler, the Western Powers would already be involved."
In 1955, a major scandal that damaged Carr's reputation as a historian of the Soviet Union occurred when he wrote the introduction to Notes for a Journal, the supposed memoir of the former Soviet Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinov that was shortly thereafter exposed as a KGB forgery. The American historian Barry Rubin argued it can be easily established that Notes was an anti-Semitic forgery in that Litvinov was portrayed as a proud Jew whereas the real Litvinov did not see himself as Jewish at all, and more importantly the Notes showed Litvinov together with other Soviet officials of Jewish origin working behind the scenes for Jewish interests in the Soviet Union. Rubin also noted other improbabilities in Notes for a Journal such as having Litvinov meeting regularly with rabbis in order to further Jewish interests. Rubin argued that this portrayal of Litvinov reflected Soviet anti-Semitism, and that Carr was amiss in not recognizing Notes for a Journal as the anti-Semitic forgery it was.
The first volume of A History of Soviet Russia published in 1950 was criticized by some historians, most notably the British Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher (who was a close friend) as being too concerned with institutional development of the Soviet state, and for being impersonal and dry, capturing little of the tremendous emotions of the times. Likewise, Carr was criticized from both left and right for his downplaying of the importance of ideology for the Bolsheviks, and his argument that the Bolsheviks thought only in terms of Russia rather than the entire world. In a 1955 article, Deutscher argued that:
"Perhaps the main weakness of Mr Carr's conception is that he sees the Russian Revolution as virtually a national phenomenon only...he treats it as a historical process essentially national in character and self-sufficient within the national framework. He thinks in terms of statecraft and statecraft is national. His Lenin is a Russian super-Bismarck."
Despite his criticism, Deutscher ended his review by writing "It is Mr Carr's enduring and distinguished merit that he is the first genuine historian of the Soviet regime.":59 Echoing Deutscher's criticism, the American historian Bertram Wolfe contended in 1955 that:
"Mr Carr believes that the revolution was right for Russia. But he cannot quite make himself believe that in the matter of world revolution, this power-concentrated, dogmatic man [Lenin] was in deadly earnest."
It was often observed that Carr had little sympathy towards revolutionaries, presenting the pre-1917 Bolsheviks as somewhat comic and ridiculous figures. Walter Laqueur noted that Carr had a strong preference for Lenin the politician attempting to build a new order in Russia after 1917 vs. Lenin the revolutionary working to destroy the old order before 1917 The scope and scale of History of Soviet Russia was illustrated in a letter Carr wrote to Tamara Deutscher, where in one volume Carr wished to examine Soviet relations with all of the Western nations between 1926 and 1929, relations between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Western Communist parties; efforts to promote a "World Revolution"; the work and the "machinery" of the Comintern and the Profintern, Communist thinking on the "Negro Question" in the United States, and the history of Communist parties in China, Outer Mongolia, Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan, and the Dutch East Indies.:80
A recurring theme of Carr's writings on Soviet history was his hostility towards those who argued that Soviet history could have taken different courses from what it did. In a 1974 book review of the American historian Stephen F. Cohen's biography of Nikolai Bukharin published in the Times Literary Supplement, Carr lashed out against Cohen for advocating the thesis that Bukharin represented a better alternative to Stalin. Carr dismissed Cohen's argument that the NEP was a viable alternative to the First Five Year Plan, and contemptuously labelled Bukharin a weak-willed and a rather pathetic figure who was both destined and deserved to lose to Stalin in the post-Lenin succession struggle. Carr ended his review with the scornful remark that since the American left could produce nothing but "losers" like George McGovern, so it was natural that an American leftist like Cohen would sympathize with Bukharin, whom Carr likewise regarded as a great "loser" of history.
Carr's last book, 1982's The Twilight of the Comintern, though not officially a part of the History of Soviet Russia series, was regarded by Carr as the completion of the series. In this book, Carr examined the response of the Comintern to fascism in 1930–1935. Carr maintained that the Comintern was divided into two fractions in the early 1930s. One fraction headed by the Hungarian Communist Béla Kun preferred the policy of treating the non-communist left as "disguised fascists", whereas another fraction headed by the Bulgarian Communist Georgi Dimitrov supported a policy of building popular fronts with socialists and liberals against fascism. Carr argued that the adoption of the Popular Front policy in 1935 had been forced on Stalin by pressure from Communist parties abroad, especially the French Communist Party Carr contended that the 7th Congress of the Comintern in 1935 was essentially the end of the Comintern since it marked the abandonment of world revolution as a goal, and instead subordinated the cause of Communism and world revolution towards the goal of building popular fronts against fascism Another related book that Carr was unable to complete before his death, and was published posthumously in 1984, was The Comintern and the Spanish Civil War.
The History of Soviet Russia volumes met with a mixed reception. The Encyclopædia Britannica in 1970 described the History of Soviet Russia series as simply "magisterial". The British historian Chimen Abramsky praised Carr as the world's foremost historian of the Soviet Union who displayed an astonishing knowledge of the subject. The Canadian historian John Keep called the series "A towering scholarly monument; in its shadow the rest of us are but pygmies." Deutscher called A History of Soviet Russia "...a truly outstanding achievement". The left-wing British historian A. J. P. Taylor called A History of Soviet Russia the most fair and best series of books ever written on Soviet history. Taylor was later to call Carr "an Olympian among historians, a Goethe in range and spirit". The American journalist Harrison Salisbury called Carr "one of the half dozen greatest specialists in Soviet affairs and in Soviet-German relations". The British academic Michael Cox praised the History of Soviet Russia series as "...an amazing construction: almost pyramid-like...in its architectural audacity" The British historian John Barber argued that History of Soviet Russia series through a scrupulous and detailed survey of the evidence "transformed" the study of Soviet history in the West. The British historian Hugh Seton-Watson called Carr "an object of admiration and gratitude" for his work in Soviet studies The South African born British Marxist historian Hillel Ticktin praised Carr as an honest historian of the Soviet Union and accused all of his critics such as Norman Stone, Richard Pipes, and Leopold Labedz of being "Cold War" historians who betoken to McCarthyism criticized Carr for being "for being on the side of the people". Ticktin went to label Carr's critics "...an entirely unsavory collection, not unconnected with serving the needs of official British and American foreign policy" who were "...closely identified with a discredited right-wing politics...". In 1983, four American historians, namely Geoff Eley, W. Rosenberg, Moshe Lewin and Ronald Suny in a joint article in the London Review of Books wrote of the "grandeur" of Carr's work and his "extraordinary pioneering quality". The four went on to write:
"In the scope of his work Carr went where no one had gone before and where only a few have really gone since. He mapped the territory of Soviet history in the 1920s and delivered an agenda of questions which will be pursued for the rest of the 20th century...Carr's analysis is now an indispensable starting point for understanding the dynamics of Stalinism".
One of Carr's students, the British historian Jonathan Haslam, called Carr a victim of British "McCarthyism" who was unjustly punished for his willingness to defend and praise the Soviet Union. The British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote that the "...History of Soviet Russia constitutes, with Joseph Needham's Science and Civilisation in China, the most remarkable effort of single-handed historical scholarship undertaken in Britain within living memory". The American historian Peter Wiles called the History of Soviet Russia "one of the great historiographical enterprises of our day" and wrote of Carr's "immensely impressive" work The American Marxist historian Arno J. Mayer wrote that "...the History of Soviet Russia...established E.H. Carr not only as the towering giant among Western specialists of recent Russian history, but certainly also as the leading British historian of his generation". Most unusually for a book by a Western historian, A History of Soviet Russia met with warily favourable reviews by Soviet historians. Normally, any works by Western historians, no matter how favourable to Communism, met with hostile reviews in the Soviet Union, and there was even a brand of polemical literature by Soviet historians attacking so-called "bourgeois historians" under the xenophobic grounds that only Soviet historians were capable of understanding the Soviet past".
The History of Soviet Russia series were not translated into Russian and published in the Soviet Union until 1990. A Soviet journal commented in 1991 that Carr was "almost unknown to a broad Soviet readership", though all Soviet historians were aware of his work, and most of them had considerable respect for Carr, they had been unable to say so until Perestroika. Those Soviet historians who specialized in rebutting the "bourgeois falsifiers" as Western historians were so labelled in the Soviet Union attacked Carr for writing that Soviet countryside was in chaos after 1917, but praised Carr as one of the "few bourgeois authors" who told the "truth" about Soviet economic achievements. Through right up until glasnost period, Carr was considered a "bourgeois falsifier" in the Soviet Union, Carr was praised as a British historian who taken "certain steps" towards Marxism, and whose History of Soviet Russia was described as "fairly objective" and "one of the most fundamental works in bourgeois Sovietology". In a preface to the Soviet edition of The History of Soviet Russia in 1990, the Soviet historian Albert Nenarokov wrote in his lifetime Carr had been 'automatically been ranked with the falsifiers", but in fact The History of Soviet Russia was a "scrupulous, professionally conscientious work". Nenarokov called Carr a "honest, objective scholar, espousing liberal principles and attempting on the basis of an enormous documentary base to create a satisfactory picture of the epoch he was considering and those involved in it, to assist a sober and realistic perception of the USSR and a better understanding of the great social processes of the twentieth century". However, Nenarokov expressed some concern about Carr's use of Stalinist language such as calling Bukharin part of the "right deviation" in the Party without the use of the quotation marks. Nenarokov took the view that Carr had too narrowly reduced Soviet history after 1924 down to a choice of either Stalin or Trotsky, arguing that Bukharin was a better, more humane alternative to both Stalin and Trotsky.
The pro-Soviet slant in Carr's The History of Soviet Russia attracted some controversy. The American writer Max Eastman in a 1950 review of the first volume of A History of Soviet Russia called Carr as "a mild-quiet-hearted bourgeois with a vicarious taste for revolutionary violence" In 1951, the Austrian journalist Franz Borkenau wrote in the Der Monat newspaper:
"Human suffering he seems to say, is not a historical factor; Carr belongs to those very cold people who always believe they think and act with the iciest calculation and therefore fail to understand why they are mistaken in their calculations time and time again".
In a 1955 review in Commentary, Bertram Wolfe accused Carr of systemically taking on Lenin's point of view in History of Soviet Russia volumes and of being unwilling to consider other perspectives on Russian history. In 1962 the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper argued that Carr's identification with the "victors" of history meant that Carr saw Stalin as historically important, and that Carr had neither time nor sympathy for the millions of Stalin's victims. The Anglo-American historian Robert Conquest argued that Carr took the official reasons for the launching of the First Five Year Plan too seriously, and argued that the "crisis" of the late 1920s was more the result of Soviet misunderstanding of economics than an "objective" economic crisis forced on Stalin. Furthermore, Conquest maintained that Carr's opponents such as Leonard Schapiro, Adam Ulam, Bertram Wolfe, Robert C. Tucker and Richard Pipes had a far better understanding of Soviet history than did Carr. The Polish-born American historian Richard Pipes wrote that the essential questions of Soviet history were: "Who were the Bolsheviks, what did they want, why did some follow them and others resist? What was the intellectual and moral atmosphere in which all these events occurred?", and went on to note that Carr failed to pose these questions, let alone answer them. Pipes was later to compare Carr's single paragraph dismissal in the History of Soviet Russia of the 1921 famine as unimportant (because there were no sources for the death toll that Carr deemed trustworthy) with Holocaust denial. The Polish Kremlinologist Leopold Labedz criticized Carr for taking the claims of the Soviet government too seriously. Labedz wrote that:
"He [Carr] tended to confine himself to the penumbra of official formulations and of ideological formulas which always concealed, rather than revealed, real Soviet life".
Labedz argued that what he regarded as Carr's worship of kratos (power) led him to engage in an apologia for Stalin by ignoring facts that placed Stalin in an unfavourable light and by highlighting those facts that placed Stalin in a positive light. Labedz noted it only after 17 years after the first volume of the History of Soviet Russia series was published did Carr criticize Stalin in volume 8 of the series, albeit only once and in a veiled form. Labedz went on to argue that Carr's decision to end the History of Soviet Russia series at 1929 reflected not the lack of documentary material as Carr claimed, but rather an inability and unwillingness to confront the horrors of Stalin's Soviet Union. Labedz drew an unflattering comparison between Carr and Edward Gibbon Labedz argued that:
"To compare Carr's approach with Gibbon's is to register the contrast between his moral indifference and Gibbon's human concern, his blinkered pedantry and Gibbon's sovereign achievement in the sifting and validation of evidence." 
Labedz was very critical of Carr's handling of sources, arguing that Carr was too inclined to accept official Soviet documents at face value, and unwilling to admit to systematic falsification of the historical record under Stalin. Finally, Labedz took Carr to task over what Labedz regarded as his tendency to white-wash Soviet crimes "behind an abstract formula which often combines "progressive" stereotypes with the lexicon of Soviet terminology". The British historian Norman Stone argued that Carr was guilty of writing in a bland style meant to hide his pro-Soviet sympathies. Writing of a History of Soviet Russia in 1983, Stone commented that:
"Much of the book concerns economics, a subject on which Carr was hardly an expert. The lack of definitive point in the book...makes it dull and unrevealing. Like Carr himself it peters out...Carr's History is not a history of the Soviet Union, but effectively of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Even then, much of it is the kind of unreconstructed Stalinist version that could not now see the light of day in Russia itself...I am nearly tempted to exclaim that no more useless set of volumes has ever masqueraded as a classic. Carr's real talent lay in mathematics...From the mathematical spirit he took a quality not so much of abstraction as of autism which was carried over into his historical work. The result is a trail of devastation."
Stone later wrote about Carr in 2004 that:
"Tocqueville says somewhere that if you approve of dictatorship for a people, it means you despise the people. Carr did-he said at the end of his life that all those dead peasants meant progress. As Orwell said, it's all very well saying you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs, but where's the omelette?"
The American historian Walter Laqueur argued that the History of Soviet Russia volumes were a dubious historical source that for the most part excluded mention of the more unpleasant aspects of Soviet life, reflecting Carr's pro-Soviet tendencies. Laqueur commented that Carr called Stalin a ruthless tyrant in his 1979 book The Russian Revolution, and noted that he almost totally refrained from expressing any criticism of Stalin in all 14 volumes of the History of Soviet Russia series. Likewise, Laqueur contended that Carr excelled at irony, and that writing panegyrics to the Soviet Union was not his forte. In Laqueur's opinion, if Carr is to be remembered by future generations, it will be for books like Dostoyevsky, The Romantic Exiles and Bakunin, and his History of Soviet Russia will besmirch the fine reputation created by those books. A major source of criticism of a History of Soviet Russia was Carr's decision to ignore the Russian Civil War under the grounds it was unimportant, and likewise to his devoting only a few lines to the Kronstadt mutiny of 1921 since Carr argued it only a minor event. Laqueur commented in his opinion that Carr's ignoring the Russian Civil War while paying an inordinate amount of attention to such subjects as the relations between the Swedish Communist Party and the Soviet Communist Party and Soviet diplomatic relations with Outer Mongolia in the 1920s left the History of Soviet Russia very unbalanced.
What Is History?
Carr is also famous today for his work of historiography, What Is History? (1961), a book based upon his series of G. M. Trevelyan lectures, delivered at the University of Cambridge between January–March 1961. In this work, Carr argued that he was presenting a middle-of-the-road position between the empirical view of history and R. G. Collingwood's idealism. Carr rejected the empirical view of the historian's work being an accretion of "facts" that he or she has at their disposal as nonsense. Carr claimed:
"The belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate".
Carr maintained that there is such a vast quantity of information, at least about post-Dark Ages times, that the historian always chooses the "facts" he or she decides to make use of. In Carr's famous example, he claimed that millions had crossed the Rubicon, but only Julius Caesar's crossing in 49 BC is declared noteworthy by historians. Carr divided facts into two categories, "facts of the past", that is historical information that historians deem unimportant, and "historical facts", information that the historians have decided is important. Carr contended that historians quite arbitrarily determine which of the "facts of the past" to turn into "historical facts" according to their own biases and agendas. Carr stated that:
"Study the historian before you begin to study the facts. This is, after all, not very abstruse. It is what is already done by the intelligent undergraduate who, when recommended to read a work by that great scholar Jones of St. Jude's, goes round to a friend at St. Jude's to ask what sort of chap Jones is, and what bees he has in his bonnet. When you read a work of history, always listen out for the buzzing. If you can detect none, either you are tone deaf or your historian is a dull dog. The facts are really not at all like fish on the fishmonger's slab. They are like fish swimming about in a vast and sometimes inaccessible ocean; and what the historian catches will depend partly on chance, but mainly on what part of the ocean he chooses to fish in and what tackle he chooses to use – these two factors being, of course, determined by the kind of fish he wants to catch. By and large, the historian will get the kind of facts he wants. History means interpretation. Indeed, if, standing Sir George Clark on his head, I were to call history "a hard core of interpretation surrounded by a pulp of disputable facts", my statement would, no doubt, be one-sided and misleading, but no more so, I venture to think, than the original dictum"
For this reason, Carr argued that Leopold von Ranke's famous dictum wie es eigentlich gewesen (show what actually happened) was wrong because it presumed that the "facts" influenced what the historian wrote, rather than the historian choosing what "facts of the past" he or she intended to turn into "historical facts". At the same time, Carr argued that the study of the facts may lead the historian to change his or her views. In this way, Carr argued that history was "an unending dialogue between the past and present".
Carr used as an example of how he believed that "facts of the past" were transformed into the "facts of history" an obscure riot that took place in Wales in 1850 that saw a gingerbread seller beaten to death. Carr argued that this incident had been totally ignored by historians until the 1950s when George Kitson Clark mentioned it in one of his books. Since Kitson Clark, Carr claimed that several other historians have cited the same riot for what it revealed about Victorian Britain, leading Carr to assert that the riot and the murder of the gingerbread seller was in the progress of going from a "fact of the past" to a "fact of history" that in the future will be regularly cited by historians. Another example Carr used of his theory was the publication in 1932 of the papers of the former German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann by his secretary Bernhard. Carr noted when Stresemann died in 1929, he left behind 300 boxes of papers relating to his time in office, and in 1932 Bernhard published three volumes of Stresemann's papers under the title Stresemanns Vermächtnis. Carr noted that because of the Dawes Plan, the Locarno Treaties (for which Stresemann was a co-winner of the Nobel peace prize), and the Young Plan, Bernhard devoted most of the papers in Stresemanns Vermächtnis to Stresemann's work with relations to Britain, France and the United States. Carr noted that the documents of the Auswärtiges Amt and Stresemann's own papers show that Stresemann was far more concerned with relations with the Soviet Union instead of the Western powers, and that Bernhard had edited the selection in Stresemanns Vermächtnis to focus more on Stresemann's Nobel Peace Prize-winning successes and to make him seem more like an apostle of peace than what he really was (one of Stresemann's major interests was in partitioning Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union). Moreover, Carr noted that when an English translation of Stresemanns Vermächtnis was published in 1935, the translator abbreviated one-third of the German original to focus more on those aspects of Stresemann's diplomacy that were of primary interest to British readers, which had the effect of making it seem that Stesemann was almost exclusively concerned with relations with the Western powers and had little time for relations with the Soviet Union. Carr commented that if it were only the English translation of Stresemanns Vermächtnis that had survived World War II, then historians would have been seriously misled about what Stresemann had been up to as Foreign Minister. Finally Carr argued that in the conversations between Stresemann and the Soviet Foreign Commissar Georgy Chicherin, Stresemann does most of the talking and says all of the intelligent and original things, leading Carr to suggest that Stresemann himself had edited the papers to place himself in the best possible light. Carr used Stresemanns Vermächtnis to argue for the subjective nature of the documents historians used, which he then used to support his attacks against the idea of the work of the historians being purely that of a totally objective observer who "lets the facts speak for themselves".
Likewise, Carr charged that historians are always influenced by the present when writing about the past. As an example, he used the changing viewpoints about the German past expressed by the German historian Friedrich Meinecke during the Imperial, Weimar, Nazi and post-war periods to support his contention. The British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, one of Carr's leading critics, summarised Carr's argument as:
"George Grote, the 19th-century historian of Greece, was an enlightened radical banker; therefore, his picture of Periclean Athens is merely an allegory of 19th century England as seen by an enlightened banker. Mommsen's History of Rome is similarly dismissed as a product and illustration of pre-Bismarckian Germany. Sir Lewis Namier's choice of subject and treatment of it simply show the predictable prejudices of a Polish conservative".
In general, Carr held to a deterministic outlook in history. In Carr's opinion, all that happens in the world had a cause, and events could not happened differently unless there was a different cause. In Carr's example, if one's friend Smith suddenly starts acting out of character one day, then it must be understood that there is a reason for the strange behaviour, and that if that reason did not exist, than Smith would be acting normally. Carr criticised counter-factual history as a "parlour game" played by the "losers" in history. Carr contended that those who engaged in counter-factual speculations about Russian history, such as if Count Pyotr Stolypin's land reforms were given enough time, would the Russian Revolution have been prevented, were those who were uncomfortable about the Bolsheviks being the "winners" of Russian history and their opponents were not. Likewise, Carr asserted those who stress the importance of "accidents" as a central causal agent in history were the "losers" of history, who wished to play explain away their defeats as the workings of chance and fate. In the same way, Carr argued that historians must concern themselves with the "winners" of history. In Carr's example, it is those who score centuries in cricket matches who are recorded, not those who are dismissed for ducks, and in the same way, Carr maintained that a preoccupation with the "losers" would be the equivalent of someone only listing the losers of cricket games. Carr dismissed the free will arguments made by Sir Karl Popper and Sir Isaiah Berlin as Cold War propaganda meant to discredit communism. In a similar way, Carr took a hostile view of those historians who stress the workings of chance and contingency in the workings of history. In Carr's view, such historians did not understand their craft very well, or were in some way identified with the "losers" of history.
In the same way, Carr argued that no individual is truly free of the social environment in which they live, but contended that within those limitations, there was room, albeit very narrow room for people to make decisions that affect history. Carr made a division between those who, like Vladimir Lenin and Oliver Cromwell, helped to shape the social forces that carried them to historical greatness and those who, like Otto von Bismarck and Napoleon, rode on the back of social forces over which they had little or no control. Though Carr was willing to grant individuals a role in history, he argued that those who focus exclusively on individuals in a Great man theory of history were doing a profound disservice to the past. As an example, Carr complained of those historians who explained the Russian Revolution solely as the result of the "stupidity" of the Emperor Nicholas II (which Carr regarded as a factor but only of lesser importance) rather than the working of a great social forces.
Carr claimed that when examining causation in history, historians should seek to find "rational" causes of historical occurrences, that is causes that can be generalized across time to explain other occurrences in other times and places. For Carr, historical "accidents" can not be generalized, and thus not worth the historian's time. Carr illustrated his theory by telling a story of a man named Robinson who went out to buy some cigarettes one night, and was killed by an automobile with defective brakes driven by a drunk driver named Jones on a sharp turn of the road. Carr argued one could contend that the "real" reasons for the accident that killed Robinson might be the defective brakes or the sharp turn of the road or the inebriated state of Jones, but that to argue that it was Robinson's wish to buy cigarettes was the cause of his death, that while a factor was not the "real" cause of his death. As such, Carr argued that those who were seeking to prevent a repeat of Robinson's death would do well to pass laws regulating drunk driving, straightening the sharp turn of the road and the quality of automobile brakes, but would be wasting their time passing a law forbidding people to take a walk to buy cigarettes. In a not too subtle dig at critics of determinism like Sir Karl Popper and Sir Isaiah Berlin, Carr spoke of the inquiry into Robinson's death being interrupted by two "distinguished gentlemen" who maintained quite vehemently that it was Robinson's wish to buy cigarettes that caused his death. In the same way, Carr argued that historians needed to find the "real" causes of historical events by finding the general trend which could inspire a better understanding of the present than by focusing on the role of the accidental and incidental.
As an example of his attack on the role of accidents in history, Carr mocked the hypothesis of "Cleopatra's nose" (Pascal's thought that, but for the magnetism exerted by the nose of Cleopatra on Mark Anthony there would have been no affair between the two, and hence the Second Triumvirate would not have broken up, and therefore the Roman Republic would have continued). Carr sarcastically commented that the male attraction to female beauty can hardly be considered an accident at all, and is rather one of the most common cases of cause and effect in the world. Other examples of "Cleopatra's Nose" type of history cited by Carr were the claim by Edward Gibbon if the Turkish sultan Bayezid I did not suffer from gout, he would have conquered Central Europe, Winston Churchill's statement if King Alexander had not died of a monkey bite, the Greco-Turkish War would have been avoided, and Leon Trotsky's remark that if he not contracted a cold while duck hunting, he would not have missed a crucial Politburo meeting in 1923. Rather than accidents, Carr asserted history was a series of causal chains interacting with each other. Carr contemptuously compared those like Winston Churchill who in his book The World Crisis claimed that the death of King Alexander from a monkey bite caused the Greek-Turkish war to those who would claim that the "real" cause of Robinson's death was due to his desire to buy cigarettes. Carr argued that the claim that history was a series of "accidents" was merely an expression of the pessimism, which Carr claimed was the dominant mood in Britain in 1961 due to the decline of the British Empire.
In Carr's opinion, historical works that serve to broaden society's understanding of the past via generalisations are more "right" and "socially acceptable" than works that do not. Citing the Dutch historian Pieter Geyl, Carr argued that as the values of society changes, so do the values of historical works. Carr used Geyl's 1946 book Napoleon: voor en tegen in de Franse geschiedschrijving (Napoleon For and Against) about how different French historians have viewed Napoleon in different periods to make a case that historians are always influenced by the society and times they live in. Carr argued that as society continues to progress in the 20th century, historians must change the values that they apply in writing their works to reflect the work of progress. Carr argued during his lectures that Karl Marx had developed a schema for understanding past, present and the future that reflected the proper and dual role of the historian both to analyse the past and provide a call for action for the present in order to create a better future for humanity.
Carr emphatically contended that history was a social science, not an art. Carr argued that history should be considered a social science because historians like scientists seek generalizations that helped to broaden the understanding of one's subject. Carr used the example of the word revolution, arguing that if the word did not have a specific meaning that it would make no sense for historians to write of revolutions, even though every revolution that occurred in history was in its own way unique. Moreover, Carr claimed that historical generalisations were often related to lessons to be learned from other historical occurrences. Since in Carr's view, lessons can be sought and learned in history, then history was more like a science than any art. Though Carr conceded that historians can not predict exact events in the future, he argued that historical generalisations can supply information useful to understanding both the present and the future. Carr argued that since scientists are not purely neutral observers, but have a reciprocal relationship with the objects under their study just like historians, that this supported identifying history with the sciences rather than the arts. Likewise, Carr contended that history, like science, has no moral judgments, which in his opinion, supports the identification of history as a science.
Carr was well known for his assertions in What Is History? in denying moral judgements in history. Carr argued that it was ahistorical for the historian to judge people in different times according to the moral values of his or her time. Carr argued that individuals should be judged only in terms of the values of their time and place, not by the values of the historian's time and/or place. In Carr's opinion, historians should not act as judges. Carr quoted Thomas Carlyle's remark on the British reaction to the French Revolution: "Exaggeration abounds, execration, wailing and on the whole darkness"...", and complained that exactly the same could be said about too much of Western commentary and writing on the Russian Revolution. Likewise, Carr quoted Carlyle on the Reign of Terror as a way of confronting Western complaints about Soviet terror:
"Horrible in lands that had known equal justice-not so unnatural in lands that had never known it".
Thus, Carr argued that within the context of the Soviet Union, Stalin was a force for the good. In a 1979 essay, Carr argued about Stalin that
"He revived and outdid the worst brutalities of the earlier Tsars; and his record excited revulsion in later generations of historians. Yet his achievement in borrowing from the West, in forcing on primitive Russia the material foundations of modern civilisation, and in giving Russia a place among the European powers, obliged them to concede, however reluctantly his title to greatness. Stalin was the most ruthless despot Russia had known since Peter, and also a great westerniser".
Though Carr made it clear that he preferred that historians refrain from expressing moral opinions, he did argue that if the historian should find it necessary then such views should be best be restricted to institutions rather than individuals. Carr argued that such an approach was better because the focus on individuals served to provide a collective alibi for societies. Carr used as examples those in United Kingdom who blamed appeasement solely upon Neville Chamberlain, those Germans who argued that Nazi-era crimes were the work of Adolf Hitler alone or those in the United States who blamed McCarthyism exclusively upon Senator Joseph McCarthy. In Carr's opinion, historians should reject concepts like good and Evil when making judgements about events and people. Instead, Carr preferred the terms progressive or reactionary as the terms for value judgements. In Carr's opinion, if a historical event such as the collectivisation of Soviet agriculture in the early 1930s led to the growth of the Soviet heavy industry and the achievement of the goals of the First Five Year Plan, then the collectivisation must be considered a progressive development in history, and hence all of the sufferings and millions of deaths caused by collectivisation, the "dekulakisation" campaign and the Holodomor were justified by the growth of Soviet heavy industry. Likewise, Carr argued that the suffering of Chinese workers in the treaty ports and in the mines of South Africa in the late 19th-early 20th centuries was terrible, but must be considered a progressive development as it helped to push China towards the Communist revolution. Carr argued that China was much better off under the leadership of Mao Zedong than it was under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek, and hence all of the developments that led to the fall of Chiang's regime in 1949 and the rise to power of Mao must considered progressive. Finally, Carr argued that historians can be "objective" if they are capable of moving beyond their narrow view of the situation both in the past and in the present and write historical works that helped to contribute to progress of society. At the end of his lectures, Carr criticized a number of conservative/liberal historians and philosophers such as Hugh Trevor-Roper, Sir Karl Popper, Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier and Michael Oakeshott, and argued that "progress" in the world was against them. Carr ended his book with the predication that "progress" would sweep away everything that Popper, Morison, Namier, Trever-Roper and Oakeshott believed in the 20th century just the same way that "progress" swept away the Catholic Church's opposition to Galileo Galilei's astronomical theories in the 17th century. Elaborating on the theme of "progress" inevitably sweeping away the old order of things in the world, in a 1970 article entitled "Marxism and History", Carr argued that with the exception of the Mexican Revolution, every revolution in the last sixty-odd years had been led by Marxists. The other revolutions Carr counted were the revolutions in Cuba, China, Russia, and a half-revolution in Vietnam (presumably a reference to the then on-going Vietnam War). This together with what Carr saw as the miserable condition of the Third World, which comprised most of the world led Carr to argue that Marxism had the greatest appeal in the Third World, and was the most likely wave of the future. Carr expanded on this thesis of "progress" being an unstoppable force in September 1978 when he stated:
"I think we have to consider seriously the hypothesis that the world revolution of which [the Bolshevik revolution] was the first stage, and which will complete the downfall of capitalism, will prove to be the revolt of the colonial peoples against capitalism in the guise of imperialism".
In his notes for a second edition of What Is History?, Carr remarked on recent trends in historiography. Carr wrote about the rise of social history that:
"Since the First World War the impact of the materialist conception of history on historical writings has been very strong. Indeed, one might say that all serious historical work done in this period has been moulded by its influence. The symptom of this change has been the replacement, in general esteem, of battles, diplomatic manoeuvres, constitutional arguments and political intrigues as the main topics of history-'political history' in the broad sense-by the study of economic factors, of social conditions, of statistics of population, of the rise and fall of classes. The increasing popularity of sociology has been another feature of the same development; the attempt has sometimes been made to treat history as a branch of sociology."
About the rise of social history as a subject at the expense of political history, Carr wrote:
"Social history is the bedrock. To study the bedrock alone is not enough; and becomes tedious; perhaps this is what happened to Annales. But you can't dispense with it".
Through Carr himself had insisted that history was a social science, he regretted the decline of history as a discipline relative to the other social sciences, which he saw as a part of a conservative trend. Carr wrote:
"History is preoccupied with fundamental processes of change. If you are allergic to these processes, you abandon history and take cover in the social sciences. Today anthropology, sociology, etc., flourish. History is sick. But then our society too is sick".
Carr deplored the rise of Structuralism. Carr wrote there was the structuralist approach, which Carr called a "horizontal" way of understanding history that "analyses a society in terms of the functional or structural inter-relation of its parts". Against it, there was what Carr called the "vertical" approach that "analyses it [society] in terms of where it has come from and where it is going". Though Carr was willing to allow that a structural approach had some advantages, he wrote:
"But it makes a lot of difference which attracts [the historian's] main emphasis and concern. This depends partly, no doubt, on his temperament, but largely on the environment in which he works. We live in a society which thinks of change chiefly as change for the worse, dreads it and prefers the "horizontal" view which calls only for minor adjustments".
Repeating his attack on the empirical approach to history, Carr claimed that those historians who claimed to be strict empiricists like Captain Stephen Roskill who took a just-the-facts approach would resemble a character named Funes in a short story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges who never forgot anything he had seen or heard, so his memory was a "garbage heap" Thus, Funes was "not very capable of thought" because "to think is forget differences, to generalise, to make abstractions" In his introduction to the second edition of What Is History? written shortly before his death in 1982, which was all that Carr had finished of the second edition, Carr proclaimed his belief that the western world was in a state of despair, writing:
"The Cold War has resumed with redoubled intensity, bringing with it the threat of nuclear extinction. The delayed economic crisis has set in with a vengeance, ravaging the industrial countries and spreading the cancer of unemployment throughout the Western world [Carr is referring to the recession of the early 1980s here.]. Scarcely a country is now free from the antagonism of violence and terrorism. The revolt of the oil-producing states of the Middle East has brought a significant shift in power to the disadvantage of the Western industrial nations [a reference on the part of Carr to the Arab oil shock of 1973–74 and to the Iranian oil shock of 1979]. The "third world" has been transformed from a passive into a positive and disturbing factor in world affairs. In these conditions any expression of optimism has come to seem absurd".
Carr went on to declare his belief that the world was in fact getting better and wrote that it was only the West in decline, not the world, writing that:
"My conclusion is that the current wave of scepticism and despair, which looks ahead to nothing but destruction and decay, and dismisses as absurd any belief in progress or any prospect of a further advance by the human race, is a form of elitism-the product of elite social groups whose security and whose privileges have been most conspicuously eroded by the crisis, and of elite countries whose once undisputed domination over the rest of the world has been shattered".
The claims that Carr made about the nature of historical work in What Is History? proved be very controversial, and inspired Sir Geoffrey Elton to write his 1967 book The Practice of History in response, defending traditional historical methods. Elton criticized Carr for his "whimsical" distinction between the "historical facts" and the "facts of the past", arguing that it reflected "...an extraordinarily arrogant attitude both to the past and to the place of the historian studying it". Though Elton praised Carr for rejecting the role of "accidents" in history, he maintained that Carr's philosophy of history was merely an attempt to provide a secular version of the mediaeval view of history as the working of God's master plan with "Progress" playing the part of God. In response to Elton's book, Carr wrote a letter to him that began with a warning about suing him for libel. However, the libel threat was just a practical joke as Carr wrote "Nobody before has accused me of having been an undergraduate at Oxford, and my solicitors might, I fear take a low view of this". Carr was referring here to the sentence in The Practice of History where Elton had written that Carr's knowledge of ancient Greece were based on "the fifty-year memories of an Oxford undergraduate" (Carr had of course attended Cambridge).
The British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper argued that Carr's dismissal of the "might-have-beens of history" reflected a fundamental lack of interest in examining historical causation. Trevor-Roper asserted that examining possible alternative outcomes of history was far from being a "parlour-game" was rather an essential part of the historians' work. Trevor-Roper argued that only by considering all possible outcomes of a given historical situation could a historian properly understand the period under study. In Trevor-Roper's opinion, only by looking at all possible outcomes and all sides could a historian properly understand history, and those historians who adopted Carr's perspective of only seeking to understand the "winners" of history, and treating the outcome of a particular set of events as the only possible outcome were "bad historians". In a review in 1963 in Historische Zeitschrift, Andreas Hillgruber wrote favourably of Carr's geistvoll-ironischer (ironically spirited) criticism of conservative, liberal and positivist historians A more positive assessment of What Is History? came from the British philosopher W.H. Walsh who in a 1963 review endorsed Carr's theory of "facts of history" and "facts of the past", writing that it is not a "fact of history" he had toast for breakfast today. Walsh went on to write that Carr was correct that historians did not stand above history, and were instead products of their own places and times, which in turn decided what "facts of the past" they determined into "facts of history".
The British historian Richard J. Evans credited What Is History? with causing a revolution in British historiography in the 1960s. The Australian historian Keith Windschuttle, a critic of Carr noted regretfully that What Is History? has proved to be one of the most influential books ever written about historiography, and that there were very few historians working in the English language since the 1960s who had not read What Is History? Against Carr's theory of "facts of the past" and "facts of history", Winschuttle wrote:
"Another contender for historical truth might be the proposition: 'The United States defeated Japan in the Second World War.' Now this is something that we know not simply from the historical record. It is no mere interpretation derived from an examination of the documents of surrender signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbour in 1945. It is not an interpretation that future generations might overturn after they have scoured the nuances of the texts for so far undiscerned ideological meaning. The fact that the United States defeated Japan has shaped the very world that all of us have inhabited since 1945. The relations between states, the world economy, the employment market of every industrial country are all consequences in various ways of this historical truth. The world itself confirms the proposition.
Of course, E.H. Carr might argue the defeat of Japan is a mere 'fact' and the really interesting discussions are the interpretations historians make and the conclusions they draw from facts of this kind. Well, one man's fact can be another man's conclusion. For someone writing a narrative history of the war in the Pacific, the defeat of Japan is a very big conclusion indeed. There is no event that is inherently confined to the status of a mere fact, that is, a building block of a much larger conclusion. Every fact can itself be a conclusion and every conclusion can itself be a fact in someone else's explanation."
Contribution to the theory of international relations
Carr contributed to the foundation of what is now known as classical realism in International relations theory. Through study of history (work of Thucydides and Machiavelli) and reflection and deep epistemological disagreement with Idealism, the dominant International relations theory between the World Wars, he came up with realism. In his book The Twenty Years' Crisis, Carr defined three dichotomies of realism and utopianism (Idealism), derived from Machiavellian realism:
In the first place, history is a sequence of cause and effect, whose course can be analysed and understood by intellectual effort, but not (as the utopians believe) directed by " imagination ". Secondly; theory does not (as the utopians assume) create practice, but practice theory. In Machiavelli's words, " good counsels, whence so ever they come, are born of the wisdom of the prince, and not the wisdom of the prince from good counsels ". Thirdly, politics are not (as the utopians pretend) a function of ethics, but ethics of politics. Men " are kept honest by constraint ". Machiavelli recognised the importance of morality, but thought that there could be no effective morality where there was no effective authority. Morality is the product of power.[Carr, 1939]
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- Review of The Conditions of Peace pages 164–167 from The American Economic Review, Volume. 34, Issue # 1 March 1944.
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