Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe

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The Right Honourable
The Viscount Radcliffe
Lord of Appeal in Ordinary
In office
Personal details
Born 30 March 1899
Llanychan, Denbighshire, Wales
Died 1 April 1977
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Hon. Antonia Mary Roby Benson
Alma mater University of Oxford

Cyril John Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe GBE PC QC (30 March 1899 – 1 April 1977) was a British lawyer and Law Lord best known for his role in the partition of British India. He served as the inaugural Chancellor of the University of Warwick from its foundation in 1965 to 1977.

Background, education and early career[edit]

Radcliffe was born in Llanychan, Denbighshire, Wales. He was conscripted in World War I but his poor eyesight limited the options for service so he was allocated to the Labour Corps. He attended Oxford University, was elected to a Fellowship at All Souls College, and was called to the bar. His meteoric legal rise that followed was interrupted by World War II. Radcliffe joined the Ministry of Information becoming its Director-General by 1941, where he worked closely with the Minister Brendan Bracken. In 1944 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE).[citation needed]

Indian Boundary Committees[edit]

Radcliffe was given the chairmanship of the two boundary committees set up with the passing of the Indian Independence Act. He was faced with the daunting task of drawing the borders for the new nations of Pakistan and India in a way that would leave as many Hindus and Sikhs in India and Muslims in Pakistan as possible. Radcliffe submitted his partition map on 9 August 1947, which split Punjab and Bengal almost in half. The new boundaries were formally announced on 14 August 1947—the day of Pakistan's independence and the day before India became independent.

Radcliffe's efforts saw some 14 million people—roughly seven million from each side—flee across the border when they discovered the new boundaries left them in the "wrong" country. Some 500,000 people died in the violence that ensued after independence, and millions more were injured. After seeing the mayhem occurring on both sides of the boundary, Radcliffe refused his salary of 40,000 rupees (then 3,000 pounds). He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1948.

The poet W. H. Auden referred to Radcliffe's role in the partition of India and Pakistan in his 1966 poem "Partition".[1]

Later career[edit]

In 1949 Radcliffe was sworn of the Privy Council, made a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary (law lord) and created a life peer as Baron Radcliffe, of Werneth in the County of Lancaster.[2] Unusually, he had not previously been a judge. In the 1940s and 1950s he chaired a string of public enquiries in addition to his legal duties and continued to hold numerous trusteeships, governorships and chairmanships right up until his death. He chaired the Committee of Enquiry into the Future of the British Film Institute (1948), whose recommendations led to the modernisation of the BFI in the post-war period. From 1957 he was chairman of the Radcliffe Committee, called to enquire into the working of the monetary and credit system. The committee published a report known as the Radcliffe report which suggested reforms on how monetary policy is run. He was also a frequent public speaker and wrote numerous books: he gave the BBC Reith Lecture in 1951 - a series of seven broadcasts titled Power and the State which examined the features of democratic society, and considered the problematic notions of power and authority. He also presented the Oxford University Romanes Lecture in 1963 on Mountstuart Elphinstone.[3] In 1962 he was made a hereditary peer as Viscount Radcliffe, of Hampton Lucy in the County of Warwick.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Lord Radcliffe married the Honourable Antonia Mary Roby, daughter of Godfrey Benson, 1st Baron Charnwood and former wife of John Tennant, in 1939. He died in April 1977, aged 78. He had no issue and the viscountcy of Radcliffe became extinct on his death.

In 2006, two sets of Chancery barristers' chambers in Lincoln's Inn merged and adopted the name "Radcliffe Chambers" in his honour.[5]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
New university
Chancellor of the University of Warwick
Succeeded by
The Lord Scarman
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Radcliffe