William Henry Chamberlin

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William Henry Chamberlin
William-Henry-Chamberlin portrait.jpg
Born(1897-02-17)February 17, 1897
Brooklyn, New York
DiedSeptember 12, 1969(1969-09-12) (aged 72)
  • Author
  • Journalist

William Henry Chamberlin (February 17, 1897 – September 12, 1969) was an American historian and journalist. He was the author of several books about the Cold War, communism and US foreign policy, including The Russian Revolution 1917-1921 (1935), which was written in Russia between 1922 and 1934 while he was the Moscow correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor.

He had communist sympathies until he lived in the Soviet Union. Then, he gradually turned anticommunist. He predicted that intervention in World War II would help communism in Europe and in Asia, and so was a non-interventionist.

Early life and education[edit]

Chamberlin was born in Brooklyn and educated in Pennsylvania schools and later at Haverford College. At 25, he moved to Greenwich Village and was deeply affected by the cultural bohemianism and Bolshevik politics there. He worked for Heywood Broun, the book editor of the New York Tribune. He also published under the pseudonym of A.C. Freeman and was a socialist pacifist who supported communism in the Soviet Union.[1]

Soviet sympathizer[edit]

Chamberlin arrived in the Soviet Union as a young man and soon found work with the Christian Science Monitor for which he would work until 1940. He also acted as Moscow correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. He was initially a Marxist and a sympathizer with the communist revolution. During his stay, he changed to being a critic. His first book, Soviet Russia, published in 1930, detailed the policies of the New Economic Policy and was, on the whole, supportive of the changes brought by the Russian Revolution.

However, even then, Chamberlin had his doubts. Toward the end of his stay, he became convinced of the errors of Communist policy. He met his Russian-born wife, Sonya, in the US, where she and her family had immigrated, visited the Ukraine and the North Caucasus in 1932 and 1933. They witnessed the Holodomor famines, produced by forced collectivization.[1]

Turning to anticommunism[edit]

After leaving the Soviet Union, Chamberlin went to Germany and his experiences with Nazism further convinced him of the dangers of collectivism and absolutism in general. He became more convinced of the importance of individual rights and of the value of the US Bill of Rights. He was posted by the Monitor to East Asia, and he wrote Japan Over Asia based on what he learned there about Japanese militarism. He was transferred to France.[1]

After returning to the US, Chamberlin lived in Washington, D.C., and then in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Much of his later work was aimed at criticizing communism, socialism, and other forms of collectivism. He continued to write both scholarly books and more popular articles. His The Confessions of an Individualist was an autobiography published in 1940, shortly before his collaboration with Russian Review, which was to last until his death from a stroke 28 years later.[1]

Chamberlin believed that the British Empire and the United States should have stayed out of World War II to prevent communism from spreading in either Europe or Asia, with Germany and Japan as valuable barriers.



  1. ^ a b c d Mohrenschild, D. von, "William Henry Chamberlin 1897-1969" [obituary] Russian Review, Vol. 29, No. 1 (January, 1970), pp. 1–5