Edward Hallett Carr 


E H Carr

E H Carr

E.H. Carr, a Historian and Diplomat who is most recognised for his 14 volume History of Soviet and Russia and the book What is History? which consists of his lectures and essays.

Carr was educated in London at the Merchant Taylors’ school and then won an entrance scholarship to Trinity College Cambridge where he read classics in 1911. In 1936 Carr resigned from the Foreign Office in order to begin an academic career. The same year he became the Woodrow Wilson Professor of International Politics at the University college of Wales, Aberystwyth.  From 1953 to 1955, He became a Tutor in politics at Balliol college, Oxford and in 1955 became a Fellow of Trinity college, Cambridge and by 1966 an honorary fellow at Balliol college, Oxford. 

Education and Life Events

Due to previous illness, Carr was deemed unsuitable to fight in the war and was recruited as a temporary clerk at the Foreign Office. Carr worked at the Foreign Office from 1916 to 1936 and rose to first secretary. He served at the Paris Peace Conference, his efforts, led him to be awarded a CBE in 1920.  Carr was transferred back to London in 1922 and in 1929 began to review and write about Russian industrialisation and German affairs.  In the 1920s, Carr worked at the British Embassy in Riga. Duringhis time in Riga , Carr established a deep interest in Russian culture which led to him producing a series of biographical studies, including: Dostoevsky (1931), Karl Marx (1934), and Michael Bakunin (1937).   In the early 1930s, Carr became recognised as The Times Literary Supplement's Soviet expert, which was a position he held until his death in 1982.

Throughout the majority of the Second World War Carr was an editorial writer. In 1940 Carr joined The Times as a writer of Foreign affairs. During this time, he made a dramatic impact on public opinion, particularly with the publication of the work The Two Scourges, which was about war and unemployment.[1] Carr’s increasing support for the Soviets in eastern Europe and Greece nearing the end of the Second World War were supported by sometimes misleading and false evidence. Carr used the The Times as a platform to put pressure on Churchill to use the policy of accommodation with the Soviet Union, which subsequently angered Churchill and The Times establishment.

Noted Works

Carr, as an authority on international affairs, published the book The Twenty Years’ Crisis in 1939 which was his first widely noted historical work. The book portrayed a powerful argument for the appeasement of Nazi Germany based on its victimisation after the First World War. 

Carr published Conditions of Peace in 1942 and The Soviet Impact on the Western World in 1946, which demonstrated Carr’s belief in the need for co-operation with the Soviet Union.

Carr is most recognised for his work on A History of Soviet Russia which focused on the emergence of the Soviet state between 1917 - 1929.  Between 1950 and 1978 A History of Soviet Russia appeared in fourteen volumes, which was later made into the textbook, The Russian Revolution from Lenin to Stalin in 1979.

Carr published What is history? in 1961 which laid out historiographical principles.  Carr said that,'History is a process, and you cannot isolate a bit of process and study it on its own - everything is completely interconnected'.

Reputation and Impact

Carr is recognised as a historian of Modern European history, Soviet History and International, contemporary history. Carr’s work emphasised the role of the state, power, and the structure of the international system whilst some of his work also promoted radical social, economic and foreign policy reform which overlaps with aspects of Liberal and Marxist ideology.

Carr’s what is history?, has had a clear impact in the world of education, since it has long been read by students. Professor Alun Munslow review of What is History?, suggests that ‘the central ideas in the book constitute today's mainstream thinking on British historical practice’.[2] The book displays the importance of the relationship between the historian and the past.

John Tosh, describes Carr's book as "still unsurpassed as a stimulating and provocative statement by a radically inclined scholar".[3]

Furthermore, there are critics towards E. H Carr and his approach to history. Professor Richard J Evans, in The Two Faces of E. H Carr describes Carr as two different people. What is History?, is written by Carr the Journalist, whilst A history of Soviet Russia was written by Carr the Bureaucrat. [4] Carr been perceived as the eternal outsider, since he lacked any particular ideological or moral opinion.[5] 

Bibliography/Reading List

Evans, Richard J, 'The two faces of E. H. Carr', History in Focus, 2 (2001)

what is history, “the two faces of E.H Carr”.Last modified autumn 2002.  http://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Whatishistory/evans10.html.

 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “Edward Hallet Carr”. Last modified May 2007 .http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30902.

Reviews in history , “What is History?”.  http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/41a

Further reading:

Richard J. Evans, 'The two faces of E. H. Carr', History in Focus, 2 (2001)

Stefan Collini, 'E. H. Carr: historian of the future', Times Literary Supplement, 5 March 2008[A7] 

Jonathan Haslam,‘the Vices of Integrity: E H Carr 1892-1982’ , Verso (2000)


[1] “Edward Hallet Carr”. Last modified May 2007 http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30902.

[2] “What is History?”. http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/41a

[3] “What is History?”. http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/41a

[4]“the two faces of E.H Carr”. Last modified autumn 2002. http://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Whatishistory/evans10.html.

[5]“the two faces of E.H Carr”. Last modified autumn 2002. http://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Whatishistory/evans10.html.


Tilly O’Kane