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Philip Kerr, Marquess of Lothian

Full nameThe Most Hon. Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian (Lord Newbattle, 1591; Earl of Lothian, 1606; Baron Jedburgh, 1622; Earl of Anctum; Baron Kerr of Nisbet, Baron Long-Newton and Dolphingston, 1633; Viscount of Brien, Baron Kerr of Newbattle, 1701; Baron Ker (UK), 1821), PC 1939, KT 1940, CH, MA
Born18 Apr 1882, London, United Kingdom
Died12 Dec 1940, Washington, DC, United States of America

The eldest child of a noble family, Philip Kerr was educated at The Oratory School in Edgbaston, and read Modern History at New College, Oxford. Upon graduation in 1904 he went to South Africa and was swiftly appointed to the colonial administration. He became a central figure in ‘Milner's Kindergarten’ group, founding and editing first The State (1907-09) and then The Round Table (1909-16), which advocated respectively for federation of South Africa and the Empire. From 1916 to 1921 he was Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lloyd George. In 1925 he was appointed Secretary of the Rhodes Trust, and in 1930 succeeded to the peerage as the eleventh Marquess of Lothian.

Lothian was a British Liberal delegate and acted as Chair of the Franchise Committee at the conference.

For additional biographical information, see the official delegate Who's Who for the Second Session. See also Emery Kelen's caricature, from his portfolio of delegates at the Round Table Conference.


  • March 1930: Following his succession to the peerage, the new Marquess of Lothian entered the House of Lords, sitting as a Liberal
  • 22nd October 1930: Benn warned Sapru against Reading, who vehemently opposed pleas for dominion status, but suggested that Lothian could be trusted. (Moore, 1974:125)

First Session

  • Lothian was one of four Liberal delegates to the First Session of the Round Table Conference
  • 17th November 1930: Lothian joined the Federal Structure Committee. By this point he had committed to devolving powers to a federal authority. This would strengthen Indian Liberals against Congress, and fit well with Liberal traditional support of self-government. (Moore, 1974:152)
  • 20th November 1930: Moonje recounted his lunch with Viscount and Lady Astor at 4 St James’s Square. Sat next to Lady Astor and Lothian; Moonje tried to get him to accept his points on communalism. “Lady Astor dubbed me a quarrelsome fellow and a rebel and I retorted that if two honest men quarrel and if their quarrel is honest, it must and is happy success.” (NMML: Moonje Diary)
  • 18th December 1930. Moonje attended 29 St James’ Place to meet Lothian for a long talk on the Hindu-Muslim question. Moonje felt him to be pro-Muslim and believed the British delegates to be undecided and trying to use the comm question to buy time. (NMML: Moonje Diary)
  • 15th January 1931: Lothian made a speech suggesting that he had never known a conference in which the “spirit” had been so good. (British Library C152.6)

Second Session

  • August 1931: Lothian drafted into Ramsay MacDonald’s First National Government as Chancellor to the Duchy of Lancaster
  • 8th September 1931: a meeting was held at Lothian’s house between himself and delegates representing Europeans in India, who wanted to organise an agreed position on safeguards with the British government. Coatman noted that “Lord Lothian warned them against appearing to form a bloc against the Hindus and pressing matters too far. The British Government did not want to show its hand prematurely but wanted to see exactly how matters stood.” (British Library E238.56)
  • 20th October 1931. Moonje attended an 8.30pm meeting at Chatham House 10 St James’s Square by the Royal Institute of International Affairs where Gandhi was to speak on behalf of India. The hall which contained 100 was crowded and another room had 100 where loud speaker was put up. Lothian presided and Gandhi spoke for 45 mins, fist on socio-economic conditions in India and untouchability, and second on the “curse” of Hinduism (NMML: Moonje Diary).
  • 7-9th November 1931: Attended discussions over the possible staging of constitutional development (provincial autonomy first, federation second) at Balliol College, Oxford. In attendance were the Master of Balliol, AD Lindsay, the Prime Minister’s son and advisor, Malcolm MacDonald, the Beit Professor of the History of the British Empire, Reginald Coupland, HS Polak, Sir Geoffrey Corbett, and Dr Datta. (Moore, 1974:234)
  • 12th November 1931: Lothian became Under-Secretary of State for India, to Hoare’s Secretary, in the National Government. (Moore, 1974:233)
  • Early 1932: Franchise Committee visited India, with Lothian as chair.
  • May 20th 1932: In a letter to MacDonald, Hoare reported, following protracted discussions with Lord Lothian, that Hoare’s view on the legislation that would result from the conference had shifted: 
    • “In a sentence it really comes down to this. If it is to be one Bill, we must hurry up the decision and avoid getting involved in the delays of a large Committee and a crowd of Indians in London. If it is to be two Bills, we need not be in so great a hurry about decisions in connection with the Federal Centre. Although as you know, I have hitherto been a two Bill man, I am impressed by what Lothian says as to the need of a comprehensive advance, and I am coming round to the former of these two alternatives.” (University Library, Cambridge)
  • 15th June 1932: Hoare got permission of Cabinet to junk the conference method, having secured Lothian’s support. (Moore, 1974:256)

Third Session

  • 9th December 1932: Hoare reported to Willingdon that the British delegation was acting like a single delegation. Very confidentially, he reported that had been giving Reading and Lothian all the material Cabinet papers and leaving them to form their own opinion, which matched ours. “We meet every morning before the session of the Conference and so far have arranged not unsatisfactorily for the general conduct of the debate. I only hope that it will go on like this until the end.” (British Library E240.2)


  • Undertook a number of missions to India to seek ways of accommodating the nationalist movement. Lothian stayed with MK Gandhi in his ashram, and hosted Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi at Blickling.
  • His vocal supporter of British disengagement from Europe and the revision of the Versailles Treaty associated him with the policy of appeasement
  • 1939: appointed British Ambassador to the USA
  • 1940: Made a Knight of the Thistle

Sources used

  • [Philip Kerr], “India and the Empire”, The Round Table 2 (Sep 1912): 587-626.
  • Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi: Dr BS Moonje papers.
  • British Library, London: IOR/Eur.Mss/C152/6; E238/56.b; E240/2.
  • University Library, Cambridge: Templewood papers/VII/1.
  • R.J. Moore, The Crisis of Indian Unity, 1917-1940 (Oxford: Clarendon Press; 1974)

Selected publications


Secondary literature

  • Alex May, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
  • Who Was Who:
  • M.K. Gandhi, “The Future of India”, International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1931-1939), 10:6 (1931), pp. 721–739:
  • Edward Grigg, “A Great Ambassador: Lord Lothian’s Work for the Commonwealth”, The Times, Issue Number 48798 (13 Dec 1940), p. 5
  • J.R.M. Butler, Lord Lothian, Philip Kerr, 1882–1940 (London: Macmillan; 1960)
  • Hugh Tinker, “The India conciliation group, 1931–50: Dilemmas of the mediator” The Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 14 (1976), pp. 224-241:
  • Gerard Douds, “Lothian and the Indian Federation”, in John Turner (Ed.), The Larger Idea: Lord Lothian and the Problem of National Sovereignty (London: The Historians’ Press; 1988), pp. 62-76
  • Andrea Bosco, "Lothian, Curtis, Kimber and the Federal Union Movement (1938-40." Journal of Contemporary History 23.3 (1988): 465-505:
  • Deborah Lavin, “Lionel Curtis and Indian dyarchy”, in Andrea Bosco (Ed.) The federal idea, volume I: the history of federalism from the Enlightenment to 1945 (London: Lothian Foundation Press; 1992), pp. 193-209
  • Andrea Bosco & A. C. May, The "Round Table": The Empire-Commonwealth and British Foreign Policy (London: Lothian Foundation Press; 1997)
  • Claudio Guilio Anta, “Lord Lothian: a far-sighted federalist”, Rivista di Studi Politici Internazionali, NS 81:3 (2014), pp. 417-432:

Online resources

ImagesPhotograph of Philip Kerr, Marquess of Lothian, from the published biographical guide to delegates at the second session of the Round Table Conference, 1931

"The Most Hon. the Marquess of Lothian, C.H., Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1931; 11th Marquess of (created 1701), Philip Henry Kerr; Lord Newbattle 1591; Earl of Lothian 1606; Baron Jedburgh 1622; Earl of Ancrum, Baron Kerr of Nisbet, Baron Long-Newton and Dolphinton, 1633; Viscount of Brien, Baron Kerr of Newbattle, 1701; Baron Ker (U.K.) 1821; Secretary of the Rhodes Trust since 1925." From Indian Round Table Conference Second Session 1931: Biographical Notes and Photographs of the British and Indian Delegates (London: St. James's Palace). By permission of the British Library (shelfmark T 11187). Reproduced under Open Government Licence v3.0 (

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