Josiah Stamp, 1st Baron Stamp

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Josiah Charles Stamp, 1st Baron Stamp GCB GBE FBA (21 June 1880 – 16 April 1941), was an English industrialist, economist, civil servant, statistician, writer, and banker. He was a director of the Bank of England and chairman of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

Life and career

Stamp was born in Hampstead, London,[1] the third of seven children; his youngest brother L. Dudley Stamp became an internationally renowned geographer. At the time of his birth his father owned and managed a provision and general shop in London.

Educated at a private Baptist school, Bethany House at Goudhurst, Kent,[2] Josiah left school at 16 and joined the Civil Service as a boy clerk in the Inland Revenue Department. With a brief interval in the Board of Trade, he rose to assistant inspector of taxes at Hereford in 1903, an inspector of taxes in London in 1909, and assistant secretary in 1916.[2]

Meanwhile, he was studying economics as an external student. He was awarded a first class degree (1911) by the University of London and a doctorate (1916) by the London School of Economics. The thesis, published as British Incomes and Property, became a standard work on the subject and established his academic reputation.

Stamp met his future wife, Olive Jessie Marsh, a soprano and student teacher, when he was seventeen. Pursuing their work and studies separately for several years until their marriage in 1903, they engaged in a correspondence that gives us a rich sense of Stamp's formative years (Jones 1964). Between 1904 and 1917 they had four sons, Wilfred, Trevor, Maxwell and Colin. It was as a result of this marriage that Stamp, son of a Baptist father and Church of England mother, converted to the Wesleyan Methodist Church.[3] A few of his writings (see below), such as Christianity and Economics (1939), discuss the relevance of Christian values to contemporary economics systems.

In 1919 Stamp changed career, leaving the civil service for business, to join as secretary and director of Nobel Industries Ltd, from which Imperial Chemical Industries developed. In 1926 he became Chairman of the LMS and was instrumental in getting William Stanier appointed in 1932 as Chief Mechanical Engineer to resolve the locomotive problems of the Company. In 1928 he was appointed a director of the Bank of England.

Stamp was often called to serve on public commissions, committees and boards: he was a member of the Royal Commission on Income Tax, 1919, the Northern Ireland Finance Arbitration Committee, 1923–24, the Committee on Taxation and National Debt, 1924, the Dawes Reparation Commission's Committee on German Currency and Finance, 1924, the Young Committee in 1929 and the Economic Advisory Council, 1930–39.

From 1927 until his death he was Colonel commanding the Royal Engineers Railway and Transport Corps,[4] and became Honorary Colonel of Transportation Units in the Royal Engineers Supplementary Reserve[5] in 1938.[6]

Stamp was widely regarded as the leading British expert on taxation, and took an active part in the work of the Royal Statistical Society, serving as president from 1930 to 1932.[7]

Stamp was appointed Commander in the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1918, Knight in the Order (KBE) in 1920, and Knight Grand Cross (GBE) in 1924 and Knight Grand Cross of the Bath (GCB) in 1936. He was a Knight of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. He also held the Grand Cross of the Austrian Order of Merit (awarded 1936) and the Afghan Order of Astaur.[4] He was raised to the peerage on 28 June 1938 as Baron Stamp of Shortlands, in the County of Kent.[8]

He was first Mayor of the Borough of Beckenham, Kent, within which he had settled at Shortlands, in 1935. He was made an honorary Freeman of the same borough in 1936 and of Blackpool in 1937.[5]

Stamp refused to be moved out of his house, 'Tantallon', in Park Hill Road, Shortlands, because of German bombing during The Blitz. He, aged sixty, and his wife, aged sixty-three,[9] were killed by a bomb's direct hit on the air-raid shelter at their home on 16 April 1941. They were buried at Beckenham Cemetery.[10] Ironically in 1935, he had been a founder member of the Anglo-German Fellowship[11] and had made low key visits to Nuremberg in 1936 (when he met Adolf Hitler – whom Stamp noted was a "statesman and demagogue combined" – and Franz von Papen), and 1937, to view the Nazi Party Congress with the unspoken support of the then Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax.[12]

Stamp's son Wilfred was killed at the same time and in the same place, but English law has legal fiction that in the event of the order of deaths being indeterminable, the elder is deemed to have died first. Legally therefore, Wilfred momentarily inherited the peerage: and as a consequence the family had to pay death duty twice. The peerage passed to the second of Stamp's four sons, Trevor.


A well known quote from Stamp (often referred to as Stamp's Law) is:

"The government are very keen on amassing statistics. They collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But you must never forget that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the chowky dar (village watchman in India), who just puts down what he damn pleases." (Stamp recounting a story from Harold Cox who quotes an anonymous English judge).[13]

Another quote often attributed to Stamp is:

"Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take away from them the power to create money and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money." (Said to be from an informal talk at the University of Texas in the 1920s, but as yet unverified.)[14]


  • Beveridge, 'Stamp, Josiah Charles, first Baron Stamp (1880–1941)', rev. Jose Harris, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • A. L. Bowley Lord Stamp Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Vol. 104, No. 2 (1941), pp. 193–196.
  • J. Harry Jones, M.A., LL.D., Josiah Stamp, Public Servant: The Life of the First Baron Stamp of Shortlands, London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, 1964, 365 pp. With an Epilogue by his youngest son, Colin, from a talk broadcast over Springbok Radio from Johannesburg, South Africa, 5 October 1960.

Books by Josiah Stamp

Sourced from Who Was Who.

  • British Incomes and Property 1916
  • Wealth and Income of the Chief Powers 1919
  • The Fundamental Principles of Taxation 1921
  • The National Income 1924 with A. L. Bowley 1927
  • The Christian Ethic as an Economic Factor 1926
  • On Stimulus 1927
  • Some Economic Matters in Modern Life 1929
  • Criticism and other addresses 1931
  • Internationalism 1931
  • The Financial Aftermath of War 1932
  • Taxation During the [Great] War 1932
  • Ideals of a Student 1933
  • Motive and Method in a Christian Order 1936
  • The National Capital and Other Statistical Studies 1937
  • The Science of Social Adjustment 1937
  • We live and learn 1937
  • Christianity and Economics 1939


  1. "Results from England & Wales Births 1837-2006". Retrieved 30 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 52. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 85. ISBN 0-19-861402-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Article by Beveridge, revised by Jose Harris.
  3. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 52. pp. 85–86.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed and Official Classes, 1940. Kelly's. p. 1725.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Who Was Who, 1941–1950. A and C Black. 1952. p. 1091.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 1939. Burke's Peerage Ltd. p. 2299.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Royal Statistical Society Presidents". Royal Statistical Society. Retrieved 6 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. The London Gazette: no. 34528. p. 4327. 5 July 1938.
  9. [1] CWGC Casualty Record, under Beckenham Municipal Borough.
  10. [2] CWGC Casualty Record, in his capacity as Colonel, General Staff. His wife and first son are separately recorded as civilian casualties under Beckenham Municipal Borough.
  11. INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP: Anglo-Russian and Anglo-German Societies The Manchester Guardian 29 November 1935
  12. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 52. p. 87.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Stamp, Josiah (1929). Some Economic Factors in Modern Life. P. S. King & Son. pp. 258–259.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Silas Walter Adams (1958). The legalized crime of banking and a constitutional remedy. Boston: Meador. pp. 13, 30, 58, 90, 246. OCLC 3906807.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Also available as web transcription.

External links