James Wycliffe Headlam-Morley


Photo: Churchill Archives

British historian and civil servant. He was born James W. Headlam in the north of England, in a ­family of ­Anglican clergy, belonging to the British ­establishment. His brother – Arthur Cayley Headlam (1862–1947) was the Bishop of Gloucester. James Morley received his education at Eton, at King’s College, Cambridge, as well as at universities in Brno, Göttingen and Berlin.

In the years 1884–1900 he taught Greek and ancient history at Queen’s College in London. After returning from his stay in the universities of continental ­Europe, he worked as an inspector at the Board of Education (1904–20). At the same time, he developed his scholarly interests in the German Empire. In 1899 he published the influential book Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire, and compiled entries on Germany and Austria-Hungary for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

With the outbreak of the war, he became involved in British ­propaganda activities­. ­Since 1918, he worked for the British Foreign Office as an assistant to William Tyrrell – director of the Political Intelligence Department. The Department also included Reginald (Rex) Leeper, Lewis Namier, and Arnold Toynbee, among others. In the same year, with the approval of the monarch, he took the second surname Morley, as a part of an inheritance left to him by a cousin.

In 1919 Headlam-Morley travelled with the British delegation to the . Thanks to his close contacts with ­Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s personal ­secretary Philip Kerr, as well as with ­Lloyd George himself, he played an important role in working out 353 solutions to the Danzig/Gdansk issue, the Saarland, and the protection of national minorities. After the conference, he was a historical advisor to the British Foreign Office, a position created specifically for him. In 1928, he took an advisory position at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. He chaired the editorial board of the six-volume ­series A History of the Peace Conference of Paris. In 1972, his memoirs titled A Memoir of the Paris Peace Conference 1919 were published.

Gdansk – the most difficult problem of the Conference

A note from a conversation with [Stanislaw] Posner

[Paris] January 22, 1919

Mr Posner came to see me today. […] He has been resident in Paris throughout the war; his sympathies are with the Socialist Left though he is not in any way a Bolshevik. He seemed intelligent and talked to me very freely for over an hour and a half. I said nothing except to ask questions. I think he would be useful if we want to get the point of view of his party, but he was very frank in explaining that as he had not been in Poland since 1913, he could of course not speak with the same confidence that he otherwise could have done. […]

He said that Monsieur Dmowski was very unpopular in Poland and any authority that he had there was derived entirely from the fact that people in Poland had been led to believe that no help, and especially no food, would be forthcoming except through National Democratic influence. The people were starving and this had been used by the National Democrats. He stated that this point of view had been very strongly pressed in Poland and it was for this reason alone that the former Ministry fell and that Monsieur Paderewski had come into office. I asked him whether Monsieur Paderewski would be able to maintain himself in power. He seemed to think that he might do so; he laid great stress on the fact that he had declared a state of siege and thereby got the power of sending his opponents to prison. […]

On the other hand, there was great danger from the large number of Poles returning, 700,000 from Germany and 1,500,000 from Russia and Galicia; both of these classes had been demoralized and impregnated with revolutionary sentiments. It was quite essential that Piłsudski should be supported. He was the only person who could keep things together. If he fell there would be revolutionary outbreaks at once. […]

He said he looked forward to the future with pessimism. I pressed him what he meant by this. His answers were not very clear, but it seemed to come to this, that he had looked forward to an independent Poland starting in line with the Western Democracies, whereas it seemed as though it would begin its new life in slavery to a reactionary Government imposed on it from outside. I suggested that after all this would not matter much; the great thing was to get the new State going and there would be plenty of time for democratic evolution later. […]

Excerpt from the diary

January 25, 1919

[…] There was a discussion about sending immediate help to Poland, which Foch strongly pressed; Wilson pointed out the difficulties that might arise from the Poles using force and material supplied against the Germans or the Lithuanians or the Ruthenians. One would have thought that this difficulty could easily have been got over, but the result was that they simply decided on sending another mission, which means more time wasted. […]

Memorandum [by James Headlam-Morley for Arthur Henry Hardinge]

February 6, 1919

[…] The frontier as agreed upon is so drawn as to assign Danzig to Poland and to leave a strip of territory in Polish hands intervening between Pomerania and East Prussia. This problem is of course one of the most difficult which the Peace Conference will have to meet. In the original proposals put forward from the Foreign Office the suggestion was that Danzig should be left to Germany, and that access to the sea for the Poles should be provided by free navigation on the Vistula and a railway which, though running across German territory, should be in Polish hands, and that either Danzig should be made a free port under the guarantee of the League of Nations, though under German sovereignty, or that the Poles should receive in full sovereignty a port at Neufahrwasser to the north-west of Danzig. […]

Excerpt from a letter to [Lewis] Namier (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

February 12, 1919

[…] Have you been following the events in Posen? I am very anxious about the situation there as it affects Germany. […] As I see is the extent and nature of action by Poles from Congress Poland in Posnania, or other territories, which are still technically under German sovereignty. It is extremely important that we should know what amount of justification the Germans have for maintaining that the Poles from over the frontier have interfered. Technically speaking, under the terms of the armistice, they have no right at all to intervene. Telegrams and other accounts are always obscure because when they use the word Poles, one does not know whether they are referring to the Poles of Posen or Poles of the Kingdom. […]

Note for William Tyrrell

February 26, 1919

I am a little anxious as to the situation with regard to the method by which a provisional boundary is being established between the Poles and the Ruthenians. It is, I think, unfortunate that as would appear from the available information, the only representatives of the Allies who are in charge of the matter are those who are in a position to hear the Polish side of the case. I do not understand that we have any representative who is in close touch with the population and such provisional government as exists in Eastern Galicia. It appears that the Ukrainians are inclined to reject the proposals which have been put forward , and one cannot but fear that they will feel that they have not had a sufficient opportunity of stating their own point of view. […] What I fear is that it may appear as though the Allies are allowing themselves to become merely the spokesmen of the Poles; this would inevitably tend to an unfortunate result and make it more difficult to bring about the cessation of hostilities.

Excerpt from a letter to [Lewis] Namier (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

February 27, 1919

[…] I suspect that when one is in Warsaw, then one finds that the Poles are much better than one would be led to think by what is said and done by their representatives abroad. They are certainly to some extent influenced by this megalomanie de grandeur, but I do not see that they are any worse than any of the other small nations, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece or Romania. […] Where I think we differ is that you on the whole are inclined to regard Bolshevism as a lesser evil than Polish imperialism; in this I cannot follow you; I suppose the difference springs from ultimate causes and our whole attitude of mind towards political affairs, but in the long run if they can get the Polish State started on a liberal basis with the necessary agrarian reform, then in the long run I should not be frightened of Polish imperialism. This is a disease which we know all about and I think will soon tend to ebb away if the people can be brought face to face with problems of administration and government. What has produced much of the evils of Poland is I imagine that they have no responsibility of government, they have been nourished on dreams, and dreams are often unhealthy. My remedy for this would be, as I say, the hard work of building up a State, but it is impossible to expect them to apply themselves to this so long as they are deprived of the absolute necessities of life and until the material necessary for the restarting of industry is available. […]

Excerpt from a letter to John Bailey (MFA)

March 8, 1919

[…] The Polish business is getting on fairly quickly. The great problem has of course been how to deal with Danzig. I gather that it has been determined to give Danzig to Poland without conditions or reservations; this I think is a mistake; they might have secured to the city of Danzig full privileges of local autonomy so as to safeguard it from unreasonable Polish propaganda and penalization of German language, etc. I am sure that people are going too far in ignoring the just German feeling, and I fear that the eventual result will be very disadvantageous, especially to France. […]

Note from the conversation [with Ignacy Jan Paderewski]

April 17, 1919

[…] The matter of immediate urgency is that of Danzig. […] I explained to him as a kind of solution that might be suggested the scheme which has already been put forward, viz: Danzig an independent state under Polish suzerainty or protection. This had been tentatively accepted by Monsieur Zaleski. […] Monsieur Paderewski definitely refused to accept this. He said that he was not speaking so much for himself, but that if he were to accept it, it would be suicide for himself. He spoke of Polish sentiment. He said that he had received yesterday a letter from Monsieur Pilsudski, which apparently was to the effect that Polish feeling was getting more difficult to control. He implied that the situation was beyond what any leader could keep in hand. […]

I asked whether the Poles would accept a treaty of peace with Germany which consisted of the one clause, that Germany would transfer all her rights and titles over Danzig to the Allied and Associated Powers leaving the future destination of the city open; this also he would not agree to; he wanted transference to Poland. […]

The final moral I should draw from the whole situation is that it is impossible to carry on negotiations of this kind under the present conditions. […]

Excerpt from a letter to [Lewis] Namier (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

June 30, 1919

[…] Now that the treaty with Germany is signed, if at any rate the Germans do not do something foolish in the east, it will I hope be possible to tackle the Polish question more successfully. The difficulty hitherto has always been the apprehension, which is not entirely ill founded, of an outbreak of German militarism on the Polish frontier; I hope that the Germans are sufficiently sensible to see how much harm this would do to them. If they keep the peace and evacuate the territories without trouble, then the chief excuse for Polish militarism will have been removed. I wish they could have put in the treaty some clause definitely referring to Polish disarmament; it is an intolerable situation to the Germans that they should be obliged to disarm and no reciprocal obligation be thrown upon Poland.

source: Headlam-Morley, James. “A Memoir of the Paris Peace Conference, 1919”; Agnes Headlam-Morley, Russel Bryant, Anna Cienciala (ed.), London: Methuen, 1972.