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Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe

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Nationality  British
Spouse  Antonia Roby (m. 1939)
Died  April 1, 1977

Name  Cyril 1st
Alma mater  University of Oxford
Education  University of Oxford
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Books  Not in Feather Beds: Some Collected Papers

Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe

Cyril John Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe (30 March 1899 – 1 April 1977) was a British lawyer and Law Lord best known for his role in the partition of British India. He served as the first Chancellor of the University of Warwick from its foundation in 1965 to 1977.


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Background, education and early career

Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe Drawing the Line Who are they Hampstead Theatre

Radcliffe was born in Llanychan, Denbighshire, Wales, the son of a British Army captain. His maternal grandfather was the President of the Law Society between 1890 and 1891.

Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe Cyril Radcliffe 1st Viscount Radcliffe YouTube

Radcliffe was educated at Haileybury College. He was then conscripted in World War I but his poor eyesight limited the options for service so he was allocated to the Labour Corps. After the War, he attended New College, Oxford as a scholar, and took a first in literae humaniores in 1921. In 1922 he was elected to a prize fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. He won the Eldon Law Scholarship in 1923.

Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe Drawing the Line Who are they Hampstead Theatre

He was called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1924, and joined the chambers of Wilfred Greene, later the Master of the Rolls. He practiced at the Chancery bar, and was appointed a King's Counsel in 1935.

Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe When Kuldip Nayar Met Sir Cyril Radcliffe YouTube

During World War II, Radcliffe joined the Ministry of Information becoming its Director-General by 1941, where he worked closely with the Minister Brendan Bracken. In 1944 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE). He returned to the bar in 1945.

Indian Boundary Committees

Cyril Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe Cyril Radcliffe The man who drew the partition line BBC News

Radcliffe, a man who had never been east of Paris, was given the chairmanship of the two boundary committees set up with the passing of the Indian Independence Act. He was faced with the daunting task of drawing the borders for the new nations of Pakistan and India in a way that would leave as many Hindus and Sikhs in India and Muslims in Pakistan as possible. Radcliffe submitted his partition map on 9 August 1947, which split Punjab and Bengal almost in half. The new boundaries were formally announced on 14 August 1947—the day of Pakistan's independence and the day before India became independent.

Radcliffe's efforts saw some 14 million people—roughly seven million from each side—flee across the border when they discovered the new boundaries left them in the "wrong" country. Some 500,000 people died in the violence that ensued after independence, and millions more were injured. After seeing the mayhem occurring on both sides of the boundary, Radcliffe refused his salary of 40,000 rupees (then 3,000 pounds). He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1948.

The poet W. H. Auden referred to Radcliffe's role in the partition of India and Pakistan in his 1966 poem "Partition".

Later career

In 1949, Radcliffe was made a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, sworn of the Privy Council, and created a life peer as Baron Radcliffe, of Werneth in the County of Lancaster. Unusually, he had not previously been a judge. In the 1940s and 1950s he chaired a string of public enquiries in addition to his legal duties and continued to hold numerous trusteeships, governorships and chairmanships right up until his death. He chaired the Committee of Enquiry into the Future of the British Film Institute (1948), whose recommendations led to the modernisation of the BFI in the post-war period. From 1957 he was chairman of the Radcliffe Committee, called to enquire into the working of the monetary and credit system. The committee published a report known as the Radcliffe report which suggested reforms on how monetary policy is run. He was also a frequent public speaker and wrote numerous books: he gave the BBC Reith Lecture in 1951 - a series of seven broadcasts titled Power and the State which examined the features of democratic society, and considered the problematic notions of power and authority. He also presented the Oxford University Romanes Lecture in 1963 on Mountstuart Elphinstone. In 1962 he was made a hereditary peer as Viscount Radcliffe, of Hampton Lucy in the County of Warwick.

Personal life

Lord Radcliffe married the Honourable Antonia Mary Roby, daughter of Godfrey Benson, 1st Baron Charnwood and former wife of John Tennant, in 1939. He died in April 1977, aged 78. He had no issue and the viscountcy of Radcliffe became extinct on his death.

In 2006, two sets of Chancery barristers' chambers in Lincoln's Inn merged and adopted the name "Radcliffe Chambers" in his honour.


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