Barbara Mary Ward (23 May 1914 – 31 May 1981)


Barbara Ward

Barbara Mary Ward (23 May 1914 – 31 May 1981), in later life Baroness Jackson of Lodsworth, was a British economist and writer interested in the problems of developing countries. She urged Western governments to share their prosperity with the rest of the world and in the 1960s turned her attention to environmental questions as well. She was an early advocate of sustainable development before this term became familiar and was well-known as a journalist, lecturer and broadcaster. Ward was adviser to policy-makers in the UK, US and elsewhere.


  • 1 Education and early career
  • 2 International influence, and marriage
  • 3 Environmental concerns
  • 4 Later life
  • 5 UN conferences
  • 6 Selected works
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links

Education and early career

Barbara Ward was born in Heworth, Yorkshire on 23 May 1914, but her family soon moved to Felixstowe. Her father was a solicitor with Quaker tendencies, while her mother was a devout Catholic. Barbara went to a convent school before studying in Paris: first at a lycée, then for some months at the Sorbonne before going on to Germany. Though she had once planned to study modern languages, her interest in public affairs led to a degree course in politics, philosophy, and economics at Somerville College, Oxford University, from which she graduated in 1935.

She did post-graduate work on Austrian politics and economics. After witnessing antisemitism there and in Nazi Germany she began to help Jewish refugees, and mobilise Catholic support for any forthcoming UK war effort, although she had initially been "sympathetic to Hitler".[1] With Christopher Dawson, the historian, as leader and Ward as secretary, the Sword of the Spirit was established as an organisation to bring together Catholics and Anglicans opposing Nazism. It became a Roman Catholic group whose policies were promoted by the Dublin Review which Dawson edited, and for which Ward wrote regularly.

During the Second World War, she worked for the Ministry of Information and travelled in Europe and the US. Partly on the strength of her 1938 book, The International Share-out, Geoffrey Crowther, editor of The Economist, offered her a job. She left the magazine in 1950 having risen to foreign editor, but continued to contribute articles throughout her life. As well as writings on economic and foreign policy, her broadcasts on Christian values in wartime were published as The Defence of the West by Sword of the Spirit. During this time she was also president of the Catholic Women's League and a popular panel member of the BBC programme The Brains Trust which answered listeners' questions. In 1946 she became a governor of the BBC and of the Old Vic theatre.

After the war, Ward was a supporter of the Marshall Plan, of a strong Europe, and of a European free trade area.


International influence, and marriage

In 1950, Barbara Ward married Australian Commander Robert Jackson, an administrator for the UN. Their son Robert was born in 1956, the same year that his father was knighted. Ward continued to use her own name professionally and was not widely known as Lady Jackson. Over the next few years they lived in West Africa and made various visits to India, and these experiences helped form Ward's views on the need for Western nations to contribute to the economic development of poorer countries. For the next two decades both husband and wife travelled a great deal, and eventually their marriage suffered from this.[2] A legal separation was arranged in the early 1970s though Ward, as a Catholic, did not want divorce. In 1976 when she was given a life peerage she used her estranged husband's surname for her title as Baroness Jackson of Lodsworth.

Ward had been a frequent public speaker since leaving university, and by the 1960s her lectures attracted international respect; several lecture series, including some presented in Canada, Ghana and India, were published in book form. Ward spent increasing amounts of time in the US, much of her work there funded by the Carnegie Foundation. In 1957 Harvard gave her an honorary LittD and until 1968 she was a Carnegie fellow there, living for part of each year in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She got to know Adlai Stevenson and John F Kennedy and acted as adviser to various influential policy makers, including Robert McNamara at the World Bank and Lyndon B Johnson, who welcomed her thoughts on his Great Society projects despite her opposition to the Vietnam war. She also influenced James Wolfensohn's thinking on development questions. She had influence in the Vatican, helped set up a pontifical commission for justice and peace, and in 1971 was the first woman ever to address a synod of Roman Catholic bishops.

One of her proposals was that richer countries should commit a certain proportion of their GNP in aid to the developing world, and she also spoke of the need for institutions to enable and manage both 'aid and trade'. This was a practical as well as an ethical concern: Ward believed such policies would encourage stability and peace. She is sometimes called a "distributist".[3]

Environmental concerns

Only One Earth written with Dubos for the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment

Ward started to see a close connection between wealth distribution and conservation of planetary resources. "… the careful husbandry of the Earth is sine qua non for the survival of the human species, and for the creation of decent ways of life for all the people of the world."[4] She used the phrases "inner limits and "outer limits" to refer to the inner limits of the human right to an adequate standard of living and the outer limits of what the Earth can sustain.[5] In 1966, she published Spaceship Earth and is sometimes said to have coined the phrase.

With hindsight, Ward is seen as a pioneer of sustainable development. She and René Dubos, co-authors of Only One Earth (ISBN 039330129X), have been described as "parents" of a concept which "did not know its own name at first".[6] Only One Earth: The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet was written for the 1972 UN Stockholm conference on the Human Environment. The report was commissioned by Maurice Strong, secretary general of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.

Ward's work was rooted in her sense of morality and Christian values. She saw care of the environment and concern for the well-being of all humankind as a "dual responsibility", especially for anyone sharing her religious outlook.[7] At the same time, she believed wealth distribution combined with conservation was essentially a rational policy: We are a ship’s company on a small ship. Rational behaviour is the condition of survival.[8]

In 1971 she founded the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), acting as president from 1973 and chairman from 1980.

Later life

Ward had recovered from cancer in the late 1940s thanks, she believed, to the spiritual support of Padre Pio. The illness recurred twenty years later but surgery did not cure her. In 1973 she retired from Columbia University where she had been Schweitzer Professor of Economic Development for the previous five years and went to live in Lodsworth, Sussex. The next year she was made a DBE, and in 1976 a life peer as Baroness Jackson of Lodsworth, of Lodsworth in the County of West Sussex. She and her husband were one of the few couples to both hold noble titles in their own right. She wrote her last book, Progress for a Small Planet, despite her deteriorating health, discussing the "planetary community", dwindling resources used up too fast by wealthy countries, and the needs of poorer parts of the world. It was published in 1979, two years before her death on 31 May 1981, aged 67.

Pope John Paul II sent a Cardinal to represent him at Ward's requiem service. At her own request, she was buried in the graveyard of the local Anglican parish church.

Her brother, John Ward, was a noted civil engineer who, after his work on the M4 motorway in the 1960s, was awarded the O.B.E. Her great-niece, Marsha Shandur, is now a music presenter on radio.

UN conferences

Barbara Ward was involved in:

Selected works


  1. ^ DNB
  2. ^ DNB
  3. ^ Joseph Pearce, The Education of E F Schumacher in Literary Converts (Ignatius Press 1999)
  4. ^ Only One Earth
  5. ^ Pugh in Sustainability
  6. ^ By environmental writer Richard D. North in a paper for the Liberales Institut: Sustainable Development: A concept with a future?
  7. ^ On the one hand, we are faced with the stewardship of this beautiful, subtle, incredibly delicate, fragile planet. On the other, we confront the destiny of our fellow man, our brothers. How can we say that we are followers of Christ if this dual responsibility does not seem to us the essence and heart of our religion?
    Barbara Ward, Justice in a Human Environment, in IDOC International (May 1973)
  8. ^ Spaceship Earth

External links

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