For large parts of WWII Stafford Cripps (1889-1952) was second only to Churchill in British popular esteem, at times his most likely successor. Cripps was, inter-alia, Churchill’s envoy to Stalin during early WWII, and a key liaison for Britain with leaders of the Indian Independence movement. From 1942 as WWII Minister of Aircraft Production, he turned the shambles inherited from ‘business-friendly’ Beaverbrook around, transforming the aircraft manufacturing sector.
Despite having been expelled from the Labour Party for his leftism, the wealthy Cripps had close professional ties as a patents lawyer with business, and active management experience running a munitions plant in WWI – Churchill’s later justification for making him minister. At the end of WWII, as President of the Board of Trade, and then Chancellor, he was instrumental in the founding of the British Institute of Management (now the CMI), and, possibly, of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. His institutional reforms also set the terrain for what was to be called the ‘americanization’ of British management.
In all this, he was impelled by a vision of a more equal society, playing out not least in material, managerial, and organizational/institutional forms. Drawing from secondary and archival material, this paper gives an account of Cripps’ foreshortened life and work from a management history perspective, and of his complicated and partial legacy.