Chapter titles give the flavour of a life. Here’s Butler’s:
I. EARLY INFLUENCES
II. THE LONG HAUL
III. GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
IV. INTO WAR
V. WILLINGLY TO SCHOOL
VI. THE EDUCATION ACT
VII. THE CHARTERS
VIII. “UNE IDEE EN MARCHE”
IX. HINGE OF DESTINY
X. LARGE ELEPHANT
XI. CUSTOMARY PROCESSES
XII. PASTURES NEW
Richard Austen Butler, Baron Butler of Safron Walden
Born: 9 December 1902, Attock Serai, British India
Died: 8 March 1982 (79), Great Yeldham, Essex
Dates as Education Minister: 20 July 1941 – 25 May 1945 (1405 days)
Age when Minister: 38 yrs (7m) – 42 yrs (5m)
Educated first in British India, ‘Rab’ Butler was later taught at Marlborough College and then Pembroke College, Cambridge. Like many other Education Secretaries after him, he was the President of the Cambridge Union Society.
In his Parliamentary career, Butler first acted as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs before taking up the position as President of the Board of Education, then later the newly-invented role of Minister for Education. During his office Butler passed the landmark 1944 Education Act, the foundation for compulsory secondary schooling for all. After education, Butler subsequently served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister. He was the Saffron Walden MP for over 36 years.
Is he a contender for ‘greatest’ ever education secretary? Yes. Oh yes.