Childhood & Early Life
Roy Harrod was born on 13 February 1900, in London. His father, Henrich Dawes Harrod, was a businessman, who had invested a lot of money in a copper mine and lost most of it. He was also an author and had written two historical monographs. His mother, Frances (nee Forbes-Robertson) Harrod, was also a writer.
Harrod had always been a bright student. In 1911, when he was eleven years old, he won a scholarship and entered St. Paul’s School on it. Later he was shifted to Westminster School.
After passing out from school, he received another scholarship and enrolled at the New College in Oxford with classic literature, ancient history and philosophy as his major. However, his college education had to be interrupted for a brief period when in 1918 he was drafted in the army.
During the First World War, he served in the artillery division of the British Army. On being discharged from the military at the end of the World War I in the same year, he went back to the New College to finish his courses
Subsequently, in 1919, he majored in classic literature, ancient history and philosophy, from Oxford. For his graduation work he took up academic philosophy; but when one of the lecturers vehemently criticized his paper he turned to economics, which was at that time a very unusual subject.
Later, Harrod received a teaching post in economics at the University of Oxford. However, to prepare for that, he was advised to spend two semesters studying the subject at some reputed university in the Continent. Instead, he chose University of Cambridge.
Accordingly in 1922, he joined the King’s College at the University of Cambridge and began to study economics under John Maynard Keynes. His time at Cambridge and close association with Keynes had a profound effect on his thoughts. Even after he went back to Oxford, he remained in touch with Keynes.
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In 1923, Roy Harrod began his career with a teaching post at the Christ Church College at the University of Oxford. Simultaneously, he also received research fellowship and with that he began to work on marginal revenue curve.
In 1929, he was first to derive the marginal revenue curve in his debut work, ‘Notes on Supply’. Unfortunately, the paper was published much later in June 1930 in The Economic Journal, Vol. 40, No. 158. This delay in the publication denied him the recognition due to him.
Subsequently, he began to work on the long-run envelope of short-run average cost curves and laid out the analytical foundations for the theory of imperfect competition. The paper was published in 1931, but this time too he was little late and consequently, his work went unrecognized.
Nonetheless, he kept on publishing papers. ‘International Economics’, published in 1933 was another of his important works. However, it was his ‘Doctrines of Imperfect Competition’, published in 1934, which created a stir among the academicians and made him famous.
In 1936, he published his fourth important paper ‘The Trade Cycle’. In it, he laid down some of the important points of a new theory on effective demand.
Although neoclassic economists had earlier tried to define the conditions suitable for development of the total output of an economy they failed to deal with long-term effects of sudden changes in specific economic variables. Harrod not only dealt with that, but also showed what would happen if savings were permanently high.
His next significant work of this decade was the ‘An Essay in Dynamic Theory’ (1939). In it, he established that there are three kinds of growth: warranted growth, actual growth and natural rate of growth. It was later known as The Harrod–Domar model.
With the start of the World War II in 1939, his life was interrupted once again. From 1940 to 1942, he worked under Frederick Lindemann (later Lord Cherwell) as personal adviser to Winston Churchill in his ‘S-branch’, which was a statistical section within the Admiralty.
On being relieved from his duty, he resumed his research in economics. Although he had been working on economic growth and imperfect completion since the 1930s this post war period was the most productive period in his life.
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In the past two decades, he had laid emphasis on formulating his concept of growth dynamics and in doing so, he had put more stress on determining factors of equilibrium growth rates, rather than the quantities. In 1948, he ultimately published the result of his long research in ‘Towards a Dynamic Economics’.
In 1951, he published ‘The Life of John Maynard Keynes’. While writing this biography, he had full access to his personal papers and was also able to talk to his family. However, he did not include any aspect that might have created controversies in that era.
Much later in 1959, he published another biographical works, titled ‘The Prof: A Personal Memoir of Lord Cherwell’. Concurrently, he continued writing on economic problems; ‘Economic Essays’ (1952), being one of them.
However, from early 1950s, he became more interested in practical policy matters and began writing on this. His books, ‘Policy against Inflation’ (1958), ‘Reforming the World's Money’ (1965), ‘The International Monetary Fund’ (1966), ‘Towards a New Economic Policy’ (1967) etc. show such a clear trend.
Apart from teaching and research, Harrod had also carried on administrative responsibilities at the Christ Church College in Oxford. In addition, he was elected a Fellow at Nuffield College from 1938 to 1947 and then from 1954 to 1958.
In 1967, he retired from Christ Church College. Subsequently, he shifted with his family to Halt, Norfolk. There he continued with his work and published a number of papers. ‘Money’ (1969), ‘Sociology, Morals and Mystery’ (1970) and ‘Economic Dynamics’ (1973) are three of the books published during this period.
Throughout his life, Roy Harrod published numerous works. Among them, ‘Doctrines of Imperfect Competition’, published in 1934 was his first major work. Among other things, it deals on the effects of the imperfect competition on equilibrium theory.
His 1948 publication, ‘Towards a Dynamic Economics’, is said to be his most important work. The book is the result of his long research. In it, Harrod had launched an entirely new growth theory based on macroeconomic model and had emphasized on the importance of time in a growing economy.
He is also well known for his 1951 publication, ‘The Life of John Maynard Keynes’. The book is his tribute to the great economist. In it, Harrod combined his intimate knowledge of the man and his economics to produce a biography that is valuable both from economic and literary point of view.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1938, Roy Harrod married Wilhelmine Cresswell, the step-daughter of General Sir Peter Strickland. Lovingly called Billa, she began campaigning for the preservation of historic churches in Norfolk once the family settled there. She was also the founder member of the Norfolk Churches Trust.
The couple had two sons. One of them, Dominick Harrod, was the economics correspondent for the BBC.
Roy Harrod died on March 9, 1978, in Halt, Norfolk, where he had settled down after retirement. He was survived by his wife and two sons.
The Harrod–Domar model, an early post-Keynesian model of economic growth, has been named after both Harrod and Evsey Domar. The two economists had worked on it separately, but came to the same conclusion that there are three kinds of growth and it is not essential for the economy to have balanced growth.