The Clydeside Cabal: The influence of Lord Weir, Sir James Lithgow, and Sir Andrew Rae Duncan on naval and defence policy, around 1918–1940

By Christopher W. Miller, published August 2021


Lord Weir, Sir James Lithgow and Sir Andrew Rae Duncan were three close friends who grew up within a few miles of each other in Victorian Glasgow, and who went on to have uncommonly successful careers in engineering, shipbuilding, steel and finance. Despite occupying only footnotes in political histories, Weir, Lithgow and Duncan also were uncommonly influential in defence planning during the First World War, as well as post-war industrial reorganization, disarmament, rearmament, and the Second World War. Indeed, at several critical junctures for imperial and particularly naval defence before and during rearmament, one or more of these three men played a central role in the direction and shape of policy. Moreover, this trio frequently interacted with one another to mutual benefit in the shipbuilding rationalization schemes of the 1930s, the purchase of naval or other armament manufacturing businesses, or in the Ministry of Supply during the Second World War. This article examines the operation of this network of influence through the decades of war and peace, and considers Weir, Lithgow and Duncan’s crucial role in British policy making. By pulling together business and political records, it sheds new light on the operation of the British state and argues that this trio were unique among inter-war civilian businessmen as influencers of top-level defence policy.

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Filed under: Other (Twentieth C)
Subjects include: Shipbuilding & Design | Strategy & Diplomacy

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