We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
  Robert Henry Brand (1878–1963), by Elliott & Fry Robert Henry Brand (1878–1963), by Elliott & Fry
Brand, Robert Henry, Baron Brand (1878–1963), merchant banker and public servant, was born on 30 October 1878 in Kensington, London, the seventh child and fourth son of , soldier, Liberal MP, and colonial governor, and his second wife, Susan Henrietta (d. 1909), younger daughter of Lord George Henry Cavendish. He had five brothers, one of whom died in childhood, and three sisters. He was educated at Marlborough School (c.1889–1898) and at New College, Oxford, from 1898, where he took a first in modern history in 1901; he was thereupon elected a fellow of All Souls, and he remained a fellow (with intervals) until his death.

Brand's background and family traditions drew him towards service in the empire: his father had been governor of New South Wales and was an influential Liberal Imperialist and friend of Viscount Milner, governor of Cape Colony and high commissioner for South Africa. Brand's university days had been overshadowed by the South African War; and with the end of that war in 1902 it was clear that there was exciting work to be done in South Africa. Through his father's influence he joined Milner's staff in Johannesburg in December 1902 and became thereby a member of ‘’, a group of Oxford-educated young men devoted to the ideal of the empire.

Brand was never a man of action; his weak heart would have precluded this in any case, but his inclinations and his talents drew him towards administration. Milner recognized this talent and Brand successively became assistant secretary, acting secretary, and, in March 1904, permanent secretary to the inter-colonial council of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. The council was responsible for the administration of the reconstruction loan intended to finance the rebuilding and development of the region. Much of Brand's own work centred on the activities and development of the newly merged central South African Railway system, dealing with arguments over tariffs and freight rates among the four colonies. This was a frustrating exercise which helped to convince him that political unification was the only practical solution.

Brand's primary claim to importance in South African history was the work he did in 1908–9 as secretary of the Transvaal delegates at the South African National Convention. He had gained the trust of the Transvaal leaders and, most importantly, of J. C. Smuts, to whom he acted as personal assistant. Together they prepared a draft constitution for the new union, and Brand ‘was able to underpin Smut's vision and tactical skill with a firm basis of theoretical rigour and practical foresight’ (DNB). Brand's period in South Africa strengthened his faith in the British empire as a force for peace and prosperity in the world. He retained an interest in South African affairs, acting as South Africa's financial representative at the Genoa conference in 1922.

Brand returned to London in 1909 to help with the passage of the South Africa Act through parliament, but he intended to return to South Africa to settle. However, he fell ill with influenza and missed his boat, and while awaiting the next an opportunity presented itself which changed the course of his life. R. M. Kindersley proposed that he join the merchant bank Lazard Brothers. Lazards was then emerging as one of London's most prestigious accepting and issuing houses, in the 1920s issuing the sterling bonds of governments, regional states, and municipalities, especially in Europe, and winning market share from more established houses by aggressive marketing and negotiation. From 1919 the business interests of W. D. Pearson, later first Viscount Cowdray, included a large shareholding in Lazards.

After some negotiation Brand agreed to join Lazards; he received an initial salary of £2000 plus 5 per cent of the firm's annual profits. Soon after he became a managing director, a position he held until 1944; he remained a director of Lazards until he retired in 1960. Brand developed a strong belief in international finance as an instrument for international co-operation and peace, and he used the skills acquired in and the financial security provided by merchant banking, in carrying out a number of political responsibilities.

Brand's heart condition kept him out of the fighting in 1914, but with Lloyd George's advent as minister of munitions in 1915 Brand was swept into government service. The stimulus for Lloyd George's new position was an armaments crisis; attempts to increase the supply of shells had included purchasing them abroad, but the result was chaotic, and Brand was sent to Canada to sort out procedures. With the establishment of the imperial munitions board in Ottawa, Brand acted as its liaison officer in London with the Ministry of Munitions until the end of the war. The crux involved the financing of Canadian munitions and, as British spending power declined, London looked to Washington. As a financier responsible for munitions, Brand was the ideal person to send to Washington, where he acted as deputy chairman of the British war mission in 1917–18. He then went to Paris, to act as financial adviser to Lord Robert Cecil, chairman of the supreme economic council, during the peace conference.

At this point both Brand and Lazards decided that he should concentrate on banking, and he turned down further requests from the British government. Nevertheless, he acted as adviser or delegate to various European financial conferences during the inter-war years. He had long been interested in Germany and indeed had written in 1915 an approving report on the German banking system, and it was therefore appropriate that he was appointed a member both of the expert committee which advised the German government on the stabilization of the Deutschmark in 1922 and of the ‘standstill’ committee appointed in July 1931 to advise on the short-term credits caught in the German banking crisis. Brand's approval of Germany did not extend to Hitler: by 1933 he thought the Nazi regime a threat to the international order.

Brand served as a member of the Macmillan committee on finance and industry from 1929 to 1931. He argued for cheap money and against wholesale protection, and was generally in sympathy with the liberal ideals of fellow member J. M. Keynes, with whom he had happily worked both at Versailles and on the expert committee on the German Deutschmark. Drawing on his knowledge of German banking he proposed a closer integration of finance and industry, arguing the need for new first-class institutions set up specifically to issue industrial securities, which, unlike most City establishments, would maintain a close and continuing relationship with their client companies.

Brand spent the years 1941–6 primarily in Washington, serving as head of the British food mission in 1941–4, chairman of the British supply council in North America in 1942 (when he had to rescue it from the strains of departmental and personal jealousies) and again in 1945–6, and British Treasury representative in 1944–6. As Treasury representative he joined Keynes in the acrimonious and difficult negotiations for the ending of ‘lend-lease’ and for the US and Canadian loans to Britain, and as a UK delegate at the Bretton Woods and Savannah conferences in 1946, which established the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

During Brand's earlier sojourn in America he had married (in 1917) Phyllis Langhorne, daughter of a Virginia landowner and auctioneer, Charles Dabney Langhorne, and sister of Nancy Astor (he was a close friend of the Cliveden circle) [see ]. They had two daughters and a son who was killed in action in 1945. Brand was devastated by his wife's death in 1937; a very practical effect of his marriage to a prominent American, however, was to provide social and personal contacts which he could use, in conjunction with his own long experience of North America, in navigating the rocks and whirlpools of wartime Washington.

After the war Brand remained essentially a banker, but his wide interests ensured a sheaf of extra-curricular duties. He was a director of the Times Publishing Company Ltd from 1925 to 1959, a member of the General Advisory Council of the BBC from 1951 to 1956, president of the Royal Economic Society from 1952 to 1953, and a director of Lloyds Bank Ltd. He had been appointed CMG in 1910 and honorary DCL at Oxford in 1937, but only after the death of his son would he accept a peerage, in 1946 becoming Baron Brand of Eydon.

Lord Brand was one of those quietly powerful men—one of ‘the great and the good’—who, while not holding elected public office, are repeatedly called upon by policy makers, domestic and foreign. He was a strong proponent of Anglo-American co-operation, especially in the economic sphere. It did him no harm that his writings, which included The Union of South Africa (1909), War and National Finance (1921), Why I am not a Socialist (1923), and numerous articles, especially in the journal The Round Table, though lucid, tended to be dull. He possessed intelligence, practical common sense, and the authority derived from his own success: he was undeniably sound, and in later years a man of the utmost gravitas. He was also ‘a man of the utmost charm, with a soft voice and a mild, short-sighted appearance’ (DNB).

Lord Brand died at the Old Vicarage, Firle, near Lewes, Sussex, on 23 August 1963.

Kathleen Burk


Bodl. Oxf., MSS Brand · WWW · Burke, Peerage · The collected writings of John Maynard Keynes, ed. D. Moggridge and E. Johnson, 23–4 (1979); 26 (1980) · J. E. Kendle, The Round Table movement and imperial union (1975) · K. Burk, Britain, America and the sinews of war, 1914–1918 (1984) · DNB · The Times (24 Aug 1963) · Minutes of evidence taken before the committee on finance and industry, ed. H. P. Macmillan, 2 vols. (1931) · d. cert. · Parl. Arch., Lloyd George papers


Bodl. Oxf., corresp. and papers; round table corresp. |  BLPES, letters to Edwin Cannon · BLPES, corresp. with the editors of the Economic Journal · Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Lionel Curtis · Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Lord Monckton · Bodl. Oxf., letters to countess of Selborne · CAC Cam., corresp. with Sir Ralph Hawtrey · King's AC Cam., corresp. with John Maynard Keynes · NA Scot., corresp. with Philip Kerr · NA Scot., letters to Lord Ralph Kerr and Lady Ann Kerr


J. de Glehn, pencil and chalk drawing, 1935, Eydon Hall · A. Mason, pencil drawing, 1956, Eydon Hall · G. Bruce, oils, 1963, priv. coll. · Elliott & Fry, photograph, NPG [see illus.] · photographs, priv. coll.

Wealth at death  

£79,158 4s. 3d.: probate, 15 Oct 1963, CGPLA Eng. & Wales