The Moot was a discussion group that grew out of a Conference on “Church, Community and State” held at Oxford in 1937, concerned with education, social reconstruction, and the role of culture in society. It was convened by J. H. Oldham, editor of the Christian Newsletter, and its participants were mainly Christian intellectuals.

More than anything else, the discussions of the Moot revolved around the topic of order and, more particularly, around the problem of how order might be restored in British society and culture in the context of a “world turned upside down”.

Mullins and Jacobs, 2006

Its purpose was to continue, in an informal, confidential but serious way, exploration of the relation between church and society and the realisation of Christian ethics in the public sphere. The Moot met 21 times from 1938 to 1947 and was convened by Oldham with the conscious intention of responding to the grave crisis that was felt to be facing western society in Britain no less than on the continent of Europe. Overall some 35 people attended the Moot at one time or another, but its core comprised a small number of regular members who were representative of the highest levels in theology, social science and public affairs.

The discussions influenced T. S. Eliot’s works of cultural criticism The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture.


Regular members:

  • John Baillie
  • Kathleen Bliss
  • Fred Clarke
  • T.S. Eliot
  • H.H. Farmer
  • Eric Fenn
  • Hector Hetherington
  • H.A. Hodges
  • Eleonora Iredale
  • Adolf Löwe
  • Karl Mannheim (central figure of the group)
  • Walter Moberly
  • John Middleton Murry
  • Walter Oakshott
  • Mary Oldham
  • Gilbert Shaw
  • Alec Vidler

Catholic historian and independent scholar Christopher Dawson also contributed numerous written submissions, although he was able to attend only two meetings.1


  • Melville Chaning-Pearce
  • A.C. Craig
  • O.S. Franks
  • A.C. Goyder
  • W.D.L. Greer
  • Noel Hall
  • Sir Hector Herrington
  • Daniel Jenkins
  • E. Lampert
  • Donald Mackinnon
  • Philip Mairet
  • Alexander Miller
  • Lesslie Newbigin
  • Reinhold Niebuhr
  • Frank Pakenham (later Lord Longford)
  • William Paton
  • Michael Polanyi
  • Gilbert Russell
  • G W.G. Symons
  • R.H. Tawney
  • Paul Tillich 
  • Oliver Tomkins made occasional ‘guest appearances’
  • Geoffrey Vickers

Against the background of impending and then actual war, the discussions in the Moot repeatedly focused on the ‘planned’ nature of modern society and therewith the roles (if any) within it of moral choice and the Christian community.


NoDatePresentsMain ‘facts’
11938.04.01-04JB, CD, TSE, HF, EF, HAH,
21938.09.23-26JB, TSE, EF, HAH,
31939.01.06-09JB, TSE, EF, HAH,
41939.04.14-17JB, TSE, EF, HAH,
51939.09.23-24JB, TSE, HF, EF,
71940.04.19-22FC, EF,
81940.08.19-22FC, TSE, HAH,
91941.07.12-15FC, TSE, EF, HAH,
101941.01.12-13CD, TSE, EF, HH, HAH,
111941.04.4-7FC, HH, HAH,
121941.08.1-3JB, FC, CD, TSE, EF, HAH,
131941.12.19-22JB, FC, TSE, EF, HAH,
141942.03.27-30JB, FC, EF, HAH,
161943.01.0-11JB, EF, HH, HAH,
181943.10.29-11.01CB, EF, HAH,
191943.01.14-17CB, FC, EF, HAH,
201944.06.23-26JB, CB, EF, HAH,
211944.12.15-18JB, CB, FC, HAH,


Primary literature

VIDLER A. R., [1977] Scenes from a Clerical Life2

Secondary literature

CLARY Betsy Jane, [1994] “Rethinking the Future: The Correspondence Between Geoffrey Vickers and Adolph Lowe”, Journal of Economic Issues, March 1994

CLEMENTS Keith (eds), [2010] The Moot Papers: Faith, Freedom and Society 1938-1944, London: T & T Clark

KOJECKY Roger, [1971] T.S. Eliot’s Social Criticism, revised ed. 2014., Chap. 9: ‘A Christian Elite’.

KURLBERG Jonas, [2019] Christian Modernism in an Age of Totalitarianism, UK, Bloomsbury, 236 p.

MULLINS Phil & JACOBS Struan, [2005] “Michael Polanyi and Karl Mannheim, Tradition and discovery”, The Polanyi society periodical, vol. 32, no. 1, p. 20–43.

–––––– [2006] “T.S. Eliot’s Idea of the Clerisy, and its Discussion by Karl Mannheim and Michael Polanyi in the Context of J.H. Oldham’s Moot”, Journal of Classical Sociology, July 2006 6, p. 147–156

SCHUCHARD Margret, [2006] ‘T.S. Eliot and Adolph Lowe in Dialogue The Oxford Ecumenical Conference and After – New Letters and More about the Moot’, AAA: Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Bd. 31, H. 1 (2006), pp. 3–24


  1. Clements 2010, 11
  2. includes reminiscences by a core member of The Moot.