Friends of the IEA will be saddened to hear of the death last month of Marjorie Seldon. Marjorie, who was 94, was the wife of Arthur Seldon, who was the first Editorial Director of the IEA for about thirty years from 1957. Arthur, with Ralph Harris, formed one of the most productive partnerships in think tank history to provide the intellectual framework for the market reforms of the Thatcher period.
Arthur and Marjorie were married in 1948 and their marriage lasted for 57 years until Arthur's death in 2005. Marjorie made a wonderful home for Arthur and their three boys. Moreover, she was Arthur's intellectual companion, someone on whom he could try his ideas and have a sympathetic but critical audience. Her interest and support were crucial to his success, both in his own writings and in the IEA publications programme which he formulated and which turned out to be so influential.
Marjorie understood and appreciated what Arthur was trying to accomplish. She was an enthusiastic supporter of and participant in his (eventually successful) efforts to change the climate of opinion in a more liberal direction. In some of their activities, particularly the proposal to free the education market by introducing an education voucher, she played a major part. She chaired a group called Friends of the Education Voucher Experiment in Representative Regions (FEVER) which tried to increase support for the voucher. Marjorie was also a keen participant in Mont Pelerin Society meetings and she achieved the rare distinction of becoming an MPS member. The ‘parties for non-conformists’ which she and Arthur held at their splendid cottage in Godden Green were marvellous occasions, affectionately remembered by those who attended, where established liberal scholars would mingle with the young and aspiring to discuss ideas which defied the conventional wisdom of the day.
Arthur had a deep love and respect for Marjorie and recognised that he could not have accomplished what he did without her. Their interests and their lives were so closely intertwined that, to him, living without her was inconceivable, as he realised when she was briefly in hospital towards the end of his life. In thinking about the revival of classical liberal ideas in the latter part of the twentieth century, in which the IEA was so prominent, we should remember and acknowledge the significant part played by Marjorie Seldon.