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Harold Cox (Tonbridge, Kent 1859 - 1 May 1936) was a Liberal MP for Preston from 1906 to 1909.

The son of Homersham Cox a County Court judge, Cox was educated at Tonbridge Schoolmarker in Kentmarker and was Scholar and later Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridgemarker where he took a mathematics degree in 1882. He later lectured on Political Economy for Cambridge University Extension Society in Yorkmarker and Hullmarker.

He also worked as an agricultural labourer in Kent and Surreymarker for nearly one year in order to discover what life for English labourers was like. He started a communistic farm which failed. He spent two years in India teaching mathematics in the Mahommedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarhmarker and returned to England in 1887 to read for the Bar, and became a student of Gray's Innmarker but instead became a journalist. He was secretary of the Cobden Club from 1899 to 1904. After this he was elected as a Liberal for Preston in the general election of 1906, where he campaigned vigorously against the Unionist's proposals for Tariff Reform.

However his tenure as a Liberal MP was not a happy one; Cox was a classical liberal but the Liberal Party was moving away from this to embrace new liberalism during the passage of the Liberal welfare reforms. Cox, almost alone in the Liberal Party, fought against his party's policies of old-age pensions, meals for poor schoolchildren and unemployment benefit. He exclaimed in his Socialism in the House of Commons (1907) that he was against weakening individual and group responsibility. G. P. Gooch, a Liberal MP in support of such reforms, said that Cox "was the only man on the Liberal side who clung to the doctrines of laissez-faire in their unadulterated form. While we saw in the state an indispensable instrument for establishing a minimum standard of life for the common man, he dreaded the slackening of moral fibre as a result of getting "something for nothing"."

He lost his seat in January 1910 to a Conservative. He was subsequently Alderman of the London County Council from 1910 to 1912 and then editor of the Edinburgh Review to 1929.

Cox also served on a number of committees: the Bryce Commission on German Outrages in 1915, the Committee on Public Retrenchment in 1916 and the Royal Commission on Decimal Currency in 1919.

Cox also originated the citation which subsequently became known as "Stamp's Law of Statistics":"The individual source of the statistics may easily be the weakest link. Harold Cox tells a story of his life as a young man in India. He quoted some statistics to a Judge, an Englishman, and a very good fellow. His friend said, "Cox, when you are a bit older, you will not quote Indian statistics with that assurance. The Government are very keen on amassing statistics - they collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But what you must never forget is that every one of these figures comes in the first place from the chowty dar [village watchman], who just puts down what he damn pleases".


  • Socialism in the House of Commons (1907).
  • Land Nationalisation.
  • Economic Liberty (1920).
  • The Problem of Population (1923).


Further reading

  • Charles Mallet, 'Obituary. Harold Cox', The Economic Journal, Vol. 46, No. 183 (Sep., 1936), pp. 562-565.

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