Harold Blackham

(31 March 1903 – 23 January 2009)

Harold Blackham

Harold Blackham

Harold John Blackham was a leading British humanist and writer on philosophical and historical subjects.

Born on the 31st March, 1903, near Birmingham, Blackham studied literature and worked in farming and teaching before turning to philosophy and adult education. Though never a professional philosopher, he tutored adult education courses on philosophy and the history of ideas, and made substantial contributions to 20th Century Humanist thinking in his many articles and books.

In the early 30s, Blackham became prominent in the British Ethical Union, and was a ‘minister’ at the West London Ethical Church.

Later, joining Stanton Coit in the Ethical Union, Blackham drew the organisation further away from religious forms and played an important part in its formation into the British Humanist Association, becoming the BHA’s first Executive Director in 1963.

He is also an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Association. He retained his interests in education and moral education, writing on ‘Education for Personal Autonomy’ and ‘Education and Drug Dependence’, and was a founder of the Journal of Moral Education. In the 1970s he was chair of the Social Morality Council of Great Britain.

He was also a key organiser of the World Union of Freethinkers’ conference in London in 1938, and, after World War II, was also a founding member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), IHEU secretary (1952-1966), and received the IHEU’s International Humanist Award in 1974, and the Special Award for Service to World Humanism in 1978.

Harold Blackham died on 23rd January 2009, aged 105. Former editor of New Humanist, Jim Herrick, described him as living “the exemplary humanist life, that of thought and action welded together.”

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