Background and education
Salter was the son of John Henry Salter (1853–1930), head of Thames boating company Salters Steamers, and Mayor of Oxford in 1903. Educated at Oxford City High School and Brasenose College, Oxford, he graduated with first class honours in Literae Humaniores in 1903.
Salter joined the Civil Service in 1904 and worked in the transport department of the Admiralty, on national insurance, and as private secretary, being promoted to Assistant Secretary grade in 1913. On the outbreak of war, he was recalled to the Admiralty, and became director of ship requisitioning. He was sent to Washington D.C. to press for a US programme of new construction. In 1917/18 he was a colleague of Jean Monnet in the Chartering Committee of the Allied Maritime Transport Council, and in 1919 appointed secretary of the Supreme Economic Council in Paris. Salter then worked as head of the economic and financial section of the League of Nations secretariat, and in the League secretariat at Geneva, where he worked for stabilization of currencies of Austria and Hungary and resettlement of refugees in Greece and Bulgaria.
In 1934, he was appointed Gladstone professor of political theory and institutions at Oxford University, and a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Oxford University from 1937-50. He resumed his shipping interests from World War I, being appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping in 1939, and heading the British shipping mission to Washington from 1941–3. He was appointed a Privy Counsellor in 1941. In 1944 he was appointed deputy director-general of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. He briefly served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the summer of 1945. He was elected as Conservative MP for Ormskirk from 1951–3, and served as Minister of State for Economic Affairs at the Treasury, and as Minister of Materials in 1952. In the mid-1950s he was invited by Nuri al-Said to be one of the external members of the Iraqi government's Development Board.
He was raised to the peerage as Baron Salter, of Kidlington in the County of Oxford, on 16 October 1953.
- Christophe Le Dréau, Arthur Salter face à la construction européenne (1929-1951), Mémoire de DEA de l'Université Paris I Sorbonne, sous la direction de Robert Frank, 1999, 232p.
- James Arthur Salter: Allied Shipping Control, Oxford 1921.
- A Brief History of Salter's.
- London Gazette: no. 39988, p. 5498, 16 October 1953.