James Morrell

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Professor James Morrell, (born on June 25, 1923. Died on September 29 aged 77) was the founder of the Henley Centre for Forecasting,

Early life

According to the Times:

James George Morrell was educated at Christ's Hospital, Horsham, from where he joined the RAF in 1941, flying Beaufighters and Mosquitoes on night missions over Europe. After the war he went up to Ruskin College, Oxford, to read philosophy, politics and economics, and then on to Wadham College, where his tutor was Donald (later Sir Donald) MacDougall, who had been in Churchill's statistical department during the war.
Despite the financial rewards which forecasting had yielded, Morrell had simple tastes. For many years he lived without a car. He and his wife kept a bright yellow 52 ft canal boat sans telephone, to which he would escape with his papers and books in order to study and work in peace and quiet. He had decied last year to retire, and just before suffering a stroke last week, he delivered the manuscript of his final book, How to Forecast.
He married Elizabeth Bristow in 1944. They had two daughters and a son, but subsequently divorced. He married, secondly, Margaret Nickolls in 1972. She survives him, as do the children of his first marriage.[1]

Before Henley

Morrell decided that in order to pursue his interest in business research, he needed to know what life was like at the sharp end. He worked as a bank clerk, spent a year working underground in a Nottinghamshire coalmine and ran a farm camp for fruit pickers in Wisbech. With this experience behind him Morrell joined the Ford Motor Group in 1955 as an economist and project analyst before working in investment management. He branched out on his own in 1967 with forecasts for client companies as well as regular articles on economic subjects in The Sunday Telegraph and Management Today.
The intention had been to offer his expertise to small and medium-sized companies, but it turned out that these were mostly too involved in their own day-to-day affairs to listen. So most of his initial subscribers were blue chip companies with their own in house analysts, for whom Morrell was a useful fall guy if things did not work out as anticipated.[2]
But Morrell persevered with his wish to provide support to the small business sector at a price it could afford. In addition to a visiting professorship at Bradford University, he had been lecturing at Henley Management College for several years when he persuaded its board of governors to take on his charitable organisation, the Henley Centre for Forecasting, as it was originally called. That was as far as the connection between the two organisations went. In fact, the Henley Centre has always been located in the City, rather than Oxfordshire as its name would suggest.[3]

Henley Centre

According to an obituary in The Times:

The Henley Centre was established in 1974 as a not-for- profit business forecasting unit, and soon won wide recognition for the authority of its reports, on which governments and businesses alike came to depend. The idea came from James Morrell, a consultant and business forecaster, who initially approached the Henley Management College for help and guidance. The intention was to provide a low-cost, charitable research and forecasting unit which would help subscribing small and medium-sized companies to predict the economic climate.
Through the centre and through his own company, James Morrell Associates, Morrell produced a long list of business publications and articles, such as Interest Rates in the 1970s (1969) and North Sea and the British Balance of Payments (1975). These were eagerly seized upon by analysts, economists and companies trying to work out their strategies.
After Morrell left the Henley Centre in 1979, it moved away from its original ethos, and rather than publishing reports available to subscribers became a consultancy responding to commissions from individual companies. Under the ownership of WPP, this is still the service it provides today.[4]


As the demand for forecasting grew, so did the timespan it was expected to cover. The line between forecasting and informed guesswork became increasingly blurred, and some of Morrell's predictions became rather dramatic, as when he said in 1977 that within 25 years the nation would face a stark choice between imposing a tax on childless couples and sponsoring a stud farm producing test-tube babies.
By 1979 Morrell was exhausted. He was running the centre, dealing with its administration, lecturing to students and producing reports for an ever growing subscriber base. The time had come to rediscover to his original ideals, and he left to return to consulting for smaller firms with his wife, Margaret.[5]


The Times reports

After the war Morrell, who had briefly been a member of the Fabian Society, was an active supporter of the Labour Party, and he stood unsuccessfully at Wanstead and Woodford in 1964 against the incoming Conservative, Patrick Jenkin. Later, as the Labour Party lurched to the left in the 1980s, he joined the fledgeling Social Democratic Party.[6]


  1. James Morrell, The Times (London) October 3, 2000, Tuesday, SECTION: Features
  2. James Morrell, The Times (London) October 3, 2000, Tuesday, SECTION: Features
  3. James Morrell, The Times (London) October 3, 2000, Tuesday, SECTION: Features
  4. James Morrell, The Times (London) October 3, 2000, Tuesday, SECTION: Features
  5. James Morrell, The Times (London) October 3, 2000, Tuesday, SECTION: Features
  6. James Morrell, The Times (London) October 3, 2000, Tuesday, SECTION: Features