Kingsley Martin, the son of Basil Martin and Margaret Turberville, was born in London in 1897. Kingsley father had initially been a Congregational minister but later he became a Unitarian. The Rev. Martin was a pacifist and in 1899 campaigned against the Boer War. He was also a socialist and a active member of the Labour Party.
Martin later wrote: "I was proud of holding my father's opinions. I was a pacifist and socialist among conservatives without knowing what these labels meant. This was bad for me. All boys in adolescence must break with their parents. My trouble was that my father gave me no chance at all to quarrel with him. If he had been a dogmatic Christian, I should have reached my later humanism long before I did. If he had been an atheist I might have relapsed into some form of Christian faith. But he was ready to discuss everything and to yield when he was wrong. I could not quarrel. On the contrary, I fought side by side with him, and was a dissenter, not against his dissent, but with him against the Establishment. His causes became my causes, his revolt was mine."
Kingsley won a scholarship to Mill Hill, a nonconformist public school. He was still at school when he was called up to the British Army in 1916. As a pacifist he was totally opposed to Britain's involvement in the First World War. A conscientious objector, he refused to serve in the armed forces but was willing to carry out non-military duties. After a few months working as a medical orderly in a British hospital treating wounded soldiers, Martin joined the Society of Friends' Ambulance Unit (FAU) and later that year was working on the Western Front.
He later wrote: "In my ward, there were twenty-five men who were literally half dead. They were very much alive in their top halves, but dead below the waist. The connection between their brain and their natural functions were broken. They could feel nothing in their hips or legs, and in spite of being constantly rubbed with methylated spirit, they had bedsores you could put your hands in."
In 1919 Martin took up his place at Magdalene College that he had won at Cambridge before the war. While studying at university he joined the Union of Democratic Control and the Fabian Society where he met George Bernard Shaw, Graham Wallas, John Maynard Keynes, Douglas Cole and Sidney Webb and Harold Laski. Beatrice Webb wrote in her diary: "Kingsley Martin was unkempt and with the appearance of being unwashed, with jerky, ugly manners, but tall and dark - with a certain picturesque impressiveness of the Maxton type. He is a fluent and striking conversationalist - intellectually ambitious - with a certain religious fervour for social reconstruction. One of the promising younger members of the Fabian Society."
After obtaining a degree at Cambridge University, Martin taught at Princeton University (1922-23) in the USA. When Martin returned to England, Maynard Keynes employed him as a book reviewer for his journal, The Nation. Keynes also persuaded William Beveridge, to give Martin a teaching post at the London School of Economics (1924-27).
Harold Laski suggested to C. P. Scott, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, that Martin would make a good replacement for C. E. Montague, the chief leader writer, who wanted to retire and write novels. He later wrote: "C. P. Scott wrote he had long been looking for a leader writer and would I take C. E. Montague's place on the Manchester Guardian at a salary commencing at £1,000 a year. This was an extraordinary offer from C. P. Scott, who usually thought anyone should pay for the privilege of writing for the Manchester Guardian." In the autumn of 1927 Martin accepted Scott's offer of £1,000 a year and ended his career as an academic.
Martin stayed at the Manchester Guardian until 1930. Soon afterwards, Arnold Bennett, one of the directors of the New Statesman, asked him to become editor of the journal. Under Martin's guidance the journal became Britain's leading political weekly. He admitted in his autobiography: "In general we supported the Left Wing of Labour. Our independence was infuriating to the leaders of the party. Politicians think in terms of votes, and do not understand that in the long run it is the climate of opinion that matters."
Kingsley Martin died in 1969.