Sue Young Histories

James Ellis Barker 1870 - 1948

July 31, 2008

James Ellis Barker 1870 - 1948 was a Jewish German lay homeopath, born in Cologne in Germany, he settled in Britain to become the editor of The Homeopathic World in 1931 (which he later renamed as Heal Thyself) for sixteen years, and he wrote a great deal about homeopathy during this time.

James Ellis Barker was originally a journalist and a historian: he wrote and translated a substantial number of works warning of the German military threat, before he became a homeopath. He practiced widely in the 1930s and 1940s. James Ellis Barker changed his name from Julius Otto Elzbacher to James Ellis Barker due to anti German feelings which were running very high during and in the aftermath of World War I.

’… BARKER, [James] ELLIS (9 May 1870–16 July 1948), writer. A doctor’s son, born Otto Julius Eltzbacher in Cologne, he was naturalised British about 1900. He wrote prolifically on politics, warning Britain about the danger of conflict with the…

(From William D. Rubinstein, The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History, (Palgrave Macmillan, 22 Feb 2011). Page 50)…’** **

‘… James Ellis Barker wrote prolifically on politics, warning Britain about the danger of conflict with Kaiser’s Germany… Since he concealed his Jewish origins_… ‘ he was attacked in _The Penny Illustrated Post by Conservative newsmen Ralph David Blumenfeld (1864-1948) and Alphonse Courlander (1881-1914){::}** *‘… *which led to a 1911 libel suit, [and] referred disparagingly to his German birth… Churchill’s mocking reference to Barker’s German origin in a speech in Derby during 1910 was par for the course among Barker’s political opponents in the prelude to the First World War…’

As James Ellis Barker, he trained alongside Canon Roland Upcher and Noel Puddephatt, the first lay homeopaths of a new generation. They were all trained by John Henry Clarke, amongst many others, who was increasingly frustrated by the decline in homeopathy. John Henry Clarke became increasingly convinced that its future lay with lay practitioners, rather than with servile homeopathic doctors who had ‘sold out’ to allopathy. Of course the first lay homeopath was Melanie Hahnemann 1800-1878 who was taught by Samuel Hahnemann himself, so there is a fundamental precedent for lay practice within homeopathy. Homeopaths believe medicine should be free to all and not just a preserve of powerful elites who belong to powerful closed membership clubs who operate solely for their own vested economic interests.

James Ellis Barker was a colleague of Joseph Chamberlain, William Arbuthnot Lane 1st Baronet, Frederick Sleigh Roberts 1st Earl Roberts, and very many others.

From James Ellis Barker was a German immigrant, born in Cologne, his father a doctor. Barker was an eclectic low-potency homeopath and naturopath; he took over the editorship of The Homeopathic World in April 1932, upon the death of John Henry Clarke.

He restyled the magazine, changed its name to _Heal Thyself_ and broadened its scope for laymen and general health matters. It was co-edited in later years with his wife, Eileen Homer. He was taught homeopathy by John Henry Clarke, his original German name being Otto Julius Eltzbacher.

‘James Ellis Barker devoted his literary career, from 1900, to warning England of the danger of a war with Germany and to urging military, naval and economic preparation, cooperating with Frederick Sleigh Roberts 1st Earl Roberts, Joseph Chamberlain and others; one of the founders of the New Health Society, acting as Honorary Secretary from its beginning.’ (In this respect James Ellis Barker resembles Walter Johannes Stein).

James Ellis Barker did a lot of evangelical work for the homeopathic cause throughout the 30s and 40s. He was deeply and relentlessly critical of the homeopathic status quo and the utter unwillingness of the medical establishment to grapple with the true causes of disease. He enlisted a lot of popular support for homeopathy. He died in August 1948 and his wife took over the Editorship very briefly, before it was bought out by Leslie J Speight and Phyllis M Speight.

James Ellis Barker’s main point was, of course, true. That the homeopathic doctors showed only minimal interest in expanding homeopathy or that they should worry that the sick might be crying out for homeopathy, is not hard to see, because they were happy quietly making a decent living from their Wimpole Street and Harley Street practices.

James Ellis Barker, a doctor’s son from Cologne, had been a journalist and historical and political writer in his early life and had turned to homeopathy and nature cure in his 40s. He was a brilliant, often acidic, writer who never shrank from upsetting people by ‘telling it how it is’ or of revealing his burning desire to take homeopathy to the masses.

He turned the journal _The Homeopathic World _around and vastly increased its sales, such that by the mid-30s it was a very popular magazine which was available on newstands up and down the land. It also sold well abroad. When he died in 1948, he was effectively in charge of a mass movement.

There is a classic series of articles in The Homeopathic World by James Ellis Barker in 1932-3 [just after he took over its editorship] in which he repeatedly slams this sorry state of affairs and describes these various cosy committees as being little better than ‘rich-men’s talking shops’ holding homeopathy back and preventing any expansion of the therapy for the country at large.

James Ellis Barker was probably a communist [in the soft, socialist and broad 30s sense] as he was a journalist and political historian [on which he wrote extensively] before turning his hand to homeopathy and nature cure. His books are well-written and reveal an astute mind. His father was a non-homeopathic doctor in Cologne, Germany and he emigrated to the UK c.1910?

Certainly, James Ellis Barker wished to see homeopathy widely available to the masses, and not just for a tiny elite of ‘upper class toffs’, to which he was, like his mentor John Henry Clarke, vehemently opposed.

James Ellis Barker and many other lay homeopath regarded the British Homeopathic Association and the British Homeopathic Society as rich-person’s talking-shops completely closed to the layman. James Ellis Barker’s point about the British Homeopathic Association being just a front organisation to scrounge money from the public to fund only a paltry few doctors training in homeopathy, whilst at the same time squandering many thousands of pounds donated by rich patrons, is an interesting one.

None of the doctors or many committees of titled people the British Homeopathic Association was burdened with at that time coughed up a single penny [see Heal Thyself July 1932 pp.267-8, pp.279, p.190; September 1932 p.367, p.371-2, p.394-8; June p.123 & pp.221-234]. Its stagnation and decline continued until the late 1970s, when homeopathy and other alternatives, due mainly to newer social forces, started to become popular again.

James Ellis Barker and other lay practitioners gave up on the British Homeopathic Association in disgust sometime in the 40s and from then on went more or less their own separate ways. There was a similar débâcle in the 40s during a debate within the British Homeopathic Association about the NHS Act.

Thomas Maughan suggested to the British Homeopathic Association that they should engage wider involvement for homeopathy from laypersons by offering training courses to the public. After a lot of heated debate, this motion was eventually defeated, and sometime later Thomas Maughan and others, somewhat disgusted, gave up talking to the homeopathic doctors as they felt they had clearly lost this ‘battle for the Faculty’ as he later referred to it. [see pp.92-98, Health Through Homeopathy 4:6, June 1946]

James Ellis Barker was certainly the most important of John Henry Clarke’s students, who had a major influence on UK homeopathy, 1930-1950. A close confidant of John Henry Clarke, he was handed the Editorship of The Homeopathic World early in 1932, only months after John Henry Clarke’s death. This surprising move was very probably a further snub by John Henry Clarke to the British Homeopathic Society and UK homeopathic doctors in general, most of whom he by then despised as traitors of the homeopathic cause and largely responsible, in his view, for its continued decline.

James Ellis Barker then launched into bitter attacks on medical orthodoxy and especially the apathy of the British Homeopathic Society and British Homeopathic Association, both of whom he blamed for the progressive decline of homeopathy. He stirred up a great deal of interest in homeopathy at grassroots level and inspired a renaissance of lay practice throughout the 1930s and 1940s as a result.

Although James Ellis Barker and others, like Edwin D W Tomkins, attracted a lot of interest, even amongst the rich and titled, they did not increase the number of homeopathic doctors at all, nor stop the general decline in the numbers of homeopathic dispensaries and pharmacies, let alone doctors, in the UK, a trend which continued unabated throughout this century. The journal Heal Thyself reached a peak of popularity in the late 1930s.

He castigated both the British Homeopathic Society and the British Homeopathic Association as little more than ‘rich-person’s talking-shops’ that blocked any further expansion or popularisation of homeopathy. Editorial after editorial of his lambasted them mercilessly just as John Henry Clarke had done as Editor in the 1880s and 1890s.

James Ellis Barker also incited the lay practitioners to ‘take homeopathy to the masses’. He was also a keen Naturopath. He was thus the inspiration of the first, brief though glorious, mass movement of alternative medicine in Britain. He died 16 July 1948 after which the journal changed hands several times and then became an obscure health magazine, finally ending in 1967…

These letters clearly demonstrate very different opinions between the plebeian homeopaths of the thirties, and their medically qualified brethren, about how homeopathy should be presented to the public.

James Ellis Barker wrote a very large number of books, both under the name James Ellis Barker and under his real German name Otto Julius Eltzbacher, The Truth about Homœopathy, Rough Notes on Remedies with William Murray, Chronic Constipation, The Story of My Eyes, _Miracles Of Healing and How They are Done_, Good Health and Happiness, New Lives for Old: How to Cure the Incurable, My Testament of Healing, Cancer, the Surgeon and the Researcher, Cancer, how it is Caused, how it Can be Prevented with a foreward by William Arbuthnot Lane 1st Baronet, Cancer and the Black Man, and he also edited the Journal of the Royal Sanitary Institute.

James Ellis Barker was also a historian and wrote extensively on this issue, and he gave many lectures and wrote many articles as well. No doubt, as with many lay homeopaths, he also had another job!

James Ellis Barker also wrote National Service and National Physique (National Service League), National and Non-National Armies. A Study in Military Policy, Economic Statesmanship: The Great Industrial and Financial Problems Arising … , Modern Germany: Her Political and Economic Problems, Her Foreign and … , The Foundations of Germany: A Documentary Account Revealing the Causes of … , Imperial Defense and Tariff Reforms, British Socialism: An Examination of Its Doctrines, Policy, Aims and … , The Great Problems of British Statesmanship, The Red Battle Flyer, Modern Germany, by O. Eltzbacher, Modern Germany: its rise, growth, downfall and future, Britain as Germany’s Vassal, Great and Greater Britain: The Problems of Motherland and Empire, British Socialism; an Examination of Its Doctrine, Policy, Aims and … , Drifting. On the state of England, The Rise and Decline of the Netherlands: A Political and Economic History … , 101 Points Against Free Trade, The “Daily Express” 200 Points for Tariff Reform, 62 Points Against the Budget, Economic Problems and Board of Trade Methods: An Exposure, Economic Statesmanship: the great industrial and financial problems arising from the war, and he translated Germany’s Annexationist Aims by Salomon Grumbach* and many other translations.

Of interest:

*Salomon Grumbach (1884-1952), was ‘… a Jewish Alsatian nationalist politician and journalist, was a Socialist involved with the Social Democratic Party in Germany and with the French Socialists, the latter of which he supported during World War I, as he feared the impact of the war on international working-class solidarity. He became a French citizen in 1918 and entered politics winning election to the French Chamber of Deputies. He supported the Popular Front government and strongly opposed the rise of Fascism. He supported the Resistance and once the war ended, he re-entered the political arena…’ (from


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