Posts Tagged ‘Webbs’

William Beveridge welcomes new LSE students… in 1921-36

October 11th, 2012 by Nick White, Assistant Archivist

A file of addresses to new students by former LSE Director William Beveridge has recently been digitised and is now available online via the Archives catalogue.

The documents (in BEVERIDGE/5/10) vary in detail from sketchy notes to detailed transcriptions of what he was due to say, and many of them are annotated by Beveridge himself. Below are a few extracts from the addresses:

  • On the spirit of adventure and the tradition of tolerance (speech made on 13 October 1930, BEVERIDGE/5/10/15):

“The life of the School has always been a life of adventure, the breaking into new fields of study and the attacking of old problems by new methods…

The tradition of the School is and always has been one of tolerance and one of free thought and speech. Its Constitution lays down that none of the teachers here may suffer any dishonour for the expression of any opinion; with this privilege comes an obligation of honour applying to all the School, whether teachers or taught, to make it clear that the School itself has no colour, political or economic, but is an impartial ground where all may meet. Tolerance indeed is forced upon us by the infinite variety of those who form our body; men and women of other races, creeds and backgrounds, and of other political and economic preconceptions”.

He adds that there is still plenty of room left for the spirit of adventure as, “It is in the fields of economic and political statesmanship, even more than in those of natural science, that the great discoveries are most needed and waiting to be made”.

William Beveridge playing tennis at Banstead, c1919

William Beveridge playing tennis at Banstead, c1919

  • On the conflict between two unselfish motives, the “reforming spirit” and the “scientific spirit” (5 October 1932, BEVERIDGE/5/10/19)

“No one will deny that for the reforming spirit there is ample scope in the world to-day. These are not easy times for anyone. Man seems to be making a mess of his planet; to be wasting his own powers and Nature’s bounty. Because of this it is natural that many old constitutions and cherished institutions, many doctrines that once seemed unassailable, are now on trial…”.

“Your main business here is to acquire the scientific spirit in economic and political studies. You will not find that either inhuman or unprofitable.
In the first place, the pursuit of knowledge is itself an absorbing passion…
In the second place, knowledge is the indispensable preliminary to effective reform…”.

“You are here for the most part to learn to do better in practical life. For the reasons I have given, I want to suggest that in spite of the urgent call, or indeed because of the urgent recurring calls, of the world to the service of the reforming spirit, there is need for you at the moment to be slightly deaf to that call. Your first business is to serve the scientific spirit, to get as the basis of all that you may do in the world hereafter as much knowledge as possible for its own sake, as much understanding as possible of the economic and political institutions, without considering all the time as yet how you would like to change them, what judgment you would pass upon them.

I hope for the sake of the world that there is plenty in you of reforming spirit. For there is much to be done. In following that spirit, as in carving out your own careers, you will constantly in after life find yourselves taking sides, joining parties, attacking opponents, making public speeches, pretending to know more than you do, taking decisions without knowing, taking risks. If when you go out into the practical world you do not take some risks and at need make mistakes, you will not make anything.

But with the scientific spirit none of these things fit. To know, to know the limits of your knowledge, to place truth above parties and sides, to speak only when sure. These are its first principles. It is the scientific spirit that you must seek here; service to the reforming spirit if that conflicts with it you should postpone.

If you miss other things here, you miss what may be valuable. If you miss that, you miss what is vital”.

School Photograph, June 1929

School Photograph, June 1929

  • Beveridge on the need for the application of reason to human affairs (10 October 1934, BEVERIDGE/5/10/24)

“In one sense the School is based on tremendous optimism, on the belief that by taking thought one can master the complex workings of society, and make society work better in the future than it has worked in the past. But as we are optimistic about the possibility of man mastering his fate in this way, so we must realise the conditions of his doing so – patience, detachment, industry, suspension of judgment until one is sure, readiness to face facts, readiness to learn and change your views – everything for which the word “science” stands. To come here with a ready made set of fixed opinions on the nature of society, to acquire such opinions in the first few months is to waste the rest of your time in this place. We believe in the application of reason to human affairs, but it must be reason, not prejudice, not emotion – whether of hatred or of love. That is the common element of the School: belief in the application of reason to human affairs, belief that it is a difficult and interesting, but not an impossible task”.

Charlotte and George Bernard Shaw seated centre, the Webbs seated either side. Leaving for a trip to Russia. The School was founded by the Webbs, G B Shaw and Graham Wallas in 1895. The Shaw Library, in the Founders Room was named after Charlotte Shaw.

Charlotte and George Bernard Shaw seated centre, the Webbs seated either side. Leaving for a trip to Russia in 1932. The School was founded by the Webbs, G B Shaw and Graham Wallas in 1895. The Shaw Library, in the Founders Room, was named after Charlotte Shaw.

  •   On Beatrice and Sidney Webb and their vision of LSE (9 October 1935, BEVERIDGE/5/10/26)

This speech was made in the Founders Room which “commemorates the Webbs, whose portrait you see behind me – the Founders of the School of which you have just become members. The portrait was a present to the Webbs on their joint 70th birthday six years ago; they are not, I believe really the same age, but they keep their birthday and their age as the mean of their two real ages. The School is among the youngest of the great University institutions of this country – just forty years old this year, and its founders are still vigorous and working as hard as ever – in that room as you see it in the picture – complete with the dog”.

Beveridge was not able to come to the School to undertake his first degree as in 1897, “when I was at the age to go to a University as an undergraduate, the School did exist indeed; but it was not part of the University of London; the School offered no regular course for University degrees; our first graduate dates from 1903. In 1897 I should have found the School, had I found it, filling half of one house in Adelphi Terrace, just rejoicing at having left the four rooms in which it began for that larger territory.

All that you are going to get in this place in the next few years you will owe to the Webbs. I hope you will remember this whenever you come to this room, and treat it with the respect which is due to those great figures. I’d like you to feel always something of the romance of the beginning of this School”. He explains that the School was founded in October 1895 on a “small legacy and an idea in the mind of the Webbs”.

“What was this idea? This idea of the Webbs? The idea was a belief in the application of reason to human relations. A belief that reason applied to human affairs might make it possible for us ultimately to manage them better, as reason applied to nature has enabled us to master so much of nature. Their general idea was belief in the possibility and the need for a Science of Society…”.

Down on District 45: Deptford

June 8th, 2012 by Andy Jack, LSE Digital Library

BBC Two series explores social history of London using the Booth maps as a starting point

On Wednesday I watched the first part of the new BBC Two series The Secret History of Our Streets. The episode is currently available on the BBC iPlayer if you would like to watch it for yourself. The first in the six part series focused on the human story of Deptford High Street. We are told that over the course of the last 125 years the area has lost both its wealth and the tight, familial community that gave life to it. The story is one of demolitions, compulsory purchase orders, modernist concrete monoliths and a community ravaged by post-war social experimentation. It isn’t the most uplifting viewing, but the insight into an area only a handful of miles from the affluence of London’s banking district is quite fascinating.

There will be five more programmes in the series all focusing on a particular street.  Coming up next will be Camberwell Grove.

Sheet 12 of 12

Map Descriptive of London Poverty, 1898-9 Sheet 12 of 12

Charles Booth

The series starting point is the Charles Booth maps and notebooks which were produced as part of the the survey into life and labour in London (1886-1903). Beatrice Potter (later to become Beatrice Webb and founding member of the LSE) attended the first meeting of Charles Booth’s Board of Statistical Research on 17th April, 1886 and recorded the occasion in her diary:

Charles Booth’s first meeting of the Board of Statistical Research at his London office. Object of the Committee is to get a fair picture of the whole of London society – the 4,000,000 – by district and employment, the two methods to be based on census returns. At present Charles Booth is the sole worker in this gigantic undertaking. I intend to do a little bit of it while I am in London, not only to keep the Society alive, but to keep me in touch with actual facts so as to limit my study of the past to that part of it useful in the understanding of the present.”

Extract taken from Beatrice Webb’s diaries in LSE Digital Library

The study was certainly an ambitious undertaking covering 4 million people and over 10,000 streets, but for a self-confessed ‘man of investigation’ it must of been personally very satisfying.

Walk with Inspector Gummer and Sergeant Goddard, 18 July 1899

Pages from one of the Booth notebooks: 'Walk with Inspector Gummer and Sergeant Goddard, 18 July 1899'

Deptford: District 45

It was 13 years into the study that the researchers turned their attention to Deptford and what they found will likely be quite surprising to the modern reader. The Booth maps, an early example of social cartography,  used colour coding to indicate the income and social class of its inhabitants.  This ‘Poverty Classification’ applied to 19th century Deptford shows that the High Street was considered ‘Middle class. Well-to-do’ (Red). However, some of the side streets such as Hales street were classified by the Booth study at the very bottom of the scale both ‘Vicious, semi-criminal’ and ‘Very poor, casual. Chronic want’. (Black and Blue). In modern day Booth style maps the area is considered to be at the wrong end of the deprivation scale (but far from hopeless as many of the lively local bloggers will tell you).  This is quite a turnaround over the course of the last 100 years and it is exactly that which the programme is exploring.

Booth Poverty Map: a focus on Deptford High Street

Booth Poverty Map: a focus on Deptford High Street

Through the recollections of local people and retired council staff we begin to understand how this came about. The questions still remain around why, with some believing ‘they’ just had it in for Deptford. The episode suggested to me that it was the case of the State wanting to sweep away the past in a brave new post-war world. This involved embracing modernist architectural ideas of a machine-like city, ordered and efficient, and one we might consider today as quite dehumanised and robotic.

Parts of Deptford were classified as slums and in the 1960s and 1970s demolished to make way for housing estates that are still a familiar site across London today.  Apparently, by a quirk of fate, some homes were spared demolition and still remain. From an online view of two streets in the Deptford area – and mentioned in the programme – we can get an idea of what changed. For example, Albury Street appears to still have the buildings of Booth’s time whereas Reginald Road clearly hasn’t. I know which type of housing I personally prefer to both look at and live in…nowadays.

Booth at the LSE

At LSE  we hold a considerable collection of material relating to the Booth study and we also host the Charles Booth Online Archive where it is possible to view a digital version of the map and compare it with a more recent street map. It is also possible to view some of the digitised police notebooks and see for yourself what the researchers recorded on their guided tours of the community.

PhoneBooth on Mobile Devices

We are also currently undertaking an innovative project with Edina, part funded by JISC, to mobilise the Booth maps and digitised notebooks for delivery to mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones. The PhoneBooth project will enable people to retrieve nearby notebook entries for reading in the actual location to which the historic observations occurred. If your street existed 100 years ago and is on Booth’s maps then you will be able to find out whether the area was a den of iniquity or, perhaps part of a well-heeled suburb. You will also be able to read the police commentary on the inhabitants and understand in what ways, if any, your part of London has changed since the epic Booth study.

One of the prototype proofs-of-concept for the PhoneBooth project

One of the prototype proofs-of-concept for the PhoneBooth project

I’m looking forward to the next installment of the series now and particularly the conversations about the programme on the web. The first episode encouraged a lot of blogging and tweeting which is certainly adding a lot more to the BBC’s interpretation as well as exposing many more stories and memories from ex and current residents alike.

Further information

The PhoneBooth project blog contains more detailed information about the pedagogical and technological aims of the project and includes updates on progress.
PhoneBooth will be available in July/August 2012.

Jubilee Days

May 30th, 2012 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist

Diaries and journals are great resources for historians giving a contemporary view on events and at LSE we have a wide collection of diaries from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With the Diamond Jubilee weekend approaching I decided to see what some of our diaries had to say about Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in June 1897. I came up with  accounts by  three women each with a different perspective on the event.

Kate Courtney, sister of Beatrice Webb

Kate Courtney, sister of Beatrice Webb

Kate Courtney (1847-1929), Beatrice Webb’s sister and wife of the Liberal politician, Leonard Courtney (1832-1918) had trained as a social worker with the Charity Organisataion Society and worked at Toynbee Hall. She was also a keen internationalist who strongly opposed the Boer War. In 1897 Leonard Courtney was MP for Bodmin and they spent jubilee week in London and had a view of the royal procession from the Houses of Parliament. Despite the couples anti-imperialism Kate Courtney was generally enthusiastic about the event but it didn’t warrant more than a brief paragraph in her diary:

‘A wonderful week. Surely never did a few days give enjoyment to a greater number and with not a single bad accident as far as we know……11.30 by steamboat to the House of Commons. The cloudy morning became a brilliant hot day about that time and we lingered on the Terrace and about the House until 10 o clock when we took our seats and immediately after the procession went past. After the Queen perhaps the most interesting part was the troops and mounted police of our Colonies and Dependencies – every shade of race and colour and all sorts of costumes & they had a great reception.’

Violet Markham

Violet Markham

Twenty five year old Violet Markham (1872-1959), who counted Joseph Paxton designer of the Crystal Palace, amongst her ancestors, was down from Chesterfield for the event. She was later to be active in the organisation of women’s labour in both World Wars. Violet had great fun over the three days of celebrations and and wrote pages about her activities over the Jubilee weekend describing the decorations, processions, crowds and parties. Violet thought that the best street decorations were to be found on Piccadilly but felt:

‘one grows a little tired of the endless combinations of red, white & blue. But there can be no doubt the loyalty & enthusiasm of London are universal. No house, however poor, is without a bit of bunting or a Union Jack of sorts.’

I think I might agree this year about the ubiquity of red, white and blue!

Violet watched the procession from the Reform Club with her family. She would have agreed with Kate Courtney about the representatives from across the Empire. However, it was her impression of Queen Victoria which created the greatest surprise:

‘I was delightfully surprised when the carriage with the eight cream horses came into view. I thought I should see a poor little shrunk old woman looking worn and overdone. But on the contrary there was a bonny old lady sitting smiling and upright & as spry & capable as one could wish. She really looked ten years younger than when I saw her last at Cimiez & so well!! ‘

The following night she went out with friends to see the illuminations but spent most of the evening stuck in a carriage jam:

‘The traffic was stopped in the Strand, Piccadilly and St James & down the City. It was a wonderful sight the dense wedge of carriages & ominibuses….The good temper of this densely packed mass of humanity was incredible, chaff, jokes, drinks & concertinas were the order of the day.’

Not everyone was so immersed in the celebration and spectacle and some were distancing themselves from the events. Beatrice Webb (1858-1943), one of LSE’s founders and Kate Courtney’s sister, provides a very different view of the event from her vantage point of a holiday in the Surrey hills.

‘June 22nd Jubilee Day. Brilliant summer sun veiled with mist, absolute stillness in the country – no sound except an occasional cock crowing – all the countryside has moved into London. The little town of Dorking also deserted – the flags flying disconsolate in villa and cottage.’

Beatrice enjoyed the warm summer’s day out in the fields noticing the flowers and the sky. A few days later Beatrice returned to London:

‘Back in London: Imperialism in the air – all classes drunk with sight seeing and hysterical loyalty.’

Beatrice Webb, 1904

Beatrice Webb, 1904

So whether you are staying in London to view the pageant, running the local street party or escaping to the country – have a good long weekend.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

March 8th, 2012 by Catherine McIntyre, Archives Assistant

Today is the 101st International Women’s Day and I thought it would be a good time to highlight some of the interesting and influential women represented in our collections here at LSE Archives.

Beatrice Webb, (née Potter), Lady Passfield; 1858-1943 (PASSFIELD)


Beatrice Webb, 1904. From SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1619. Copyright of the Society of Authors, not to be reproduced without permission.

I couldn’t start with anyone but Beatrice Webb, who probably needs no introduction as she is the star of our recently launched Digital Library and one of the founders of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her position as a pioneering social reformer is well-known, but what interests me about her are the views she held on feminism. Beatrice seemed to be a cautious feminist, opposing the suffrage movement in its earlier days in favour of improvements in social and economic conditions for women as a more effective route to emancipation. Her views on political equality later relaxed, but she never supported the more militant members of the women’s movement. Beatrice was the first woman to be elected a Fellow of the British Academy and they are holding an event this evening inspired by her and honouring women in the humanities and social sciences. Take a look at Beatrice’s manuscript and typescript diaries in our digital library here:


Charlotte Shaw, (née Payne-Townshend); 1857-1943 (PA261)


Charlotte Shaw, c1900. From SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1293. Copyright of the Society of Authors, not to be reproduced without permission.

Charlotte was another important figure in LSE’s history. She rented the upper floors of the houses at Adelphi Terrace so that the LSE could afford to use the lower floors in its early days. Charlotte was also an important early benefactor of the School and, amongst other donations, gave funds to create the Shaw Library containing books for more cultural education, which is located on the 6th floor of the Old Building and named after her. She is represented in our collections with many images in the Shaw Photograph albums and a more informative blog entry can be found here:


Audrey Richards; 1899-1984 (RICHARDS)


Audrey Richards, c1970s. From RICHARDS/19/2.

We hold the fieldwork notes and other papers of anthropologist Audrey Richards, who is regarded as a founder of the field of nutritional anthropology. Richards studied at LSE under Bronislaw Malinowski, carrying out fieldwork amongst the Bemba of what was then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). There she studied the food production and nutrition of the Bemba, which meant that her focus was on the female members of the community as women were the principal farmers. Richards was president of the African Studies Association from 1963-1966 and the Royal Anthropological Institute from 1959-1961. She was awarded the CBE in 1955 and became a fellow of the British Academy in 1967.


Edith Summerskill, Baroness Summerskill; 1901-1980 (SUMMERSKILL)


Edith Summerskill, c1940s. From SUMMERSKILL/2/4.

Edith Summerskill was a medical practitioner and a councillor and MP for the Labour Party from the 1930s until 1961 when she was made a life peer. Summerskill’s medical background gave her authority in her campaigns for a public health service and she was particularly focused on fighting for the provision of birth control and better maternity services. Her involvement with the Married Women’s Association led to the successful passing of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1964, which gave married women equal rights to money provided for matrimonial matters and property bought out of those finances. What is left of her papers are held here, along with her son’s research for his unfinished biography of her.


Lena Jeger (née Chivers), Baroness Jeger; 1915-2007 (JEGER)


Lena Jeger, c1950. From JEGER/1/10.

Lena Jeger is another Labour MP represented in our collections. Intitially a civil servant, Jeger worked at the Foreign Office during the Second World War, where she learnt Russian. After the War she became deputy editor of ‘British Ally’, a newspaper circulated in Russia for propaganda purposes. In her role as an MP, Jeger supported many important acts of the period; she was a sponsor of the 1967 Abortion Law and played an important role in securing the Equal Pay Act of 1970, as well as supporting legislation ending capital punishment and legalising homosexuality. We have her business and personal papers, which cover all aspects of her early and political life.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pioneering, passionate and social reforming women in our collections. Maybe next year I can explore some more! Please take a look at our guide to holdings if you would like to find out more about the women in our collections. If you would like to further explore sources for women’s history, The Women’s Library’s Genesis project is a great place to start.

Manuscript, typescript ….. digital! Beatrice Webb launches LSE Digital Library

February 2nd, 2012 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist
Beatrice Webb, photographed by G.B.Shaw

Beatrice Webb, photographed by G.B.Shaw

In January I blogged about a couple of entries in Beatrice Webb’s diary and we are excited to announce the launch of the the LSE’s Digital Library with a complete and fully searchable version of both the manuscript and typescript versions of Beatrice Webb’s seventy years of diary entries.

Beatrice Webb was born in 1858, the eighth daughter of Richard Potter, a wealthy businessman, and Lawrencina Heyworth. Although Beatrice did not put much stock in novel writing, she nevertheless expressed a desire in her diary to write creatively and at length, and hence the diary, and the autobiography upon which it is based, was born. In the diary Beatrice records the activities of her daily life, the interactions with friends and family, and her most private thoughts and fears. In 1883 Beatrice took up social work in London, acting as a rent collector for the Charity Organisation Society and working undercover as a seamstress in a sweatshop in 1888. She began writing on social subjects and eventually started moving in the same circles as Sidney Webb, her future husband. The Webbs devoted their lives to socialism, becoming  central members of the Fabian Society, founders of the London School of Economics, and constant campaigners for the welfare state.

Two versions of the diary have been digitised – the actual manuscript as well as a transcription produced during Beatrice Webb’s life that is cross-referenced with the date fields indexed from the manuscript version.  Both versions can now be viewed side-by-side for comparison.  The diaries are fully-searchable and contain a wealth of information not just on Beatrice’s personal and working life, but on the social history of Britain and the world, spanning 70 years of social upheaval.  The project also includes a bibliography of all Beatrice and Sidney Webb’s printed works with the ability to link to full text versions where available and a gallery of photographs, including for the first time some colour portraits taken by G.Bernard Shaw. Webbs on the Web was funded generously by the Webb Memorial Trust.

In future we will be adding further material to the LSE Digital Library – we already have plenty of material in digital format from both the archive and print collections including Fabian Society pamphlets, Charles Booth’s Poverty Maps and 19th Century photographs. We are also excited that the Digital Library will open the doors to collecting and revealing a much wider range of material such as LSE theses, blogs, working papers and podcasts from LSE’s lively public events programme.  We are also considering statistics, posters, microfiche, audio visual content, historical broadcasts, exam papers, websites and material relating to LSE history and staff.

LSE Library’s collections are at the heart of the life and research of the School and of internationally recognised importance to the social sciences. They have been growing in breadth and stature for over 100 years and include many rare and unique materials. Collecting and preserving digital material is central to the continued distinction of these collections and a part of LSE Library’s role as a research library for the next 100 years.

To explore Webbs on the Web visit LSE Digital Library at

A Tale of Two Beatrices

January 12th, 2012 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist
Beatrice Webb in 1904 photographed by G.Bernard Shaw.

Beatrice Webb in 1904 photographed by G.Bernard Shaw.

Diaries hold a fascination for the reader – to enter into the interior world of another person is an intriguing and privileged experienced. Our best known diary at LSE is  the diary of the social reformer and LSE founder Beatrice Webb who kept a diary, with some gaps, from 1873, when she visited the USA with her father, until her death in 1943.

January 1898 was an exciting time for Beatrice on two fronts – in late 1898 she and her husband, Sidney Webb, had published what was to become one of their best known and most influential works Industrial Democracy and they were planning a trip to the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Beatrice had been closely following the reviews of Industrial Democracy.

Beatrice Webb's diary, 11 January 1898

Beatrice Webb's diary, 11 January 1898

Delighted with the press reports of Industrial Democracy she writes: ‘Our big book has had a brilliant reception. The Times gave us two columns on the day of publication, the Standard an abusive leader, the Daily Chronicle and the Daily News and half a dozen big provincials were all properly enthusiastic. ….. Altogether a small triumph in its way. The scientific charactier of the work is recognized, though of course the critics chaff us for our ‘pompous phraseology’. It is a big plant on the public: a new method and a new theory!’

At the same time her mind is clearly on other things as they prepare for their nine months out of England: ‘The old Eve in me is delighted with buying a trousseau for our nine months’ journey.’ After the hard work of research and writing retail therapy is calling.

Beatrice Webb diary, 11 January 1898

Beatrice Webb's diary, 11 January 1898

She continues: ‘I am revelling in buying silks and satins, gloves, underclothing, furs and everything that a sober-minded woman of forty can want to inspire Americans and Colonials with a due respect for the refinements of attractiveness! It is a pleasure to clothe myself charmingly! For the last ten years I have not had either the time or the will to think of it. For this tour, I harmonize some extravagance with my conscience by making myself believe that I must have everything new and that I must look nice! I believe that it is a deliberate expenditure because six months ago I determined that I would do myself handsomely as part of a policy, but I daresay one or two of the specially becoming blouses are the expression of concrete vanity, My childish delight in watching these bright clothes being made is a sort of rebound from the hard drudgery of the last two years. But is is rather comical in a women of 40! – 40 all but two weeks – forty, forty, FORTY – what an age, almost elderly! I don’t feel a bit old.’

The modern reader would quibble with the idea of considering forty to be old!

With the launch of the LSE Digital Library at the end of January researchers and keen diary readers will be able to explore both the manuscript and typesscript version of the diary either browsing through the entries or searching for people, places or dates. This will be the first time that the complete text of Beatrice Webb’s diary has been easily accessible to researchers and we are excited about the new research that the project will encourage.

We’ll be publishing more about the launch soon – so watch this space!