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British Library of Political and Economic Science

WEBB: First World War Poverty Relief papers


Reference code(s): GB 0097 COLL MISC 0242

Held at: British Library of Political and Economic Science

Title: WEBB: First World War Poverty Relief papers

Date(s): 1914-1915

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 5 volumes

Name of creator(s): Webb | (Martha) Beatrice | 1858-1943 | wife of 1st Baron Passfield | social reformer and historian
Webb | Sidney James | 1859-1947 | 1st Baron Passfield | social reformer and historian


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sidney Webb, 1859-1947, the son of an accountant, was born in London on 13 July, 1859. At the age of sixteen Webb became an office clerk but he continued to attend evening classes at the University of London until he acquired the qualifications needed to enter the Civil Service. Webb also contributed to the 'Christian Socialist' and taught at the London Working Men's College. In 1885 he joined the Fabian Society. In 1892 Webb married Beatrice Potter (1958-1943), the social reformer. In the same year he stood as the Fabian Society candidate for Deptford in the London County Council elections. Webb won the seat and he retained it for the next eighteen years. Webb was appointed as Chairman of the Technical Instruction Committee and as a result was known as the Minister of Public Education for London. In 1894 Henry Hutchinson, a wealthy solicitor from Derby, left the Fabian Society £10,000. Sidney and Beatrice Webb suggested that the money should be used to develop a new university in London. The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) was founded in 1895.

When the Conservative Party won the 1900 General Election, the Webbs drafted what later became the 1902 Education Act. In 1915 Sidney Webb was appointed to the Labour Party National Executive. By 1922 he was Chairman of the National Executive and the following year, in the 1923 General Election, was chosen to represent the Labour Party in the Seaham constituency. Webb won the seat, and when Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) became Britain's first Labour Prime Minister in 1924, he appointed Webb as his President of the Board of Trade. Webb left the House of Commons in 1929 when he was granted the title Baron Passfield. Now in the House of Lords, Webb served as Secretary of State for the Colonies in MacDonald's second Labour Government. His publications include: 'The case for an eight hours bill' (1891); 'The History of Trade Unionism' (1894) Co-written with Beatrice Webb; 'Industrial Democracy' (1897) Co-written with Beatrice Webb; 'Facts for Socialists' (1887); 'Facts for Londoners' (1888); 'The Eight Hour Day' (1891); 'English local government' (1906); 'The decline in the birth-rate' (1907); 'The basis & policy of socialism' (1908); 'The Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission' (1909); 'Conscience and the conscientious objector' (1917); 'A constitution for the socialist commonwealth of Great Britain' (1920); 'The decay of capitalist civilisation' (1923); 'English poor law history' (1927); 'Soviet communism: dictatorship or democracy?' (1936).

Beatrice Webb, 1858-1943, was born Martha Beatrice Potter at Standish House near Gloucester, she was the eighth daughter of the railway and industrial magnate Richard Potter (1817-1892). Beatrice was educated privately and became a business associate of her father after her mother's death in 1882. She became interested in reform and began to do social work in London.

Beatrice investigated working-class conditions as part of the survey 'Life and Labour of the People in London' (1891-1903), directed by her cousin Charles Booth (1840-1916). In 1892 she married Sidney Webb (1859-1947), later Baron Passfield, a member of the socialist Fabian Society. Sidney and Beatrice Webb served on many royal commissions and wrote widely on economic problems. In 1895 they founded the London School of Economics and Political Science. After a tour of the United States and the Dominions in 1898, they embarked on their massive ten-volume work, 'English Local Government' (1906-1929). Beatrice Webb also served on the Poor Law Commission (1906-1909) and was joint author of its minority report. During World War I Beatrice Webb was a member of the War Cabinet committee on women in industry (1918-1919) and served on the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee for women justices (1919-1920), being a justice of the peace herself from 1919 to 1927.

Sidney Webb became an MP in 1922 and held ministerial office in both the early Labour governments. In 1932, after he had left office, the Webbs visited the Soviet Union. They recorded their views in 'Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation' (1935). The Webbs retired to their home in Hampshire in 1928. Beatrice Webb produced two volumes of autobiography: 'My Apprenticeship' (1926) and 'Our Partnership' (1948), which was published after her death. Her publications include: 'The co-operative movement in Great Britain' (1891); 'The history of trade unionism' (1894) (co-author with Sidney Webb); 'The case for the Factory Acts' (1901); 'English Local Government' (1906) (co-author with Sidney Webb); 'The charter of the poor' (1909); 'The break-up of the Poor Law: being part one of the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission' (1909); 'The coming of a unified county medical service and how it will affect the voluntary hospital' (1910); 'Complete national provision for sickness: how to amend the insurance acts' (1912); 'The abolition of the Poor Law' (1918); 'Wages of men and women-should they be equal?' (1919); 'A constitution for the socialist commonwealth of Great Britain' (1920); 'Decay of capitalist civilisation' (1923) Co-author with Sidney Webb; 'My apprenticeship' (1926); 'Soviet Communism: a new civilisation' (1935); 'Our partnership' (1948).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers concerning wartime measures for the relief of distress.


Language/scripts of material: English

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No further list required


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Archivist's note: Output from CAIRS using template 14 and checked by hand on May 8, 2002

Date(s) of descriptions: May 8, 2002

Poverty | Social problems
Poverty alleviation | Income distribution | Income and wealth
War | International conflicts
World War One (1914-1918) | World wars (events) | Wars (events)

Personal names
Webb | Martha Beatrice | 1858-1943 | née Potter | social reformer and historian x Potter | Martha Beatrice x Webb | Beatrice
Webb | Sidney James | 1859-1947 | 1st Baron Passfield | social reformer and historian x Passfield | 1st Baron

Corporate names