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London School of Economics and Political Science Archives

Identity Statement

Held at: British Library of Political and Economic Science
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Full title: London School of Economics and Political Science Archives
Date(s): 1894-2000
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
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Extent: c 1417 boxes, 877 volumes, 2 files and outsize material
Name of creator(s): London School of Economics and Political Science


Administrative/Biographical history:

The London School of Economics and Political Science was officially opened in the autumn of 1895. It owed its existence to the will of Henry Hunt Hutchinson, a provincial member of the Fabian Society, who had left a significant sum of money in trust for 'propaganda and other purposes of the said [Fabian] Society and its Socialism and towards advancing its objects in any way they [the trustees] deem advisable'. Sidney Webb, named as one of Hutchinson's trustees, believed the money should be used to encourage research and study of economics. His proposal to establish a Central School of Economic and Political Science in London was accepted by the Trustees in February 1895. The Trust was to provide the School, in its early years, with a stable source of finance, although money was also raised through private subscriptions and the London County Council. Sidney Webb was the driving and organising force in the establishment and early years of the School, acting as Chairman of the Hutchinson Trust, the School Trustees, the Administrative Committee and the Library Committee, as well as being Treasurer and Acting Librarian, and making most of the decisions concerning the choice of Director of the LSE.
The first choice of Director was W.A.S. Hewins, who was appointed in March 1895 and played a huge part in the early success of the School. He was responsible for arranging the opening, the syllabus, teaching accommodation and students for the new enterprise, a task which took him less than 6 months. The printed prospectus for the London School of Economics and Political Science offered various applied social science courses, including economics, statistics, commerce, commercial geography, history and law, banking, taxation and political science.
Hewins rented two ground floor rooms in 9 John Street, and managed to procure lecture space at the Society of Arts and the Chamber of Commerce. All lectures and most classes were held in the evening from 6-9 pm, and were open to both men and women. Fees were 3 a year, and though students were not prepared for any degree, the courses were useful for members of the civil service, as well as those employed in banking and commerce. Over the course of its first three years of existence, the School increased the number of students to over 300.
In 1896, the Trustees rented 10 Adelphi Terrace to house the growing School. The same year, a Library Appeal was launched, with donations made by the Webbs, Charlotte Payne-Townshend (later Shaw) and various of the Trustees. The British Library of Political Science (later renamed the British Library of Political and Economic Science in 1925) was opened in November 1896, with Hewins as its Director and John McKillop as Librarian (1896-1910).
Sidney Webb's position on the London County Council stood him in good stead when he managed to acquire for the ever expanding School a plot of land in Clare Market following the Kingsway redevelopment. A grant from the philanthropist John Passmore Edwards in 1899 allowed the building of Passmore Edwards Hall, which was opened in 1902. During this period the LSE became a School of the newly created teaching University of London (1900), which led to its incorporation as a limited company, and the establishment of a University Faculty of Economic and Political Science. In 1901, a BSc (Econ) and an DSc (Econ) were established, becoming the first university degrees in the country devoted to social sciences. The School was now composed of over 1,000 students, with a large proportion of women and foreign students, and the creation of a purpose built building allowed lectures to be given during the day as well.
When Hewins resigned in 1903, he was replaced by Halford Mackinder (1903-1908) and later, William Pember Reeves (1908-1919). The School experienced a steady growth in numbers during this period, and Passmore Edwards Hall was expanded to include a Refectory and Common Rooms. In 1906/7, the LSE received its first Treasury Grant, which provided its first permanent source of income since opening. Though numbers declined during World War One, the post-war expansion in commercial education (industry, marketing, finance, transport etc) was considerable.
The appointment of Sir William Beveridge in 1919 marked a period of rapid expansion in all areas of the School's activity. The Commerce Degree (BCom) was instituted, attracting both applicants and finance. The School was able to expand the Clare Market site into Houghton Street, building the 'Old Building' (1920) and the Cobden Library Wing, and expanding the Passmore Edwards Building to incorporate the Founder's Room. Beveridge also used new funding from the Cassel Fund and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund to make numerous academic staff full-time and permanent, and create chairs in subjects including Political Economy, Social Anthropology and Statistics. New departments were created, notably International Studies, and emphasis placed on social science research.
During World War Two, the School, presided over by Alexander Carr-Saunders (1937-1956), moved to Cambridge University, where it was housed at Peterhouse College. Though the numbers of teachers and male students declined, the LSE managed to carry on teaching the whole range of its subjects. Though Clare Market survived the Blitz unscathed, the LSE buildings were only slowly returned by the government departments which had occupied them. Despite this, the School opened again on 29th October 1945. Immediately following the war, numbers of students doubled, mainly comprised of ex-servicemen. The LSE again expanded, purchasing Endsleigh Place in Bloomsbury to act as a student hostel (later known as Passfield Hall) and as a space for social research (Skepper House). Another innovation was the setting up of the Economist's Bookshop by the School and the Economist newspaper in 1946.
Sydney Caine (Director 1956-1967) presided over the conversion of the St Clement's Building, which was opened in 1962. A block of property north of Portugal Street was also added and known as the Island Site. It was in this period that evening teaching was finally ended. The 1960's at the LSE were notable for the student unrest which erupted in 1967 and 1968, initially as a protest against the appointment of Walter Adams as the next LSE Director, and due to a desire for the students to have greater representation on the governing committees of the School. Walter Adams (1967-1973) duly took over as Director, overseeing the completion of Connaught House, the St Clement's Building extensions, the Clare Market Building and a new hall of residence in Rosebery Avenue. The Library, following the purchase of Strand House in 1973, raised the funds to convert it into the Lionel Robbins Building, and moved in 1978.
The last decades of LSE have seen enormous growth in the number of students and further expansion into the buildings surrounding Clare Market. Successive Directors (Ralph Dahrendorf 1973-1984, Indraprasand Gordhanbhai Patel 1984-1990, and Dr John Ashworth, 1990-1997 and Anthony Giddens, 1997-present), have increased the number of research units housed by the School, such as STICERD, the Business History Unit, the Development Research Group and the Financial Markets Group.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of the London School of Economics, 1895-2000, notably records of the central filing system, 1895-1993, including material relating to academic teaching and research, administration of the School, and relations with outside bodies; unregistered LSE files, 1985-1997, comprising important material not contained in the central files, notably early records, reports, papers regarding the British Library of Political and Economic Science, Directors' files of Sir William Henry Beveridge and Sir Sydney Caine, records of the LSE Student's Union, photographs, press cuttings and publications; records of LSE committees, 1894-1993, mainly comprising minutes; material of the LSE History Project, 1895-1998, gathered during research for LSE: a history of the London School of Economics and Political Science, 1895-1995 (Oxford University Press, 1995), including papers relating to academic courses and departments, finance and trusts, buildings, clubs and societies, and research units, as well as biographical material for Directors, staff and students, press cuttings, reminiscences and photographs; oral history material, 1973-2000, comprising interviews with former academic and administrative staff of LSE; and small deposited collections of material relating to LSE, 1909-2000.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Mainly English.

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as outlined in the Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

Open, though some confidential files and files less than 20 years old remain closed. Apply to Archivist for details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Apply to Archivist.

Finding aids:

Temporary handlists and on-line catalogues are available for most of the collection; later deposits remain uncatalogued.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The administrative files of the LSE were deposited in 1987/88 and are added to on a regular basis. The LSE History Project material was given in 1995. The Small LSE Deposits were collected from various sources between 1984 and 2000.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Further material concerning the LSE may be found in the papers of Beatrice and Sidney Webb (Ref: Passfield), Sir Walter Adams (Ref: Adams), Lord William Henry Beveridge (Ref: Beveridge), Sir Sydney Caine (Ref: Caine), and Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders (Ref: Carr-Saunders).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Ralf Gustav Dahrendorf LSE: a history of the London School of Economics and Political Science, 1895-1995 (Oxford University Press, 1995).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: British Library of Political and Economic Science Archives catalogue. Compiled by Sarah Aitchison as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Feb 2001

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