Beveridge, William

William Henry Beveridge was born in 1879 and educated at Charterhouse and Balliol College, Oxford. He was Sub-Warden of Toynbee Hall between 1903 and 1905, before becoming a leader writer for the Morning Post from 1905, where he wrote on social problems. He joined the civil service in 1908 and entered the Board of Trade. He was the Director of Labour Exchanges 1909-1916, and a leading authority on unemployment and social security, authoring Unemployment: a Problem of Industry in 1909 (revised 1930), a pioneering study of the labour market’s complexity. He helped draw up the 1909 Labour Exchanges Act and part ii of the 1911 National Insurance Act, the latter introducing unemployment insurance for two and a quarter million workers in the heavy industries.

In 1919, he became Director of the London School of Economics, a period often described as a second foundation of the School. It was a period of tremendous growth, and Beveridge’s directorship was responsible for the School’s recognition during the 1930s as one of the world’s leading social science centres. He was a central figure in the sheltering of the refugee scholars displaced by Nazi oppression in the 1930s; the Academic Assistance Council was established as a result of his initiative. He resigned the directorship in 1937, taking up the Mastership of University College, Oxford before joining the government in 1940. In 1944 he became the Liberal MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, and after the loss of his seat in 1945 he served as a Liberal peer in the House of Lords.

His most famous contribution to society is the Beveridge Report (officially, the Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services) of 1942, the basis of the 1945-51 Labour government’s legislative programme for social reform. Beveridge saw full employment as the pivot of the social welfare programme he expressed in the report, and Full Employment in a Free Society (1944) expressed how this goal might be gained. Alternative measures for achieving it included Keynesian-style fiscal regulation, direct control of manpower, and state control of the means of production.

The impetus behind Beveridge’s thinking was social justice and the creation of an ideal new society after the war. He believed that the discovery of objective socio-economic laws could solve the problems of society. He was critical of shortcomings in social legislation after 1945, and his Voluntary Action (1948) defended the role of the private sector in the provision of social welfare. In later years Beveridge devoted himself to a history of prices, the first volume of which, Prices and Wages in England from the Twelfth to the Nineteenth Century, had been published in 1939. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1937.

Scope and content of the collection:
(1) Personal papers of William Henry Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge of Tuggal, and his family, [1880]-1963, comprising the following: Family and personal papers, 1869-1963, including genealogical material; correspondence, books and royalty statements relating to the work of Beveridge’s parents, Annette Susannah and Henry Beveridge, 1901-1959; papers concerning Beveridge’s education, 1891-1903; personal ephemera including birthday cards, programmes, academic notes, and invitations, [1884]-1961; personal diaries, 1903-1905, 1929-1934, 1949-1952, 1959 and 1961; engagement diaries, 1933-1961; material relating to grants and degrees, 1916-1961, notably honorary degrees, the KCB and his barony; papers concerning household affairs, 1906-1963; personal financial papers, such as personal account ledger, 1907-1920, income tax papers, 1907-1961, correspondence, bills, receipts and insurance papers, 1903-1962; photographs of family and friends, 1884-1958.

(2) Correspondence, 1883-1963, including Beveridge family letters and letters to and from friends and colleagues.

(3) Papers relating to unemployment and labour exchanges, 1902-1960, notably material of the Mansion House Unemployed Fund, 1904-1905, the London Unemployed Fund, 1904-1905, and the Central (Unemployed) Body for London, 1905-1908; correspondence, notes and statistics concerning unemployment insurance and labour exchanges in Germany, 1907, and Britain, 1908; notice and syllabus of lectures by Beveridge on The economics of unemployment, 1908; material relating to the publication of Unemployment: a Problem of Industry (Longmans and Co, London 1909), 1907-1934, notably correspondence with Longmans, royalty payments, reviews, and notes and drafts relating to later editions; papers relating to his work at the Board of Trade, 1908-1960, including correspondence and memoranda concerning juvenile employment, 1910-1911, reports and speeches concerning labour exchanges in Ireland, 1910-1919, and Ghent, Belgium, 1913-1914, and various memoranda on the working of labour exchanges, 1915-1916; material concerning the unemployment insurance scheme, 1907-1944, including memoranda and drafts, reports, statistics, committee minutes, press cuttings and Beveridge’s notes about unemployment insurance by industries and casual labour; working notes and correspondence for Insurance for All and Everything (Daily News, London, 1924); Ministry of Labour reports, notes and memoranda on unemployment insurance, 1910-1929; Government Acts, reports and publications on unemployment, 1902-1930.

(4) Papers relating to Beveridge’s work during World War One, 1914-1921, including material relating to the Ministry of Munitions, 1915-1916, such as correspondence, memoranda and reports on manpower problems, and memoranda concerning the history and activities of the Ministry; papers of the Manpower Distribution Board, 1916; material relating to post-war reconstruction, including schemes for demobilisation, and papers relating to the post-war prospects of trades and industries; correspondence, minutes, memoranda and reports created by the Ministry of Food, 1916-1921, on subjects including food rationing, family budgets, and the staffing of the Ministry.

(5) Material collated during Beveridge’s time as Director of the London School of Economics, 1895-1958, notably correspondence with Sir Arthur Herbert Drummond Ramsay Steel-Maitland, Chairman of Governors, 1924-1925; memoranda and correspondence mainly relating to LSE prizes and scholarships, 1924-1952; Directors’ reports, 1924-1937; lecture notes and texts of speeches, 1920-1937; programmes, 1920-1937; correspondence relating to his resignation from LSE, 193-1937; correspondence and papers concerning his role as a member of the Senate of the University of London, 1923-1958, notably papers relating to the purchase of the Bloomsbury site, 1923-1933.

(6) Papers relating to Beveridge’s post as Master of University College, Oxford University, 1937-1962, including correspondence and reports concerning the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the Institute of Statistics, and Nuffield College.

(7) Material relating to politics, 1943-1963, including correspondence, speeches, press cuttings, and reports created whilst MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, 1944-1945; papers concerning the general election of 1945, mainly comprising pamphlets, election addresses, press cuttings and correspondence from candidates, constituents, and the Berwick Division Liberal Association; Beveridge’s speech notes and Hansard extracts from parliamentary debates in the House of Lords, 1946-1963, on subjects mainly related to welfare, unemployment, and economics; papers concerning the Liberal Party Organisation (LPO), 1945-1962, including correspondence with the LPO and other Liberal organisations.

(8) Material concerning other interests and activities of Beveridge, 1920-1962, notably papers relating to the health services, pensions, and old age; New Towns, including material on the Peterlee Development Corporation and the Newton Aycliffe Development Corporation; traffic and preservation problems in Oxford; population and fertility, including articles, pamphlets and correspondence; weather periodicity; world government and peace aims, 1944-1962, including minutes and correspondence of the Crusade for World Government, Britain in Europe Ltd, the EuropeanAtlantic Group, the Federal Educational and Research Trust, the Federal Union, One World Trust, the Parliamentary Group for World Government, the World Parliament Association, and the United Nations; correspondence and other papers relating to broadcasting and television.

(9) Papers created during the writing of reports, 1925-1950, including the report of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry, 1925-1930; the report of the Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee, 1934-1944; the report of the Sub-Committee of Committee of Imperial Defence on Food Rationing, 1936-1937; report of the Manpower Survey, 1940, and Committee on Skilled Men in the Services, 1941; report of the Fuel Rationing Enquiry, 1942; report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services (Beveridge Report), 1941-1945; report on Social Insurance, 1924, 1941-1951; report of the Broadcasting Committee, 1951.

(10) Material relating to publications, 1901-1963, including manuscripts of books, pamphlets and articles, correspondence with publishers, royalty statements, working notes, research papers and memoranda; reviews, letters to the press and obituaries, 1909-1962; texts of lectures, speeches and broadcasts, 1901-1963.

(11) Papers concerning working visits abroad, 1918-1961, to Austria (the Inter-Allied Commission on Relief of German Austria), Canada, the USA, Germany, France, India, Spain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, mainly comprising correspondence, diaries, lecture notes, press cuttings and photographs.

(12) Press cuttings, 1870-1963, including Morning Post leaders written by Beveridge, 1905-1908, and cuttings concerning his death.

(13) Miscellaneous material, including inventories of papers in the Beveridge collection.

To gain access to the collection please contact the Archives Division, 10 Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HD, 020 7405 7223;

Contact Details

+44 (0)20 7955 7223