William Beveridge: A Biography

By Jose Harris | Go to book overview
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BEVERIDGE took up his post as director of the London School of Economics in October 1919. He was to remain there for eighteen years, and it was to be the scene of some of his greatest personal failures and triumphs. When Beveridge came to the School it already housed a distinguished coterie of scholars; but it was nevertheless a small and rather obscure institution, providing mainly part-time courses for students living in London. By 1937 it had become the largest centre for the study of social sciences in Britain. Its premises had increased threefold and its annual budget sevenfold;1 it had many teachers with an international reputation and attracted students and scholars from all over the world. Much of this expansion was due to the force, vision, and tireless energy of Beveridge himself -- a fact that was acknowledged by many of his colleagues.2 At the same time, however, Beveridge's directorship forcibly demonstrated many of his faults and shortcomings, both as an administrator and as a human being. In a curious way his career at the School mirrored and highlighted the pattern of his earlier career in Whitehall. In both situations he started out as a zealous and dynamic innovator, and in both he was eventually rejected by the new institutions that he himself had made. In both contexts he appeared at his best in policy-formation, as the architect of grand visions and designer of far-reaching schemes; he appeared at his worst in day-to-day administration, in accommodating the views of critics or opponents, and in the personal conduct of often trivial aspects of institutional affairs.


The history of the LSE has been told many times and need not be recounted in detail.3 Nevertheless, certain features of that history must be mentioned in

Janet Beveridge, An Epic of Clare Market ( 1960), pp. 67-8.
Passfield Papers, B. Webb's diary, 16 Dec. 1933; BP, IIb, B. Webb to WHB, 1 Oct. 1937.
Janet Beveridge, An Epic of Clare Market; Lord Beveridge, The London School of Economics and its


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