Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1912-1924

Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1912-1924

Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1912-1924

Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1912-1924

Excerpt

This volume of Beatrice Webb's Diaries really covers two fairly distinct phases in the life of the writer, which are divided not, as might have been expected, by the end of the First World War, but by the changes in the nature of the war itself and by the feelings in people's minds about the war and the post-war future, which were slowly gathering force during 1917--particularly after the overthrow of the Czar. This change in the climate of opinion coincided with a revival of Beatrice's own health and spirits; and while, naturally, no specific date can be assigned to it, and the division has been made, for convenience, at the end of 1917, the contrast in tone and content between the early entries and those for the beginning of 1918 is very marked indeed.

The 1912 Diary began at a relatively bad period for the Partnership. The Webbs had just returned from their world tour, undertaken after half a dozen years of very hard work mainly, though by no means wholly, devoted to the Poor Law Commission and the campaign for the break-up of the Poor Law so fully chronicled in the later chapters of Our Partnership. They came back physically refreshed, one assumes, but to an intellectual and political scene calculated to depress them. On the issue of the Poor Law, they had unmistakably failed, first to convince the majority of the Commissioners, and subsequently, notwithstanding the resounding publicity of the campaign, to force the Asquith Cabinet to accept the proposals of the Minority Report. Edwardian England was not ready to swallow even the very mild dose of the Welfare State suggested in the phrase "Prevention of Destitution"; it took eighteen years of continuous unemployment varying only in degree and a second world war to convince the public mind, and it was not until 1948 that the last vestiges of the Poor Law finally disappeared from the Statute Book. Lloyd George and his . . .

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