Scope and Content

'Eugenics and the poor law', typescript precis of a lecture delivered to theEugenics Society.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sidney Webb 1859 - 1947

Sidney Webb, the son of an accountant, was born in London on 13th July, 1859.At the age of sixteen Webb became an office clerk but he continued to attendevening classes at the University of London until he acquired thequalifications needed to enter the Civil Service. Webb also contributed tothe Christian Socialist and taught at the London Working Men's College. In1885 he joined the Fabian Society.

In 1892 Webb married Beatrice Potter (1958 - 1943), the social reformer. Inthe same year he stood as the Fabian Society candidate for Deptford in theLondon County Council elections. Webb won the seat and he retained it for thenext eighteen years. Webb was appointed as Chairman of the TechnicalInstruction Committee and as a result was known as the Minister of PublicEducation for London. In 1894 Henry Hutchinson, a wealthy solicitor fromDerby, left the Fabian Society 10,000. Sidney and Beatrice Webb suggestedthat the money should be used to develop a new university in London. TheLondon School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) was founded in1895.

When the Conservative Party won the 1900 General Election, the Webbs draftedwhat later became the 1902 Education Act. In 1915 Sidney Webb was appointedto the Labour Party National Executive. By 1922 he was Chairman of theNational Executive and the following year, in the 1923 General Election, waschosen to represent the Labour Party in the Seaham constituency. Webb won theseat, and when Ramsay MacDonald (1866 - 1937) became Britain's first LabourPrime Minister in 1924, he appointed Webb as his President of the Board ofTrade. Webb left the House of Commons in 1929 when he was granted the titleBaron Passfield. Now in the House of Lords, Webb served as Secretary of Statefor 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)


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