Scope and Content

Series of letters between Beatrice Webb and Dr McLeary regarding the Poor Law.

Administrative / Biographical History

Beatrice Webb nee Potter 1858 - 1943

Beatrice Webb was born Martha Beatrice Potter at Standish House nearGloucester, she was the eighth daughter of the railway and industrial magnateRichard Potter (1817 - 1892). Beatrice was educated privately and became abusiness associate of her father after her mother's death in 1882.

She became interested in reform and began to do social work in London. Sheinvestigated working-class conditions as part of the survey "Life and Labourof the People in London" (1886 - 1903), directed by her cousin Charles Booth.In 1892 she married Sidney Webb (1859 - 1947), later Baron Passfield, amember of the socialist Fabian Society. Sidney and Beatrice Webb served onmany royal commissions and wrote widely on economic problems. In 1895 theyfounded the London School of Economics and Political Science. After a tour ofthe United States and the Dominions in 1898, they embarked on their massiveten-volume work, English Local Government (1906 - 1929). Beatrice Webb alsoserved on the Poor Law Commission (1906 - 1909) and was joint author of itsminority report. During World War I Beatrice Webb was a member of the WarCabinet committee on women in industry (1918 - 1919) and served on the LordChancellor's advisory committee for women justices (1919 - 1920), being ajustice of the peace herself from 1919 to 1927.

Sidney Webb became an MP in 1922 and held ministerial office in both theearly Labour governments. In 1932, after he had left office, the Webbsvisited the Soviet Union. They recorded their views in Soviet Communism: ANew Civilisation (1935). The Webbs retired to their home in Hampshire in1928.

Her publications include:

  • The co-operative movement in Great Britain (1891)
  • The history of trade unionism (1894) (co-author with Sidney Webb)
  • The case for the Factory Acts (1901)
  • English Local Government (1906) (co-author with Sidney Webb)
  • The charter of the poor (1909)
  • The break-up of the Poor Law: being part one of the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission (1909)
  • The coming of a unified county medical service and how it will affect thevoluntary hospital (1910)
  • Complete national provision for sickness: how to amend the insurance acts (1912)
  • The abolition of the Poor Law (1918)
  • Wages of men and women-should they be equal? (1919)
  • A constitution for the Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain (1920)
  • Decay of capitalist civilisation (1923) Co-author with Sidney Webb.
  • My apprenticeship (1926)
  • Soviet Communism: a new civilisation (1935)
  • Our partnership (1948)


Correspondence is arranged by correspondent.

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Barbara Merchant, ChiefLibrarian

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