Beatrice Webb – Her Quest For A Fairer Society
A landmark in English social thought
Twentieth-century Britain saw two great periods of social reform, in the decades 1905-14 and 1940-50, when intellectual and political leadership came together to achieve major change, shifting the agenda for social policy from the relief of poverty to the prevention of poverty. Before the First World War the policy lead came from Beatrice and Sidney Webb; in the 1940s, from William Beveridge, backed up by the economics of Maynard Keynes. In the heyday of Edwardian Liberalism, the extraordinary combination of David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill drove forward one reform after another, including old age pensions, controls on sweated labour, labour exchanges, and the start of insurance against unemployment and sickness; in the 1940s, governments led first by Churchill and subsequently by Clement Attlee introduced family allowances,
universal secondary education, social security and the National Health Service, and finally in 1948 abolished what remained of the Poor Law.