Beatrice Webb: biography of this British sociologist and activist

Beatrice Webb (1858-1943) was an English economist and sociologist who fought for various social and educational reforms. In addition, he has carried out extensive research on political and economic institutions.

In this article we will see a brief biography of Beatrice Webb and we will learn more about his childhood, what he studied, and the importance and impact of his social activism and his works.

    Biography of Beatrice Webb: Who was this activist and thinker?

    Beatrice Webb (1858-1943) was born January 2, 1858 at Standish House, near Gloucester, Located in the South West of England. She came into the world in the midst of the Industrial Revolution and was the eighth daughter of a wealthy industrialist and Liverpool Railroad businessman named Richard Potter. His mother was a woman educated in the utilitarian tradition, Lawrencia Heyworth, who died when Beatrice was 24, in 1882.

    Beatrice was an influential economist and sociologist. She worked alongside her husband, Sidney Webb. The work of both spans the figure of over 100 books and articles. They have also prepared parliamentary reports (eg the “minority report”); these reports would be a key element for the welfare state in post-WWII Europe.

    On another side, this English economist had great confidence in cooperativism, Formulated social reforms and developed a series of proposals that propelled this welfare state. At the end of 1905, Beatriz was appointed a member of the Royal Commission on Poor and Relief Laws.

    Childhood and adolescence

    Early in her childhood, Beatrice Webb did not stand out for her dedication to studies. Even her mother thought her intelligence was below average. On another side, his childhood and adolescence were marked by the presence of certain psychosomatic disorders, Depression and neuralgia. These episodes disappeared only to reappear sometime in adulthood.

    Due to these troubles, Beatriz sought help in religion, studying this doctrine and writing a journal. He also began to take his studies more seriously. However, and largely due to his delicate health, Beatriz she never received a “normal” formal education, as she was always quite self-taught. He learns mainly from his father’s large library, where he reads books on philosophy, science and mathematics.

    On the other hand, some authors who particularly influenced him are Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer.

    His work in economics

    Beatrice, with her husband, established and supervised the London School of Economics and Political Science. The aim of the school was to train critical economists, who would benefit the whole country, not just the wealthy.

    This school has played an important role in the development and consolidation of the economy as an independent discipline. It is currently a public university in London specializing in the social sciences.

    His work in politics

    Beatrice Webb and her husband combined their political activity with their intellectual work. It is remarkable the repercussion in the political and economic reach that Béatrice had, since in addition, also next to Sidney, he had an influence on the creation of the British Labor Party, A game that has become very powerful. More specifically, the Labor Party was born thanks to the Fabian Society. This fact helped to lay the foundations for democratic socialism, which is still present today.

    Also, on the social level, as we have seen, Béatrice Webb was an activist and revolutionary; played an important role in the dismantling of the old law of the poor and in its replacement by new social security systems.

    Fabiana Company

    The Fabian company it was a major British socialist movement, and Beatrice and Sidney were attached to it, Be leaders throughout one’s life.

    The Fabians were a group of socialists who believed that socialism would go through a gradual evolution where the state would gradually play an increasingly important role in the economy, with the aim of preventing the abuses of the bourgeois capitalists.

    to work

    Beatrice Webb’s work has encompassed different fields, in particular economics, but also social sciences, politics, law (or law) and applied sociological research.

    Some of Beatrice Webb’s most notable works they were:

    • Co-operative movement in Great Britain, 1891.

    • Wages of Men and Women: Should They Be Equal ?, 1919.

    • My apprenticeship, 1926.

    • Our association, 1948.


    The most remarkable facts of Beatrice’s professional and personal life can be found in two autobiographical works: My Apprenticeship (1926) and Our Partnership (1948).

    But her legacy and story is also found in her works, some of which have already been mentioned, and in her publications, many of which developed alongside her husband Sidney. Another legacy that Beatrice left was her diaries, which she wrote most of her life, and which have also been published.

    The end of his life

    Beatrice Webb’s last works were: Soviet Communism: A New Civilization? (1935) and The Truth About the Soviet Union (1942), which express the great admiration they felt, both Beatrice and Sidney, for Soviet successes.

    Beatrice Webb died in 1943 in Liphook (Hampshire, England), aged 85. Four years later, in 1947, her husband, Sidney, passed away. Both were buried in Westminster Abbey.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Ramos Gorostiza, J. (2003). Beatrice Webb and her influence as an economist. Contributions to the economy.
    • Simey, T. (2004). Contribution of Sidney and Beatrice Webb to sociology. Sociology of Work, 50: 35-38.
    • Webb, B. (1948). Our association. Green and Co., UCM: Bca. Economy and business.
    • Webb, B. (1891). The cooperative movement in Great Britain. London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co.

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