Webb, Beatrice Potter,
1858–1943, English socialist economist; daughter of a wealthy industrialist. She took an early interest in social problems and worked with Charles Booth
on his survey of working life in London. Her Cooperative Movement in Great Britain
was published in 1891. In 1892 she married Sidney James Webb,
1859–1947, a civil servant and a contributor to Fabian Essays
(1890). Thereafter they worked together, complementing each other's qualities in an unusual partnership. They were of first importance in the Fabian Society
, in the building up of the British Labour party, and in the creation (1895) of the London School of Economics. In 1913 they founded the New Statesman.
Most of the political and social reforms of their period owe much to their indefatigable research and political acumen. Together they produced The History of Trade Unionism
(1894; rev. ed. 1920), Industrial Democracy
(1897), English Local Government
(9 vol., 1906–29), Consumers' Cooperative Movement
(1921), and Soviet Communism: A New Civilization?
(2 vol., 1935). In 1922 Sidney Webb was elected to Parliament. He was president of the board of trade in the 1924 Labour government and secretary for the colonies from 1929 to 1931. In 1929 he was created Baron Passfield, a title his wife refused to share.
See Beatrice Webb's autobiographical My Apprenticeship (1926) and Our Partnership (1948); her diaries (ed. by M. I. Cole, 2 vol., 1952–56); biographies by M. I. Cole (1945) and K. Muggeridge and R. Adam (1968); M. I. Cole, ed. The Webbs and Their Work (1949).
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