Beveridge, William Henry

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Beveridge, William Henry,

1879–1963, British economist, b. India, grad. Oxford, 1902. His fame as an authority on social problems was gained through investigations and writings in government service (1908–19), especially as director of labor exchanges, set up largely through his efforts, and in the food ministry, where he devised rationing during World War I. Knighted in 1919, he was director of the London School of Economics from that year until 1937, when he became master of University College, Oxford. Social Insurance and Allied Services (1942), a report prepared for the British government, proposed a social security system "from the cradle to the grave" for all British citizens. In 1944 his Full Employment in a Free Society advocated planned public spending, control of private investment, and other measures to assure full employment. He served (1944–45) as a Liberal member of Parliament and was in 1946 made 1st Baron Beveridge of Tuggal. Beveridge advocated state management to complement, not replace, individual initiative. This was a theme of such later writings as Voluntary Action (1948) and A Defence of Free Learning (1959).

Beveridge, William Henry


Born Mar. 5, 1879, in Rangpur, India; died Mar. 16, 1963, in Oxford. English economist and statesman. Follower of J. M. Keynes.

Beveridge was director of the London School of Economics and Political Sciences from 1919 to 1937. He was a member of the British Academy from 1937. In 1944 he was elected to Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party. He served as president of the Royal Economics Society from 1940 to 1944.

One of Beveridge’s main themes was unemployment. The change in his views on this question reflected the sharpening of the problem in bourgeois society. Whereas at the start of the 20th century he believed that the capitalist economy was itself capable of eliminating unemployment in various branches, by the 1940’s he was asserting that massive and chronic unemployment, which arose because of insufficient “effective demand,” could be eliminated only by means of a broad, constantly operating system of state regulation of the capitalist economy. He proposed a plan for implementing full employment; it included a number of measures—a program of public works, the establishment of complete control over foreign trade, the adoption of a social insurance plan, and so on. Like all such plans it could not eliminate unemployment, which is inherent in the capitalist mode of production.


The Unemployment Insurance Statutory Committee. London, 1937. (Political pamphlet.)
Full Employment in a Free Society. London, 1944; 2nd ed., London, 1960.
London School of Economics and Its Problems: 1919–1937. London [1960].


Beveridge, Janet. Beveridge and His Plan. London, 1954.