Webb Sydney

Webb Sydney

(1859-1947) and Beatrice, née Potter (1858-1943) English social researchers and social activists, who in partnership played a formative role in the development of labour history (e.g. The History of Trade Unions, 1894, and Industrial Democracy, 1897) founded the London School of Economics and Political Science, in 1895; wrote voluminously on local government (History of English Local Government, 9 vols, 1903-29); were responsible for the minority report of the Poor Law Commission (1905-7);

founded the New Statesman (1913); were influential in the Fabian Society and the British Labour Party; and were advocates in the cause of the USSR (Soviet Communism: a New Civilization?, 1935). Besides the twenty or so books written in collaboration, each wrote many more books and pamphlets separately. In Our Partnership (1948), describing their life and work, Beatrice Webb wrote that they regarded their concern with ‘the study of social institutions’ as 'sociology’. Not all modern sociologists would agree, for the Webbs’ work often related only relatively obliquely to the most central concerns of sociology as a developing academic discipline. But that the Webbs contributed much to historical understanding, to empirical social investigation in the English tradition and to the promotion of social welfare is undeniable.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000