Webbs on the Web

Sidney and Beatrice Webb

The manuscript and printed works of Sidney and Beatrice Webb are among the founding collections of the Library at LSE. To this day their works are regularly requested by researchers and Beatrice Webb's extensive diary is a key resource for research into a wide range of subjects, including late 19th and 20th century politics, industrial relations, and the role of women in society and family relationships.

Webbs on the Web, funded by the Webb Memorial Trust, aims to provide online access to the works of Beatrice and Sidney Webb, promoting and encouraging their use beyond the Library's walls by providing a single access point via the LSE Digital Library. Users can browse or search the diaries and a bibliography of the Webb's printed works and browse a selection of photographs. The site is designed to enable the future inclusion of additional materials including manuscripts, correspondence and publications.

Beatrice Webb's diary

Beatrice Webb (nee Potter) was born in 1858, the eighth daughter of Richard Potter, a wealthy businessman, and Lawrencina Heyworth. In her diary Beatrice expressed her desire to write fully and creatively about her life and she kept her diary from 1873 until her death in 1943. In the diary Beatrice records the activities of her daily life, interactions with friends and family, and her most private thoughts and fears. Although her upbringing was comfortable and she maintained good relationships with her family, Beatrice suffered from bouts of depression, compounded by a feeling of listlessness and frustration at not being useful (eg her diary entry for 11th December 1874, aged 16). This depression is well-documented in the early volumes of the diary providing an insight into Beatrice's early adulthood.

Following a tempestuous and ultimately unrequited relationship with Joseph Chamberlain from 1886 Beatrice took up social work in London, acting as a rent collector for the Charity Organisation Society and going undercover as a seamstress in a sweatshop in 1888 as part of Charles Booth's Inquiry into London Life and Labour. She began writing on social subjects and eventually meeting Sidney Webb, her future husband. In the diary Beatrice documents Sidney Webb's tireless pursuit despite her frequent refusals. She eventually consented and the two were married in 1892, forming a strong and long-lasting partnership. The Webbs devoted their lives to socialism, becoming core members of the Fabian Society, the founders of LSE, and constant campaigners for the welfare state.

The diary, available for the first time online in both its manuscript and typescript format, is fully-searchable allowing users to explore a wealth of information not only into Beatrice's personal and working life, but also into the social history of Britain and the world, spanning 70 years of change.

Bibliography

The bibliography covers Sidney and Beatrice Webb's publications during their lifetime. It includes books, pamphlets, published lectures, articles in periodicals, and writings in works mainly by other authors. However, it does not contain details of their newspaper articles.

Subjects covered reflect the varied interests of the couple, but include:

  • Capitalism
  • Communism
  • Cooperatives
  • Education
  • Fabian Society
  • Industry
  • Labour
  • Local government (including London)
  • Poor Law
  • Poverty
  • Socialism
  • Standard of living (including national minimum)
  • Trade unions
  • Social sciences
  • Soviet Union
  • Unemployment
  • Wages
  • Working conditions (including working hours, casual labour)
  • Workers participation (including industrial democracy)

In addition there are a number of autobiographical works by Beatrice, including 'My apprenticeship' (1926).

Beatrice's first newspaper article was published in February 1886 in the Pall Mall Gazette, whilst she was undertaking social work in east London. In that year also, she started working for Charles Booth's Life and Labour of the People of London, contributing articles to the final publications. Sidney's first works were for the Fabian Society, including several of the early Fabian tracts which are available via the Fabian Society Online Archive. The full text of most of Beatrice and Sidney's Fabian Tracts are also available in the bibliography.

Image Gallery

Sidney Webb


Polyester colour slide, Webb is sat in a wicker chair hands clasped with his head pointed towards the camera. Damage, including silver mirroring, visible on plate. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/8438/9)

Beatrice Webb


Colour plate, possibly autochrome printing, head and torso Webb with her head turned to the camera. Damage visible on plate. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/8438/12)

Beatrice Webb


Colour plate, possibly autochrome printing, head and torso Webb with her head turned to the left. Damage visible on plate. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/8438/8)

Beatrice Webb


Webb in partial profile and reading. Taken at Maybury Knoll. The print has a surface pattern caused by carbon processing. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1549)

Beatrice Webb


Webb in profile with a book in one hand and glasses in the other. Featuring Morris & Co fabrics. Taken at Maybury Knoll. The print has a surface pattern caused by carbon processing. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1622)

Sidney Webb


Sidney Webb with a book on his lap. The print has a surface pattern caused by carbon processing. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/2048)

Beatrice Webb


Colour plate, possibly autochrome printing, of Webb sat in partial profile in a wicker chair in a garden, one arm raised on which her head is resting. Damage visible on plate. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/8438/5)

Sidney Webb


Webb is sat in profile to the side of a fireplace. Taken at Shaw's Corner. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1558)

Sidney and Beatrice Webb


Both are lying on the floor, Sidney with a cigarette and his legs raised on a stool whilst looking at the camera and Beatrice behind him, also with a cigarette, and her back to the camera. A book lays in front of him, 'In The ........ Way'. Next to the stall is a decorated box with pull out drawer. Taken at Blen-Cathra. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1556)

Sidney and Beatrice Webb with Charlotte Shaw


Left to right: Sidney, stood straight and apart from the others; Shaw, leaning; and Beatrice; leaning along the wall in front of Ayot St Lawrence Norman church. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1565)

Sidney and Beatrice Webb


The Webbs are sat on the veranda at Shaw's Corner, he is sitting at an angle with his hands in his lap and she is resting her head on her raised arm which is on her knee and her body is pointing towards the camera. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1576)

Sidney and Beatrice Webb


The Webbs are sat on the veranda at Shaw's Corner, he is sitting at an angle with his hands in his lap and she is resting her arms behind her head and her body is pointing towards the camera. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1584)

Sidney and Beatrice Webb


The Webbs are sat under a canopy behind a house. Possibly taken at Pasture Wood, Holmbury St. Mary, Surrey. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1581)

Sidney Webb


Webb is sat on the veranda at Shaw's Corner in semi profile. The door has a bead curtain, now gone. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1589)

Sidney Webb


Sidney Webb seated on veranda of Shaw's Corner. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/2209)

Beatrice Webb


Webb sat in front of a window with her head turned over her left shoulder and hands clasped in front of her. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1619)

GB Shaw with Sidney and Beatrice Webb


Shaw is sat on a bench between the Webbs, who are both standing, in front of a cottage. Shaw looks at Beatrice, smiling , who in turn is looking at the camera, smiling. Taken in Presteigne, Wales. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/463)

Sidney Webb


Webb is sat on an ivy covered garden wall with his hands resting on the thighs and looking at the camera. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/2178)

Sidney Webb


Webb is sat in profile in an open top car in front of Shaw's Corner. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1561)

Beatrice Webb


Webb is leaning against a wooden column under a covered terrace and looking at the camera. Taken at Passfield Corner. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/1624)

Sidney & Beatrice Webb


Sidney and Beatrice Webb at Passfield Corner. (PASSFIELD/3/8/44)

Beatrice and Sidney Webb with Sir John [Jack] Squire and Phillip Guedalla


The group are arranged on a hillside, with the Webbs in the middle. Phillip Guedalla reclines in the foreground and Sir John Squire at the back. Taken during a Fabian Conference, Derwentwater. (SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS/1/951)

Beatrice Webb


Beatrice Webb at Passfield Corner. (LSE History Project Photographs/5/1)

Beatrice Webb


Beatrice Webb out walking. (LSE History Project Photographs/5/1)
Shaw Photographs: G.B.Shaw Estate © G.B.Shaw reproduced by kind permission of the Society of Authors, on behalf of the Bernard Shaw estate.

In this collection...