Our history

LSE first opened its doors in 1895, with classrooms in two rented rooms off the Strand, teaching 200 students. Today, we have 11,000 students from 160 countries on a constantly evolving campus.

We started with a radical vision to address major social challenges and a commitment to equality and diversity. We remain true to our founding ethos and are still engaged with the most important policy issues of the day.

For the betterment of society 

LSE was founded in 1895 by four Fabian Society members – Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw and Graham Wallace – following a £20,000 bequest to be used “for the betterment of society”. The School opened on 10 October 1895 in two rooms near the Strand. About 200 students between the ages of 18 and 70 enrolled.

The School opened on 10 October 1895 in two rooms near the Strand. About 200 students between the ages of 18 and 70 enrolled.

A growing success

Just three years later, the School had 1,000 registered students from 16 countries. The LSE library opened in November 1896 and in a year its collection grew to 10,000 volumes.

In 1900, LSE became the University of London’s Faculty of Economics, and began awarding degrees in 1902. The School added new subject areas – law in 1919 and academic accountancy in the 1920s.

Debate and controversy played a role from the outset. The Economic Students’ Union – later LSE Students’ Union – was founded in 1897 and held fortnightly discussions on topical subjects.

Equality and diversity were engrained in the founding ethos, which stated there should be no differentiation “on the grounds of sex, religion, or economic or political views”. Female students attended LSE from its first semester.

Expansion and World War I

The School desperately needed more space, so Sidney Webb obtained 400 square metres on Clare Market, the School’s current location. Building work on the Passmore Edwards Hall began in 1900.

More than 200 staff and students did military service during World War I.

After the war, building plans continued, and on 28 May 1920, King George V lay the foundation stone for the Old Building.

Rerum cognoscere causas

 The School’s arms, motto and beaver mascot were adopted in 1922. The beaver was chosen because of its “foresight, constructiveness and industrious behaviour”. The motto – rerum cognoscere causas – comes from the Latin poet Virgil’s 29BC work The Georgics, and means “to know the causes of things”.

World War II 

During World War II, LSE Director Alexander Carr-Saunders relocated the School to Peterhouse College at Cambridge University, where it stayed for six years (1939-1945).

Notable people at LSE

Clement Attlee joined as an assistant lecturer in 1912. He returned to LSE as a Lecturer after the war in 1919, leaving when he turned to full-time politics in 1923. In 1945, he became the great Prime Minister who shaped post-war Britain.

William Beveridge, who was LSE’s Director from 1919 to 1937, wrote the Beveridge Report in 1942, which was extremely influential in the founding of the welfare state.

Friedrich von Hayek, who lectured at LSE between 1931 and 1950, received the Nobel Prize in Economic Science (jointly) in 1974 for his work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations.

Into the 21st century

In 1993, LSE Enterprise was founded to enable commercial application of LSE’s expertise and intellectual resources.

The LSE campus continues to grow. In 2008, Queen Elizabeth II opened the New Academic Building. In 2014, our new Saw Swee Hock Student Centre won the RIBA London Building of the Year award. Several new buildings are undergoing construction and will be completed within the next few years.

In 2015-16 QS World University Rankings rated LSE second in the world for the social sciences.