William Beveridge sitting at a bench with a glass of win in his hamd


A Time for Revolutions: Making the Welfare State

Monday 8 January to Friday 13 April 2018 in LSE Library Gallery.

The 75th anniversary of the Beveridge report will be marked by an exhibition in LSE Library opening on 8 January 2018. The exhibition begins with the Beveridge Report but looks at how welfare provision has been shaped and changed through the ages.

In December 1942 the government released a report authored by Sir William Beveridge in which he wrote “A revolutionary moment in the world's history is a time for revolutions, not for patching”. His report laid the foundations for Britain’s post war welfare state while the world was still at war.

Exhibition promotional poster

Amongst the items displayed will be materials from Beveridge’s own archives which are held at the School. These include a telegram from Buckingham Palace, sent just days after the release of the report, inviting Sir William to meet with the King. The report’s breadth and impact spanned social classes and we also have letters written to Beveridge from pensioners, and those still fighting on the front line, along with requests from the international press hungry for interviews with the now famous economist.

Prior to 1942, the exhibition displays items that illustrate the various laws which governed poor relief and the impact they could have on people’s lives. One summary of legislation from the eighteenth century includes a clause which made it legal to force people who had claimed poor relief to wear a badge sewn onto their shoulder in the form of a large ‘P’.

A letter sent from the Poor Law Board in Whitehall to a local Poor Union branch, for example, details the case of an individual who, on losing employment, was faced with the prospect of two of his children being taken into a workhouse until he found work again. The growing challenge to the poor laws by the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is also demonstrated with pieces from LSE founders Beatrice and Sidney Webbs’ papers alongside Joseph Rowntree’s famous study of poverty and a rousing speech given by the then Chancellor, David Lloyd George, in order to loudly and publically garner support for his Liberal reform budget.

William Beveridge in an office standing and reading
William Beveridge standing in an office reading, c.1942

The exhibition also examines Beveridge’s legacy; there are items from a variety of academics associated with LSE: Brian Abel Smith, Richard Titmuss and Peter Townsend who all pushed for the expansion of welfare provision and countered arguments from those against it. A speech from Margaret Thatcher as well as a policy document from a group of her advisors clearly reveal the shift brought on by Thatcher’s Conservative Party, which saw the slow decline and cuts to social services which have dominated discourse ever since.

Indy Bhullar, Curator at LSE Library and curator of A Time for Revolutions says:

“We’ve managed to pack a lot into the space and it’s a story which spans centuries so hopefully people will get a sense of the impact that the Beveridge report had after so many years of poor laws and piecemeal legislation. I’m glad we also managed to include things up to the present day, because the future of social security is something that the School will be focusing on as part of the Beveridge 2.0 Festival.”

Tours are available on request. Email us to arrange a tour.


Can’t make it to the exhibition? 

Listen to a podcast of Indy Bhullar talking about the exhibition

A colourful poster providing text and visual guidance to the Beveridge Plan
An infographic guide to the Beveridge Plan


Public Events

You can view all of the Beveridge 2.0 events and also learn about the Library led ones below: 

History AS / A Level Beveridge Report source material

Draws on archive material displayed in the exhibition A Time for Revolutions: Making the Welfare State at LSE Library, January to April 2018 to provide original archive sources and supporting material around the 1942 Beveridge Report. Transcripts and images of original documents are provided on the PowerPoint slides and the teachers’ notes provide contextual and background information for the Beveridge Report and the Creation of the Welfare State.

Opening times and visiting

From 8 January until 13 April 2018:

  • Monday to Friday: 9am – 7pm
  • Saturday and Sunday: 11am – 6pm

The Gallery and exhibition are small enough to get around over a lunchtime, so why not make a visit?


Find us

LSE Library, 10 Portugal Street, London WC2A 2HD

View on Google Maps.

For further information, contact the team marking your email for the attention of Inderbir Bhullar.


KS3 resources for teachers  

We have produced Teachers' Notes and Lesson Presentations for use in teaching key stage three history that are informed by the content of and LSE archive material used in this exhibition.

The resources can be used to support teaching ‘Challenges for Britain and the wider world 1901 to the present day’. They are in three sections:

A) Social Reform in the 1900s: teachers’ notes (Word Doc), lesson presentation (PPT 5MB)

B) The Great Depression and Hungry Thirties: teachers’ notes (Word Doc), lesson presentation (PPT 2MB) 

C) the Creation of the Welfare State: teachers’ notes (Word Doc), lesson presentation (PPT 19MB)