An image of Beveridge at the ceremony which laid the foundation stone of the Old Building in 1920.

Exhibitions

The Power of Influence: William Beveridge as public intellectual and LSE Director

23 September to 20 December 2019 in LSE Library Gallery.

In a new exhibition LSE Library is marking the centenary of the appointment of William Beveridge as one of LSE’s most influential and widely known Directors. 

We take visitors on a journey through Beveridge’s time in charge at the School, during the turbulent 1920s and 30s, via the story of two schemes that he established whilst here. 

The first was his attempt to establish a department which he hoped would bring together explore and draw out the links between the natural and social sciences.  Beveridge was a eugenicist, like many of his intellectual contemporaries, and his interest in the empirical basis of the natural sciences led him to establishing the Department of Social Biology. The department was headed by anti-eugenicist Lancelot Hogben and carried out scientific experiments which it was hoped could lead to insights for social the social sciences. 

An image of Lancelot Hogben, Chair of the Department of Social Biology at LSE;
Lancelot Hogben, Chair of the Department of Social Biology at LSE.

Eugenics infamously informed the philosophy of Adolf Hitler and his adherents as they took power in Germany in the early 1930s, which is where the second of the exhibition's stories begins. One of the first laws passed by the Nazis made it illegal for ‘non-Aryan', predominantly Jewish, individuals to hold posts in the Civil Service which led to the dismissal of many judges, teachers and academics.   

An image of a souvenir pamphlet from an event where Albert Einstein gave a speech supporting academic refugees fleeing persecution.
A souvenir pamphlet from an event where Albert Einstein gave a speech supporting academic refugees fleeing persecution.

Shaken by the treatment of academics, William Beveridge established the Academic Assistance Fund at LSE in 1933 which pooled donated money from teaching staff at the School to help support those seeking escape from Germany. The Fund eventually became the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning and would go on to help hundreds of people escape totalitarian regimes. It remains operational today as the Council for At-Risk Academics.

Opening times and visiting

The Gallery and exhibition are small enough to get around over a lunchtime, so why not make a visit? Tours are also available on request – get in touch to arrange these.

From 23 September to 20 December:

  • Monday to Friday: 9am to 7pm

  • Saturday and Sunday: 11am to 6pm 

The exhibition poster

Events

Our events are free and open to all. Get involved and learn more about the topics in this exhibition.

Catch up on an event: William Beveridge and Social Biology at LSE 

Chris Renwick (University of York) spoke on the history of sociology in Britain and why William Beveridge was interested in the role of biology within social science in the 1920s and 30s on 5 November 2019. Listen to a recording of his talk and his presentation.

Explore these collections

If you are interested in archive material related to this exhibition, have a look at our collection highlights which are a good introduction to our collections. 

Find and contact 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 Indy Bhullar.