Brian Abel-Smith

Brian Abel-Smith was a modern-day Thomas Paine, driven by a strong social mission to improve the lives of the poorest.

Brian Abel-Smith was one of the most influential academics and expert advisers of the 20th century in shaping social welfare. He was a modern-day Thomas Paine, driven by a strong social mission to improve the lives of the poorest. He held a Professorship in Social Administration at the LSE from 1965-1991 and the LSE continues to promote activities related to his work via the Brian Abel-Smith Memorial FundOn his death in 1996, his colleague Peter Townsend reflected on his achievements in an obituary in The Independent. Sir Julian Le Grand, Richard Titmuss Professor of Health Policy at LSE, also wrote in commemoration an obituary published in The Guardian titled 'A religion of doing good: Abel-Smith'

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LSE biography of Abel-Smith 

Sally Sheard’s critically acclaimed biography of Abel-Smith published in 2014, is the first in a series of biographies of Abel-Smith’s fellow social policy pioneers: LSE Pioneers in Social Policy. 

The Passionate Economist: How Brian Abel-Smith Shaped Global Health and Social Welfare offers both a personal biography of Abel-Smith and a more general history. It takes a historical perspective to analyse the development of health and social welfare systems since the 1950s, exposing the critical impact of long-running debates on poverty and state responsibility, especially in Britain. The book also provides the first comparative study of how developing countries sought better health and social welfare, enabled by the World Health Organization and other agencies for whom Abel-Smith regularly worked. It offers essential reading for professionals working in those government ministries and institutions that Brian Abel-Smith helped to shape.

Sally Sheard is John Rankin Professor of Modern History at the University of Liverpool, and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

You can read more about Abel-Smith’s work with Richard Titmuss about the cost of the NHS on the LSE History blog.

His personal and working papers are held in the LSE Library, for access please email

"With narrative verve Sheard...chart[s] a tantalising route map for future scholars [and]...stimulates salutary reflection for all concerned to make history more policy relevant." - Social History of Medicine Advance Access

“This fascinating book brought Brian alive again for me. I knew him only in the later stages of his career, but the text made me recall his warmth, personal support and incisive mind.” - Professor Anne Mills, Vice Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Professor of Health Economics and Policy

Make a donation

The Brian Abel-Smith Memorial Fund programme is a charitable objective of the LSE, which is itself an educational charity. This status enables UK donors to increase the value of their gifts by making a covenant to the Fund, or by giving a single sum under Gift Aid.
In the USA donations may be made through the Second Centennial Fund, Inc (a Section 501 (c)(3) organisation), with a recommendation as to their application.
To make a donation to the Brian Abel-Smith Memorial Fund please click here. 
Or if you would like to request further information contact LSE Philantrophy and Global Engagement (PAGE):
Or write to:
Brian Abel-Smith Memorial Fund
LSE Philantrophy and Global Engagement (PAGE)
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE (UK)