Peter Townsend

[Peter] co-founded the Child Poverty Action Group and the Disability Alliance.

Peter Townsend was an academic sociologist, researcher and prominent social policy campaigner. He wrote extensively on the economics of poverty, health inequalities in low income groups, the elderly poor, and definitions of poverty in the modern welfare state. An active campaigner throughout his life, he co-founded the Child Poverty Action Group and the Disability Alliance. Townsend was Professor of International Social Policy at the LSE until his death in 2009. He was also Emeritus Professor of Social Policy in the University of Bristol, and was one of the co-founders of the University of Essex.

Peter T 2

On his death in 2009, reflections on his contribution to social policy appeared in obituaries in The Guardian, The Independent and The Times amongst others. 

LSE academics explored Townsend’s contribution as part of an LSE Festival session on Five LSE Giants’ Perspectives on Poverty. Download the podcast here.  

LSE Biography on Peter Townsend

LSE have commissioned Chris Renwick, Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of York, to write a biography on Peter Townsend which will constitute the third title in a series of biographies of Brian Abel-Smith’s fellow social policy pioneers: LSE Pioneers in Social Policy. The biography is scheduled for publication in 2024.


An article titled "The Family Life of Peter and Ruth Townsend: Social Science and Methods in 1950s and Early 1960s Britain" has been recently published by Chris Renwick in Twentieth Century British History.

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