Sidney Webb – Fabian and founder of the London School of Economics 

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Sidney Webb was a leading British socialist economist and one of the founders of the Fabian Society. He helped to reorganize the University of London into a federation of teaching institutions and served in the government as a Labour Party member. 

Sidney studied Law at Birkbeck and was one of Birkbeck’s most enthusiastic students. In 1879-80 alone, he won the Institution’s English Essay Prize, Mednyansky Essay Prize, Henken Prize in correspondence, Ravenscroft Prize for English grammar, Chester Prize in political economy, and the Birkbeck Prize for mental science, as well as prizes for logic and geology.  

In 1880, along with sixteen other students, he sent a memorandum demanding representation of students on the Committee and equal privilege for “lady members.” While their initial requests failed, Webb and his co-activist William Bull eventually got themselves elected to the governance committee and oversaw the progressive changes to the leadership of the Institution that they’d called for over many years. 

With his wife, Beatrice, a sociologist and economist, Sidney deeply influenced British institutions and social thought during the first half of the 20th century. Among his many contributions are the creation of the system of secondary state schools and, using a gift inherited from the Fabian Society, helping to found the London School of Economics. 

Four years after leaving Birkbeck, Webb was to become one of the founding members of the socialist Fabian Society and he later co-established the London School of Economics (LSE). 


One thought on “Sidney Webb – Fabian and founder of the London School of Economics 

  1. Hilary Fenten

    I hjave heard that the first Birkbeck learning centre wasat the Quaker Meeting House in Settle, Yorklshire. Is this true? Was ……. a Quaker?


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