of Commonwealth Studies
of Education, University of London
School of Economics
School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Holloway, University of London
School of Oriental and African Studies
Senate House Library,
University of London
LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS
This virtual exhibition uses documents and images
held by the Archives of the London School of Economics to tell
the story of the School's foundation and early years.
The LSE Archives holds a wide range of rare and
primary source material, not just papers relating to the history
of the School. Click on the LSE collections
page to view a selection from our collections, chosen around
the theme of 'Beginnings'
Click on the images to enlarge them.
The London School of Economics and Political
Science was established after a bequest to the Fabian Society
of some £20,000 by Henry Hunt Hutchinson in 1894. Sidney
Webb, a prominent member of the Fabian Society and one of Hutchinson's
trustees, had long dreamed of setting up a new university to
encourage social and economic research and managed to persuade
the other trustees to use the money to found just such an institution.
The London School of Economics and Political Science was born!
Extract from Beatrice Webb's typescript diary,
21 September 1894
Sidney and Beatrice Webb, 1942
Sidney Webb and Beatrice Potter first met in
1891 when Beatrice contacted Sidney about her research into
the co-operative movement. After their marriage in 1892, Sidney
gave up his work as a civil servant and the couple concentrated
on their political and social reform activities. The Webbs regarded
the School as their 'child' and continued to exert a powerful
influence on its development until their deaths in the 1940s.
This list, taken from an 1896 School report,
shows that right from its inception the School gave opportunities
for study in special subjects not dealt with by other institutions.
It also demonstrates that as well as being a centre for research,
LSE saw itself as having a practical role in educating and training
people for careers in administration and business.
List of subject areas covered
by lectures and classes at the LSE in its first two terms
Passmore Edwards Hall, c1902
The School was immensely successful in its early
years and expanded so rapidly that in 1902 it had to move to
larger premises in Clare Market, near Lincoln's Inn Fields.
Passmore Edwards Hall was LSE's first purpose-built premises.
It was named after a wealthy benefactor and designed by the
architect Maurice Adams. The School has continued to grow and
develop around the Clare Market site, but the Hall itself was
demolished in the 1930s to make way for new developments.
By 1919, the School was running out of space
again and plans were being formulated for a new building in
adjacent Houghton Street. The extension (now known as the Main
or Old Building) was designed by the architects Trehearne and
Norman; George V and Queen Mary laid the foundation stone in
1920 and it opened its doors to students in 1922.
Proposed front entrance to the 'Old Building',
School motto and coat of arms
The School's motto 'rerum cognoscere causas' ('to
know the causes of things'), a quotation from Virgil's Georgics,
was adopted in February 1922. The beaver emblem, indicating
industry, was chosen in the same year. This version was painted
by Sir Arnold Plant, then President of the Students Union. Plant
returned to LSE in 1930 as Professor of Commerce, a position
he held until his retirement in 1965.
The School has always attracted students from
a wide variety of social, educational and ethnic backgrounds.
In the early days the student body was made up of university
graduates, civil servants, local government and railway officials,
businessmen, journalists and teacher, including a significant
proportion of women and overseas students. This photo illustrates
perfectly the diverse range of students at the School. The School's
director, Sir William Beveridge, can be seen in the front row,
just left of centre, wearing a bow tie. Beveridge, a former
civil servant, was to achieve wider recognition in 1940s when
his report on social insurance became the blueprint for the
foundation of the welfare state.
Staff and students of the School, 1924
Click here for further information about the history of the LSE or visit the LSE Archives webpages to find out more about our collections and services.