Sep 4 2014

Mackindergarten: LSE’s Army Class

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In 1907 LSE and the War Office began an experiment in military education which was to last until 1932, with a break during the First World War.

The experience of the Boer War (1899-1901) created concern about the efficiency of the army and a desire to modernise in some quarters. The class for the administrative training of army officers (or the Army Class) aimed to ensure that officers responsible for the supply and administration of the army were trained in the latest business methods.

The project was initiated by three men: R.B. Haldane, who was Secretary of State for War in the 1906 Liberal government; Edward Ward, the secretary of the Army Council; and Halford Mackinder, a geographer and LSE Director. Haldane and Mackinder were both members of a dining and discussion club the Coefficients, founded by Beatrice and Sidney Webb as a forum to discuss reform and ‘national efficiency’. Haldane was also an LSE governor.

Sir Halford Mackinder

Sir Halford Mackinder c.1910

In February 1906 Mackinder and Ward had lunch following which Ward wrote a memorandum entitled The Need for a Trained Administrative Staff and a proposal that LSE run a course on business methods and management received official approval six months later. An advisory board was set up with military representation. The course sat alongside other LSE management courses such as those for railway and bank administrators. In 1907 a War Office communiqué noted:

‘The course which is now about to be inaugurated must be regarded as more or less experimental, and the syllabus of instruction will be amended and modified as hereafter may be found expedient.’

Mackinder’s view was set out in his inaugural address to the course: ‘the Army is the greatest single business concern in the country’ and needed to be run along business lines. The class became known affectionately as the Mackindergarten.

Officers were selected for attendance and the first course had 31 students, with 12 from the Army Service Corps. 245 officers attended the course before 1914, mainly captains and majors from the supply and administrative branches of the army. The first course ran from January-July 1907 but most ran from March-October. The course covered accounting and business methods, commercial law, statistics, transport, banking, economic theory and geography. The teaching aimed to cover the fundamental principles of each subject but teachers ensured that material was pertinent to military matters.

Over time the course evolved through collaboration between teachers and students.  Study trips included the Times, Great Western Railway Works, London Docks, the Houses of Parliament and the War Office, while businessmen were guest speakers at the weekly after dinner smoking meetings. Teachers on the course included prominent LSE figures such as Halford Mackinder (who continued to teach after his departure from LSE), William Beveridge, Harold Laski, the accountant Laurence Dicksee and Lionel Robbins.

LSE Army Class 1927-1928

LSE Army Class 1927-1928

For LSE the course was a useful source of income – initially it funded the opening of a School refectory for all students – and by 1912 the stable and long term relationship with the War Office enabled LSE to maintain the high standard of the academic staff available to the course.

The course was halted abruptly in March 1914 and was suspended for the duration of the war. In 1919 William Beveridge approached the War Office about resuming the course. Although the War Office was keen the Treasury needed persuading that the class was an appropriate source of funds in a time of austerity. The class restarted in 1924 but funding was only allocated on an annual basis. In 1926 the number of officers attending was reduced to 20. In 1931 with the army facing a cut of £85,000 in its education budget, followed by a further cut of £32,000 in 1932, the course was no longer sustainable.

In 1947 the Professor of Commerce, Arnold Plant and Director, Alexander Carr-Saunders tried to revive the course but the War Office was unconvinced and military training and LSE moved on in different directions.

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist)

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Aug 1 2014

LSE and the First World War

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On the eve of the First World War, in the academic year 1913/14, 1,681 students were enrolled at the School. Many came from overseas, and 583 were women. LSE was well established as a small, niche college of the University of London, specialising in social science research and in evening and vocational education. Among its vocational students were over 300 railway administrators, who were paid for by Britain’s railway companies, and an annual cohort of army officers (totalling over 250 between 1907 and 1914), who were paid for by the War Office. In 1914 the officers were immediately called up, and most spent the next four years on staff work, supply, and logistics.

Beatrice and Sidney Webb c. 1895

Beatrice and Sidney Webb c. 1895

In other respects after war broke out the School changed more gradually. Special lectures discussed the conflict and its background, and the students paid for a catering van that went to the Front. Refugees arrived from Belgium and Russia. Over 200 staff and students did military service. During training several continued to attend their courses while wearing uniform, but by the end of 1915 most had gone abroad. Other members of the School community worked for government agencies in Britain, in economic intelligence, as factory inspectors, or as food administrators. During Zeppelin raids students sheltered in the basement or went out to watch the spectacle; in a 1918 bomber attack the buildings sustained minor damage. Student numbers and fee income dwindled, and the School management struggled to find replacement teachers. The Director, William Pember Reeves, became a recluse after his son, Fabian, was killed while flying over France, and much of his work devolved to the School Secretary, Christine MacTaggart. Nonetheless, throughout the war the LSE continued to function.

R.H. Tawney c. 1920s

R.H. Tawney c. 1920s

Several members of the School community had notable wartime careers. Before 1914 R. H. Tawney, the economic historian and Christian socialist, had held an administrative position. He served in France and was wounded when going over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, an experience of which he published a graphic description. Hugh Dalton, the future Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a postgraduate student who served with the heavy artillery in France and Italy, where he was decorated. Clement Attlee, who had beaten Dalton in the selection process for a lecturing post in 1912, also volunteered (despite being over the normal maximum age of 30). He was the last man but one to evacuate the Gallipoli beachhead in 1916, and was twice wounded. All three men would return to the School’s teaching staff, though Attlee only briefly as the war had changed him and he soon launched into a full-time political career. At home, Beatrice Webb served on the government’s Reconstruction Committee in 1917-18, steering it towards ambitious recommendations for social welfare reform. Her husband Sidney, besides remaining a pivotal member of the School’s Court of Governors, was deeply involved in the Labour Party’s wartime transformation. He commissioned a pioneering Fabian Society study of the League of Nations and helped to draft not only the party’s platforms on foreign policy (the ‘Memorandum on War Aims’) and domestic policy (‘Labour and the New Social Order’) but also the celebrated socialist commitment in ‘clause four’ (actually clause 3d) of the 1918 Labour Party Constitution, which under Tony Blair would be reworded.

William Beveridge c.1910s

William Beveridge c.1910s

By the final year of the conflict the School’s student numbers and finances were recovering, helped by the presence of some 200 American army officers who took courses in 1918-19 before returning home. Under a new Director, William Beveridge, the 1920s would be a decade of expansion and innovation. Although a memorial was unveiled in 1923 (and replaced by the present one in 1953) to the seventy members of the LSE who lost their lives, the war had a smaller impact than on many other educational institutions. Yet for the School community’s role in British national life – particularly through its influence on the Labour Party at a crucial phase in its development – the significance of the wartime years extended far beyond Houghton Street.

Contributed by David Stevenson (Professor of International History, LSE)

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Jun 30 2014

Houghton Street Beginnings: Passmore Edwards Hall

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As plans develop for the LSE Global Centre for the Social Sciences we look back on LSE’s beginnings on Houghton Street.

Passmore Edwards Hall, 1902

Passmore Edwards Hall, 1902

In its early years LSE occupied two rented houses in John Street and Adelphi Terrace, south of the Strand and close to Charing Cross station, but within five years it needed more space and a home of its own.

In the late nineteenth century London County Council had a grand plan to clear the slums around Clare Market to create a grand link between Holborn and the Strand, eventually building the Kingsway. The slum clearance allowed Sidney Webb, who was then Chair of the LCC Technical Education Board, to obtain 4,300 square feet on Clare Market ‘on permanent loan’ at a peppercorn rent.

Building work began in 1900 with funding from the philanthropist John Passmore Edwards (1823-1911). Passmore Edwards was a Cornishman, who after making a fortune from technical publications, devoted much of his time and fortune to philanthropy. At his death in 1911 there were over 70 Passmore Edwards’ buildings, many of them libraries, art galleries, schools and hospitals. Passmore Edwards was a generous donor although he and Sidney Webb disagreed over the name of the building, Edwards preferring Passmore Edwards Institute to Sidney Webb’s suggestion of Passmore Edwards Hall. When this initial donation ran out an additional £8,000 was found from money raised in the City by R.B. Haldane and Lord Rosebery along with a donation from Lord Rothschild.

Passmore Edwards Room, 1993

Passmore Edwards Room, 1993

The selection of the architect was by competition. Three designs were submitted and an article in Building News (one of Passmore Edwards’ publications) announced that the winning design was selected because it provided 80% useful wall space out of the total as opposed to the 50% provided by the other two designs. Fortunately the successful architect, Maurice B. Adams, was also an editor with Building News. The foundation stone was laid by Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London, on 2 July 1900, with the building work already underway.

The building was finished in 1902 and Lord Rosebery, as President of the University of London, presided over the opening ceremony.  Although today its art nouveau design would appeal to many people, not all contemporaries were enthusiastic. The School Secretary, Christian MacTaggart, remembered ‘we hated it’ and Edward Pease, secretary of the Fabian Society, called it ‘ugly’.

The building survived less than twenty years before it was enveloped in the development of the Old Building during William Beveridge’s directorship. The ground floor room remained as part of the Library and in 2002-2003 the remaining interior of Passmore Edwards Hall was developed, along with the adjacent light well, to create the current Student Services Centre.

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist)

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May 22 2014

Angela Raspin, 1938-2013 – LSE’s first archivist

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In 1898 the Library took in its first archive deposit when Beatrice and Sidney Webb donated the trade union papers they had acquired during the research for The History of Trade Unionism. It was always Sidney Webb’s vision for the Library that it should support researchers, rich in primary sources including archive materials. Following on from that first acquisition the Library developed as a significant research resource holding the records of Charles Booth’s Enquiry into London Life and Labour, the papers of John Stuart Mill and his wife and step daughter Harriet Taylor and Helen Taylor, and the diary and correspondence of Hugh Dalton, a former LSE lecturer who became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1945 Labour government. However, it was only in 1975 that LSE appointed its first post specifically focussed on caring for the archive collections.

Angela Raspin began her connection with LSE in 1966 when she applied to study for a PhD on the war time economy of Italy. Initially accepted for an MPhil she converted to a PhD in 1969. Angela continued to work as an archivist while studying and finally submitted her thesis in 1980 seeking special permission to submit as she was outside the ten year limit for University of London PhDs. In her defence she said she ‘had my nose against the Library grindstone for the last five years’ – a statement corroborated by the then Librarian.

Angela Raspin, LSE archivist

Angela Raspin preparing for the move to the Lionel Robbins Building

Angela Raspin was appointed by the Library as archivist in January 1975 and in her own words ‘had to sort out eighty years of accumulated manuscripts’. The initial period was occupied with organising the move of the archives into the Library’s new accommodation in the W.H.Smiths’ old head office, soon to be renamed the Lionel Robbins Building. This involved producing a large number of quick catalogues for significant collections such as the Dalton papers, organising a new reading room service and scouring the cupboards of the Old Building for misplaced archives.

In the 1980s Angela, always a technophile, took a great interest in the developing use of IT in opening up archives and special collections to wider audiences and new types of investigation and research. In particular LSE was in the forefront of investigations into the development of computer based cataloguing systems spurred on by the task of arranging the LSE archives in advance of the LSE centenary in 1995. 1986 saw the first pilot project and by 1989 all new cataloguing was undertaken directly onto a computer system. In 1997 the Library delivered the first online archive catalogue at the School one of the first archives to provide this kind of access.

In the 1990s as part of the Non-Formula Funding Archives Sub-committee working on the outcomes of the Follett Report into university libraries Angela was a sponsor of the National Networking Developer Project which aimed to develop a national archive network with the ability to locate and search catalogues of archives across the UK. Although the project was unsuccessful the lessons learnt fed into the development of Archiveshub and AIM25 which have revolutionised archival research.

Throughout her time as at LSE Angela continued to develop the collections and was frequently far sighted in her decisions. In 1988 when the community based LGBT archive, Hall-Carpenter Archives, lost its funding in the midst of the Section 28 debates, Angela was quick to see its potential for future researchers. She also supported the publication of editions of Beatrice Webb’s diary by Jeanne and Norman Mackenzie and Ben Pimlott’s edition of Hugh Dalton’s Second World War and political diaries.

Angela retired in 1998 having made her mark on the archives at LSE and the wider world of historical research. In retirement she moved to her home county of Yorkshire and was able to finally undertake a City and Guilds diploma in embroidery.

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist)

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May 2 2014

Grimshaw International Relations Club

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Studying at LSE has always been about more than lectures, seminars and reading lists and the history of the Grimshaw Club indicates the length of the tradition of engagements and interest in the world beyond LSE.

James Rubin speaking at a Grimshaw Club branded lectern

Former US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs James Rubin speaking at a Grimshaw Club lecture at LSE in 2000

The Grimshaw Club is probably the oldest student society at LSE. The Students’ Union was initially set up in 1897 as the Economics Students’ Union but by the 1920s the School’s Director, William Beveridge, was keen for the Students’ Union to develop its programme of pastoral and intellectual support for students. The Grimshaw Club was founded around 1923 at a time when international relations was developing as a discipline.



In 1924 Philip Noel-Baker was appointed to the Sir Ernest Cassell Chair of International Relations and on oration day 1927 Beveridge announced to opening a new department of International Relations seeking to unite work in international law, international history and the study of contemporary diplomacy and inter-government relations. A Professorial Council minute of 1930 referred to the Department of International Relations although it was commonly called the Department of International Studies. Already from 1927 International Law and Relations had appeared as a special subject in the revised BSc (Econ) – LSE’s main degree course. The first students taking the specialism graduated in 1930. In the same year Charles Manning was appointed to the Cassel Chair of International Relations, a post he retained until 1962.

The club was named after an LSE economist Harold Atheling Grimshaw. Grimshaw, a Yorkshire man, was born in 1880 and graduated with a BSc (Econ) with the special subject of public administration in 1916, having won the Gladstone Memorial Prize in 1914. The prize was awarded annually to the student with the best aggregate marks for papers in economics and the British constitution in the Intermediate Examination for the BSc Economics. He was President of the Students’ Union in 1916-17 and obtained an MSc (Econ) in 1918. After a short period as an assistant lecturer in the Department of Public Administration, Grimshaw took up a post with the International Labour Office of the League of Nations. He died suddenly in 1929 of a lung infection following a long research tour into the issue of forced labour in colonial administrations, during which he had visited Java and South Africa.

There is little surviving information about the early programmes of the Grimshaw Club but it is likely that it mainly followed a programme of talks, seminars and discussions. A feature of recent years has been a series of study trips which have included Madrid, Israel, Lebanon, North Korea, Russia and Hungary. The trips provide an opportunity to obtain direct experience of a country and to meet with politicians, non-governmental organisations, journalists and other students.

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist)

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Apr 16 2014

LSE Enterprise turns 20

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LSE expertise is transported from Houghton Street around the world by LSE Enterprise’s consultancy and custom executive education programmes. As the company celebrates its 20th birthday, Rehanna Neky revisits its innovative beginnings.

At the start of the 1990s, several science and engineering based universities were setting up companies to commercialise their research findings. As LSE’s director John Ashworth began discussions with former Shell director Keith Mackrell about creating something similar, their greatest concern was whether the idea was applicable to a social science institution: how can an idea be taken to market?

On 31 December 1991 a special company was incorporated, with Keith as its chairman. He recalls: ‘LSE Enterprise’s primary objectives as LSE’s commercial arm were to enhance the School’s financial position in support of its core activities of teaching and research and to enhance its contacts with business, governments and the external community. While control was to be ultimately exercised by the School as shareholder through the Board of Directors, it was explicit that LSE Enterprise should stand on its own feet financially, with its own personnel and internal procedures.

‘The first external hire was literally told he would be paid at the end of the month if sufficient money came in, which fortunately it did. In fact the existence of LSE Enterprise provided a hub for many requests which had not yet found a focal point for development. Despite the entrepreneurial nature of its activities, the company has always contributed a regular cash net inflow into the School.’

By 1993, LSE Enterprise consisted of two part-time staff, working on two projects in the spare room at the back of the finance division. ‘No email. No internet. Antediluvian,’ remembers Adam Austerfield, one of the first employees. ‘One project was marketing LSE-designed decision analysis software, the other applied LSE’s expertise in emerging markets to political risk ideas in the City of London. Both those things were quite ahead of their game at the time and no-one thought getting academics to work with business would take off. But what we started 20 years ago has actually become government policy, and the REF means that the impact of academic work in these domains is important.’

Craig Calhoun speaking to a group of students

Professor Calhoun welcomes students from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) to their three-week customised programme at LSE

Over 20 years on, LSE Enterprise has 20 staff based in its London, Madrid and Berlin offices. Its 150+ projects each year cover customised executive education, consultancy and applied research, and have taken place in 90 countries. The company has contributed over £13 million to the School and considerably more to its academics. With government and industry facing evolving challenges, demand for LSE’s expertise is set to increase.



Contributed by Rehanna Neky (LSE Enterprise Ltd Marketing and Communications Manager)

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Mar 10 2014

A Life of Service – Sir John Burgh, 1925-2013

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Sir John Burgh arrived in Britain unable to speak any English and eventually became Director General of the British Council. Along the way he was a part of the LSE community for over 50 years.

John Burgh

John Burgh/LSE

Karl Hans Schweinburg was born in in Vienna and although his parents background was Jewish they had converted to Catholicism. Both his parents were very musical imparting on their son an enduring love of music. His father died in 1937 and after the 1938 Anschluss, when Burgh remembered watching Hitler touring Vienna, his mother used her contacts with the Quakers to arrange for Karl and his sister Lucy to move to England where she joined them six months later. Burgh arrived in Britain unable to speak any English and was enrolled at Sibford, a Quaker school in Oxfordshire. The school did not have an academic background and in 1941 he left Sibford and worked in air munitions until the end of the war.

In 1945 LSE was happy to return to London from its war time base in Cambridge with a doubling of student numbers. John Burgh planned to study economics and in 1946 he passed the entrance exam and began studying at the re-opened evening school. However he soon came under the influence of Professor Harold Laski and switched to the study of government. Laski supported Burgh in obtaining a Leverhulme Post-Intermediate Scholarship which allowing him to become a full time student. Although the post-war campus was a little dingy the company at LSE was lively – many of the students were mature students and ex-servicemen or had been involved in war-related work. Fellow students included John Watkins, later Professor of Philosophy, who had left a naval career, the actor Ron Moody, formerly in the RAF and a little later the journalist Bernard Levin, who was to become a lifelong friend. Burgh became a member of The Seminar, a group of friends meeting weekly to discuss politics and society. LSE also had the advantage of being close to Covent Garden and opportunities to hear music. Burgh graduated in 1950 and was delighted to be elected president of the Students’ Union in 1949.

John Burgh began his civil service career at the Board of Trade in 1950. He became Private Parliamentary Secretary to Barbara Castle, working closely with her on the white paper on industrial relations ‘In Place of Strife’. The proposals faced strong opposition from trade unions and never came to fruition, a failure Burgh called the nadir of his civil service career. He then worked on the 1971 Conservative Industrial Relations Act. After a short secondment as Deputy Chairman to the Community Relations Commission Burgh returned to the civil service as Deputy Secretary in charge of the Central Policy Review Staff established to develop long term strategy and thinking across Departments. In 1974 he was selected by Shirley Williams, then Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, to be her Deputy Permanent Secretary respecting his reputation as ‘a byword for integrity’.

In 1980 Burgh left the civil service becoming Director General of the British Council leading the Council through a difficult period of budget cuts and low morale. He was known for his visibility and support for staff across the organisation. In 1982 he became a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George and in 1984 he was invited onto Desert Island Discs with the Second Act of the Marriage of Figaro as his final choice alongside the Encyclopaedia Britannica and a transistor radio.

However Burgh’s idea of public service went far beyond his employment and his interest in music led him to serve as Secretary to the Opera Committee at the Royal Opera House and Chair of the Exam Setting Association Board of the Royal College of Music. At LSE Burgh served as a Governor from 1980-2004 and was chair of the Library Panel for several years. In 1985 he became Chairman of the Court of Governors in 1985 a year after the arrival of I.G. Patel as Director. It was a testing time for universities with budgets and the future of academic tenure under discussion and Burgh’s expert knowledge of government and the civil service was a great boon to LSE. Unfortunately Burgh’s appointment as President of Trinity College, Oxford created a conflict of interest and he had to resign as Chairman though he continued as a Governor. Burgh continued to be a presence around the School chairing public events and heading the judging panel of the Bernard Levin award for aspiring journalists.

Sir John Burgh died of pneumonia in 2013.

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist)

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Jan 24 2014

An Unsung Heroine of LSE – Charlotte Payne Townshend

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Accounts of LSE’s foundation and early years are dominated by the personalities of the four people staying at Borough Farm on the morning of 4 August 1894 when Sidney Webb began to outline the idea of establishing a “London school of economics and political science”.  One often overlooked key player is the Irish heiress and Fabian, Charlotte Payne Townshend. Yet she was a constant presence in LSE’s early home in Adelphi Terrace and a generous donor both of time and money until her death.

Charlotte Payne Townshend (1857-1943) was an Irish heiress who met Beatrice and Sidney Webb in 1895. Through them she joined the Fabian Society and in 1896 she was invited to spend a holiday with the Webbs, Graham Wallas and George Bernard Shaw in Suffolk. However the Webbs fell ill and when Graham Wallas arrived late Charlotte was left to the company of George Bernard Shaw and they became firm friends. After the holiday Beatrice Webb described Charlotte in her diary:

“By temperament she is an anarchist – feeling any regulation or rule is intolerable – a tendency which has been exaggerated by her intolerable wealth. She is romantic but thinks herself cynical. She is a socialist and a radical, but not because she understands collectivist standpoint, but because she is by nature a rebel. She has no snobbishness and no convention. She has ‘swallowed all formulas’ but has not worked out principles of her own. She is fond of men and impatient of most women – bitterly resents her enforced celibacy but thinks she could not tolerate the matter of fact side of marriage. Sweet tempered, sympathetic and genuinely anxious to increase the world’s enjoyment and diminish the world’s pain.”

When Sidney Webb was looking for a home for the School, Charlotte was persuaded to sub-let the top two floors of the School’s premises at 10 Adelphi Terrace, leaving the rest of the building for the School and its Library – and most importantly making the project affordable. Charlotte was also a member of the School’s Advisory Board which in 1901 applied to the Board of Trade to become a company; she then served as a Governor. In 1896 Charlotte donated £1,000 towards the establishment of the Library and was among its first Trustees alongside Sidney Webb, William Clarke, Edward Pease and R.B. Haldane. The records also indicated that Charlotte was a regular source of vital funding whenever LSE funds were low.

Charlotte Shaw, 1904 portrait by George Bernard Shaw

Charlotte Shaw, 1904, portrait by George Bernard Shaw

From 1896 Shaw was a regular visitor to Adelphi Terrace and Charlotte’s flat. The couple married in 1898 at the Registry Office in Covent Garden with Graham Wallas as a witness. Charlotte supported Shaw during his recovery after hospitalisation and treatment for necrosis of the bone and their honeymoon was spent in Hindhead with Charlotte acting as nurse to Shaw in his wheelchair or on crutches. There was some concern at LSE that the marriage would mean a move from Adelphi Terrace but after the honeymoon they returned to London and the flat above LSE.



After LSE’s move to its final home on Houghton Street Charlotte Shaw continued to serve as a Governor and set up a trust to support a research studentship. Her last major donation during the Second World War was a gift of £1,000 to buy books covering general literature, the seeds of the current Shaw Library, initially established in Grove Lodge during LSE’s sojourn in Cambridge, and now on the top floor of the Old Building.

So if you ever snatch a quiet half hour in an armchair, or attend a concert or reception in the Founders Room remember Charlotte Shaw and her steady and self-effacing support for LSE.

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist)

Portrait of Charlotte Shaw 1904: Shaw Photographs/1/14/1266 © G.B. Shaw Estate reproduced by kind permission of the Society of Authors on behalf of Bernard Shaw estate.

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Jan 14 2014

Two Nobel Peace Prize Winners in Two Days

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LSE has hosted some of the world’s most high profile statesmen and women, but two of the most memorable in recent years visited the School on consecutive days in June 2012: Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama.

Not many universities can boast visits from two Nobel Peace Prize winners in two days so, although it involved a huge amount of work behind the scenes to coordinate the events and deal with the extraordinary amount of interest from the LSE community, the general public and the media, it was a great privilege for everyone involved.

The Burmese democracy campaigner, who had spent much of her life under house arrest, was making her first visit to the UK in 24 years and we had invited her to LSE to make her first public speech of the trip. It was a unique event and attracted massive media interest, including live television coverage on most UK news channels. The excitement in the Peacock Theatre was such that the audience leapt to their feet to give her a standing ovation as she came on stage to speak.

At the end of the event LSE Director Judith Rees reminded the audience that it was Aung San Suu Kyi’s 67th birthday and that it was a cause for celebration that she was able to enjoy the day in freedom. Professor Rees invited the crowd to sing Happy Birthday, adding: “It’s a tribute not just to you but to all those who have campaigned for freedom in Burma.”

Aung San Suu Kyi's LSE birthday cake

Aung San Suu Kyi’s LSE birthday cake

Alex Peters-Day, General Secretary of LSE’s Students’ Union, also presented her with a surprise present – a photograph of her late father taken in London in 1947 – and with an LSE baseball cap, a traditional gift for visiting leaders, which she willingly put on.

The panel discussion also involved LSE professors Mary Kaldor and Christine Chinkin, Burmese activist and visiting fellow Dr Maung Zarni, Oxford professor Nicola Lacey and barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice QC.



Professor Kaldor ended the event by passing on a question from a student who had asked Aung San Suu Kyi how she had found her strength to continue her campaigning.

Aung San Suu Kyi at LSE

Aung San Suu Kyi at LSE

She answered: “It’s all of you, and people like you, who give me the strength to continue. And I suppose I have a stubborn streak in me.”




The following day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited LSE to deliver the opening speech of a one day conference, Tolerance in a Just and Fair Society, at the invitation of LSE along with the Frederick Bonnart Braunthal Trust, Matrix Chambers and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

Dalai Lama at LSE

Dalai Lama at LSE

Tenzin Gyatso is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and had, in 2011, completed the process of democratisation of the Central Tibetan Administration by devolving all his political authorities to the elected leadership. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 in recognition of his opposition to the use of violence in the Tibetan struggle and his work internationally for peace, human rights issues and global environmental problems.


The Dalai Lama spoke to a packed audience about intolerance and how to overcome it. He said: “Everyone has every right to happiness”, suggesting that joyfulness is the true purpose of life. He proposed strategies for avoiding violence which included the cultivation of a calm mind to view issues clearly. At the end of his address, he was also presented with the customary LSE baseball cap.

It was the most exhausting two days, but the privilege of hosting two towering figures of the modern era and witnessing the elated reaction of both audiences was extremely rewarding. It is days like these which remind you why working at LSE is unlike working anywhere else.

For those who were not able to attend, then both of these events, along with many more are available to watch and listen to.

Contributed by Alan Revel (LSE Events Manager)

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Dec 10 2013

The Gate of the Year – Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957)

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And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.”

Spoken by George VI in his Christmas 1939 broadcast to the Empire these words struck a chord with a country facing the uncertainly of war. They were the preamble to an obscure poem, God Knows, written in 1908, but nobody was able to identify the poet. Finally at midnight on Boxing Day the BBC announced that the author was Minnie Louise Haskins, a retired LSE academic. The poem was just a small part of a career which had encompassed working in India and the East End, industrial welfare and academia.

Minnie Haskins was born and educated near Bristol where she studied informally at University College, Bristol while undertaking voluntary work for the local Congregational Church. By 1903 she was working in Lambeth for the Springfield Hall Wesleyan Methodist mission and in 1907 she departed for Madras with the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society to work in the Zenana mission to women. In 1912, to raise funds, Minnie Haskins published a small volume of poetry The Desert which included the poem God Knows, originally written in 1908, to which she added the famous preamble.

In 1915 poor health led Minnie Haskins to return to England where she ran a munitions workers’ hostel in Woolwich for six months. This was followed by three years supervising the labour management department of a controlled factory in Silvertown, West Ham. Somehow she found time to publish a second volume of poetry The Potter in 1918.

At the age of 43 Minnie Haskins came to LSE to study for the Social Science Certificate under Agatha Harrison, who had been appointed in 1917 to the first British academic post devoted to industrial welfare. After gaining the Certificate with distinction in 1919 she took the Diploma in Sociology, gaining a further distinction in 1920. From 1919-1939 she worked as a tutor in the Social Science Department where the senior tutor described her as: “a woman of unusual capacity and character … a rare understanding and sympathy and infinite patience, combined with a great deal of love and interest in people.”

Minnie Haskins was closely involved with the establishment of the Institute of Industrial Welfare Workers, the precursor to the Institute of Personnel Management, now the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, editing its monthly bulletin. In 1921 she published with Eleanor T.Kelly Foundations of Industrial Welfare promoting “a spirit of co-operation” between worker and employer. At the same time Haskins wrote two novels Through Gates of Stone (1928) and A Few People (1932) and a further volume of poetry Smoking Flax (1942).

After her 1939 retirement Haskins returned to the School during the Second World War, finally retiring in 1944. She died in Kent and Sussex Hospital, Tunbridge Wells on 3 February 1957. Her words live on inscribed at the entrance to the George VI memorial chapel in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and in a window at the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy. The poem was read at the funeral of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 2002.

Contributed by Sue Donnelly (LSE Archivist)

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