B. Seebohm Rowntree   C.H., LL.D., D.H.L., R.St.O.O. 
1871 -1954

In Memoriam

B.Seebohm Rowntree Homepage

Rowntree Homepage


SEEBOHM ROWNTREE will, I believe, be judged by history as one of the great architects of the Welfare State. It can be given to few men to measure the extent of a problem and live to see it largely resolved.

I, of course, only knew him in his middle period, but with many others I was conscious that his reputation in the 'thirties was built on the great pioneering work which he had done in York thirty and more years earlier and which was recorded in Poverty - A Study of Town L(fe (1901).

I first came in close touch with Seebohm Rowntree during the acute periods of unemployment between the wars. At that time I was interested in palliative measures - social clubs for unemployed men, rehabilitation schemes such as the construction of the Valley Pool at Bournville, Government re-training schemes and so forth. He, however, was not content to deal with problems as they were, and it was to men like him that this country owed so much for their perseverance in studying the causes of large-scale unemployment, and the possibility-to use the title of Lord Beveridge's book - of Full Employment in a Free Society.

I met him again during the period in which he was making his last major contribution to social thinking, when he was chairman of the committee, set up by the Nuffield Foundation, to survey the problems of old age.

It is too soon to make any final assessment of his work for humanity. His interests were very wide. I believe, however, that his main contribution to the welfare of this country and, by example, to much of western civilisation, is in his study of poverty. It is by his two great books - the one quoted above and Poverty and Progress (1941) - that he will be chiefly remembered.

We at Bournville knew him as an able business man, and a very keen competitor, but one with whom it was a real pleasure to collaborate.

(By kind permission of the Editor of the Bournville Works Magazine)