Sir William Beveridge (1879-1963) was born in British India and educated at the University of Oxford. Working first as a lawyer then an economist and civil servant, he was motivated by the poverty he saw in places like London’s East End and by the socialist agenda of acquaintances to devise a set of remedies for what he termed ‘the five giant evils’ of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.
He presented his ‘Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services’, otherwise known as the Beveridge Report, in 1942, recommending a comprehensive expansion of welfare provisions. Visionary for a time when WW2 was at a pivotal stage, it gave frontline Armed Forces a renewed impetus with its vision of future protection and well-being for all Britons.
The Labour government of 1945-51 acted upon the Report even though Beveridge represented the Liberals in the House of Lords, and they established the National Health Service and the Welfare State, both of which transformed the nation’s attitudes toward ‘rights’. Over time, the concept of ‘the nanny state’ arose. However, the Report was exceedingly popular in war-torn Britain, with its promise of care for the exhausted population “from cradle to grave” in return for contributions deducted from workers’ wages.
(Image: Abraham Pisarek at Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)