The founding of the London School of Economics and Political Science (informally LSE) marked the conjunction of a need with an opportunity. The need was for a center where political and social problems could be studied as profoundly as they were being studied in universities on the Continent and in America. The opportunity came when Henry Hunt Hutchinson, a member of the Fabian Society, died in 1894 leaving instructions to Sidney Webb and four other trustees to dispose of the residue of his estate for socially progressive purposes, but otherwise more or less as they thought fit. Sidney Webb working without the formalities of charters and incorporations, of public subscriptions and government grants, boards of trustees and governors, collected subscriptions and started the School. Its aim was to contribute to the improvement of society by promoting the impartial study of its problems and the training of those who were to make and translate policy into action.
Once the University of London had reorganized itself in 1900 and established a Faculty of Economics and Political Science, the School joined the University. Since the formality of its new position required the School to regularise its constitution, it was incorporated as a limted company not trading for profit, on 18 June 1901, with Sidney Webb as Chairman of the Governors. Sidney Webb may have hoped that the study of society and social problems would lead to social, economic and political developments congenial to him and other Fabians; but he firmly established the principle that the School was not to be the servant of any political or economic dogma, but only of the impartial pursuit of knowledge and understanding. This was emphasized in the adoption by the School in February 1922 of the motto from Virgil (Felix qui potuit) rerum cognoscere causas (to know the causes of things), and of the coat of arms depicting books, for learning, and the beaver, as an industrious animal with social habits.
Much of the development of the social sciences in the United Kingdom and abroad has its origins in work done at the School. As the list of subjects in the original Articles of Association suggests, the School's work has concerned the social sciences in the widest senses of that term, both theoretical and empirical, quantitative and humanistic. In 1904, the first lectureship in sociology was estabilished in the Kingdom, followed by the establishment of the Department of Social Science and Administration in 1912. Anthropology as it is currently practised owes much to the pioneering work of Malinowski and other LSE anthropologists. In 1924, one of the first Chairs in International Relations was established at the School, and, in 1934, the first organized study of Criminology began at the School. Economics has been practiced since very beginning. Among the many distinguished economists that have been members of the School may be mentioned Allen, Gorman, Hahn, Johnson, Kaldor, Lerner, Phillips, Robbins, Sen, Hicks, Lewis, Meade, von Hayek and Coase, Miller and Mundell, the latter seven having received the Nobel Prize in Economics. The political scientists and philosphers Webb, Wallas, Laski, Schapiro, Oakeshott, Kedourie, Cranston, Robson, Popper, Self and Minogue, the anthropologists Malinowski, Firth, Mair and Schneider, the social psychologist Himmelweit and the economic and international historians and relationists Power, Tawney, Webster, Medlicott, Goodwin and Northedge are only a few of the many other well-known former and current members of staff.
The School has continued this tradition of research excellence, in all 18 academic departments, in the five interdisciplinary institutes and in an increasing number of endowed and externally-financed research centres. This research informs and constantly reinvigorates the School's teaching. Graduate students work with teachers who are among the top in their fields. In turn, graduate students play a valued and important role in the School's scholarship through the research they conduct during their studies.
The School occupies a compact site in central London, next to the Royal Courts of Justice and near the Inns of Courts, the City and Westminster. One observer's view is that, as a result of piecemeal development over the years, the buildings bear the marks of growth by accident and accretion, connected by bridges and different levels, full of corridors that end abruptly, connections that no rational man could expect. A major expansion became possible in 1978, when the School's library of 3 million books, the largest specialist social science collection in the world, was relocated to a building whose refurbishment was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, giving the School 60 percent more space in one move. In 2000, the library underwent a major redevelopment, designed by world-renouned architects Foster & Partners and whose major feature is a walk way spiraling up four floors, caped by a large glass dome. The School is continuing to look to purchase adjacent sites.
I have been in residence at the School on two occasions. In the 1993/4 academic year, I was a visiting undergraduate student in its Department of Economics. In the 1996/7 academic year, I returned as a post-graduate student for a Master of Science course in the subject area Political Economy of Transition. Since November 1997, I am an alumnus of the School and, since October 1998, the Secretary General of the Swiss LSE Alumni Association (SLSEAA), the large independent national membership association of LSE alumnae and alumni in Switzerland.
The University of London is a confederation of London-based colleges, institutes, hospitals and research laboratories. Each member institution governs itself and owns its own property but submits its students for examination to the University. Apart from its responsibility for examinations and the granting of academic degrees, it maintains several important common assets: the University Library, the Marine Biological Station in Scotland together with several research vessels, the University Observatory, the Computer Centre and student residences and recreational facilities at prime locations throughout London.
Besides the London School of Economics and Political Science, the University has some other very illustrious member institutions: the King's College (natural sciences, war studies), the University College (archeology, natural sciences), the Goldsmiths College (new media), the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, the Queen Mary and Westfield College, the London Business School (LBS), the Birkbeck College, the Courtauld Institute (art history), SOAS (oriental and asian studies), the Heythrop College (theology). Guy's, St. Thomas', Charing Cross and Westminster, St. Bartholomew's, St. George's, Middlesex, St. Mary's and the Royal Free medical colleges and hospitals, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the School of Pharmacy and the Royal Veterinary College make the University the worldwide leader in human and animal medical research. Lastly, the School of Advanced Studies, a special research think tank of the University, attracts researchers from many corners of the globe to work on complex and interdisciplinary scientific questions.
From 1993 to 1994 and again from 1996 to 1997, I was a junior member (Internal Student) of the University. Since 1997, I'm a graduate member of the University.