chapter  8
24 Pages

THE CITY, THE FABIANS AND THE FOUNDATION OF THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS

ByAlon Kadish

In 1888 the London Chamber of Commerce decided to initiate a scheme of commercial education which, it was hoped, would serve to raise the standards of recruits to various clerical and junior executive positions in the City. It was a period of growing concern over the performance of England in international markets and it was generally assumed that the growing competitiveness of many of the newly industrialized nations was largely due to their superior arrangements for commercial training. France had the Ecole Commercial (1863) and the Ecole Superieure de Commerce (1869), the latter founded by the Paris Chamber of Commerce, and Germany its Realschule, whereas in England ‘every foreign observer continues to be puzzled by the contrast between the boundless and ever increasing business transactions of the British Empire, and the lack of provision for the technical training of those who are charged with them’. Sidney Webb, who some years later attempted an explanation of this phenomenon, argued that it was mainly the result of

the ingrained belief of the English business man that there is not, and never can be, any ‘commercial education’ comparable with that which a man ‘picks up’ in the actual business of daily life. The most intelligent merchant never dreams of seeking for his son any special ‘commercial education’: he either sends him to Oxford or pitchforks him straight into his office.1