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Last updated:20 April 2015

'Social security: the story of social progress and the Beveridge Plan', 1943 pamphlet

Marking the publication of the Beveridge Report in December 1942

This month is the 70th anniversary of the publication of the Beveridge report. As well as laying the foundations for the post-war establishment of the welfare state, the document provided a much needed morale boost during the dark days of war. It was a best seller, with over 600,000 official copies sold. In addition newspapers, political parties and other organisations published a variety of pamphlets which all helped explain to the people just what the report would mean for them.

As part of its morale-boosting campaign, the Ministry of Information supported the publication of this month's object in 1943. The text was written by a civil servant, Sir Ronald Davidson, but more interesting are the diagrams. These are produced in ISOTYPE, a design system developed in Vienna in the 1920s, by Otto Neurath who aimed to ‘represent social facts pictorially'. ISOTYPE is an acronym for International System Of TYpographic Picture Education.

After escaping Nazi occupation with his wife Marie, first from Austria and then the Netherlands, Neurath ending up in Oxford at the start of the war and opened the ISOTYPE Institute. It was this body that produced the illustrations for this pamphlet.

beveridge pamphlet

As you can see this page breaks down the financial requirements of various members and groups in society, into food, rent, heating etc. Each circle represents 1 shilling per week at 1938 prices, while what the money is spent on is shown through words and images.

The page is typical of the ISOTYPE technique which rejected using larger symbols to represent larger amounts, instead repeating the same symbol the required number of times. In doing so it attempts to render the complex simple.

December 2012

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