Thursday, 21 February 2013

Herbert Samuel

Earlier this month there occurred the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Herbert Samuel. I wish I had done more than glance at the ODNB email on the actual anniversary, because Samuel was part of the great reforming Liberal government of the Edwardian era which I have referred to earlier (here for instance).

The ODNB biographer writes: "When the Liberals took office in December 1905, Samuel was appointed under-secretary at the Home Office. He was given wide latitude by the home secretary, Herbert Gladstone [son of William Ewart Gladstone, the 19th century Liberal prime minister], and succeeded in securing passage of several measures of social reform. His most significant achievement was the Children Act of 1908 (the 'Children's Charter'), which extended state responsibility to all children, ended child imprisonment, restricted corporal punishment, and instituted the first countrywide system of juvenile courts. A related measure in the same year established the 'Borstal' system of reformatory schools for juvenile offenders - Samuel claimed paternity of the neologism (so called after the first such institution at Borstal, in Kent). He was also responsible for the 1907 Probation of Offenders Act which, for the first time, created a national system of probation."

He later became postmaster-general in the Liberal government, during which he achieved one world first: an experimental air mail service - which however was judged a failure.

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