The Scandinavian welfare states, along with the British, American, French, Dutch, and a few others, may perhaps owe their historical origin to the influence of the Catholic Church and the European conservative states following World War II. The European modern welfare state, however, came into existence by a collective vision of three people: Otto von Bismarck, William Beveridge and Thomas H. Marshall. The German welfare model of Chancellor Bismarck and the British social model of Beveridge and the social citizenship of Thomas Marshall are closely related to each other. Their collective approach to social order for an ideal society led to the creation of the welfare state in some 15 countries including Scandinavia within a short period of time. One of the most important figures who played a role in influencing the Scandinavian welfare model was British sociologist Thomas H. Marshall.
Born in Bloomsbury in 1893, Thomas Marshall was the fourth of six children in a middle-class British family. The editor of the of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Ben Jackson, described Marshal’s father as a successful architect in the UK, but young Marshall did not follow in his father’s footsteps. Marshall went to school at Rugby and furthered his studies in history at Trinity College, Cambridge. Like many youths with drive and dreams, Marshall developed strong social skills and the possibility of him becoming a diplomat, scholar, musician or politician was not far from reality. British historians describe Marshall as a man of energy, reasoning, and persuasive charm. His family prepared him for a diplomatic career. His scientific reasoning and passion for logical debates brought him even closer to the emerging discipline of sociology in the UK.
According to Jackson, in the summer of 1914, when he was only twenty years old, Marshall went to Germany to study German in preparation for a career in the British foreign service. Shortly after his arrival, WWI erupted and Marshall was arrested and interned as a prisoner of war at Ruhleben camp, near Berlin. He remained a civilian prisoner with nearly 4,000 other British citizens until the end of World War I. At the internment camp, Marshall read intensively, debated social topics and tutored inmates on politics and social justice. He finally returned to England in 1919. He considered his captivity a remarkable social experiment, as the experiences at the Ruhleben camp opened his eyes to the strata of society and the need for social citizenship. This awakened in him the concept of social welfare. It was at the Ruhleben camp he started to develop a truly social interest in equality. He often challenged camp inmates who were mainly merchant seamen, fishermen and traders. He wrote that from this time there was “a growing sociological curiosity about what was happening in me and around me.” Back in Britain, Marshall stood as a Labor candidate for Farnham in the 1922 general election. He was defeated and returned to Cambridge, realizing his temperament was not suitable for a career in politics. Realistically, Thomas Marshall was a man who had the passion to put ideas of social welfare into action. To change the circumstances, he went back to Cambridge to search for new ideas, a new direction, thinking about social change, and finding a job in social work.
In 1925, Marshall saw an advertisement in a local Cambridge newspaper for tutoring a group of students in social work at the London College of Economics. He responded to that ad and his journey into the field of sociology began. He initially tutored, then later was promoted lecturer and went on to become a professor of sociology in the late 1930s. He was the head of Department of Social Work at the London College of Economics and taught subjects on social rights and welfare such as childcare, healthcare, housing and elderly until he retired in 1956. His distinctive contribution was to introduce the concept of social rights, or what is referred to as welfare rights. He argued that the social right was something that had to be awarded to people not because of their class or need, but rather because of their citizenship status.
Thomas Marshall was a cheerful, energetic, and educated man who enjoyed a civilized private life with family and friends. Friendship, social justice, debate and music were his greatest gifts of character...