First World War, Rowntrees and

Joseph Rowntree’s reaction to the outbreak of war was a fear of jingoism and a concern for the reconstruction of society to improve present conditions in order to improve the welfare of the population into the future. All of Seebohm Rowntree’s efforts in WW1 were bound up with welfare and reconstruction.

At the behest of Lloyd George in 1915 he served as Director of the newly-established Welfare Department at the Ministry of Munitions, and worked on the implementation of the principles of ‘scientific management’ in the munitions factories and in safeguarding the well-being of the factory workers. In 1916, when Asquith was forced from office to be replaced by Lloyd George, he appointed Rowntree to his Reconstruction Committee, at which Beatrice Webb described him as ‘an invaluable individual member of the Committee, eager to spend his time and money in working up special subjects…[he was] too modest and hesitating in opinion to lead a committee.’

The Rowntree factory continued operating during the war years and the Cocoa Works Magazine gives an insight into lists of employees serving (and falling) at the front, and examples of the pastoral efforts made within the changed circumstances of the war years.