Social Change: Collins Gives Back

In the UK, William Collins II of Collins and Sons took up labor causes, especially child labor. He treated his own employees not as numbers or machinelike “resources” but as human beings and “Christian souls.” He was elected president of the Glasgow Company of Stationers; a bailie (civic officer) in local government; president of the Scottish Temperance League (he was known as “Water Willie”); and, in 1877, lord provost of Glasgow—the Scottish equivalent of being elected mayor of New York City. For his work within and outside of the publishing house, he was knighted in 1881 by Queen Victoria.

Sir William’s grandson Godfrey Collins followed this legacy of public service, and in 1910 was elected as the Greenock Liberals’ Member of Parliament (and was also knighted, in 1919). With war clouds looming, Godfrey created the Nation’s Library series in 1913, comprised of progressive works like Philip Snowden’s Socialism and Syndicalism, Emil Davies’s The Case for Railway Nationalisation, Walter Layton’s The Relations of Capital and Labour, and Ethel Snowden’s The Feminist Movement. From 1932 to 1936 he also served as secretary of state for Scotland.