Rowntree A-Z

Europe, Rowntrees and

Many of the Rowntrees visited Europe frequently and had a European outlook on life. In part this was no doubt due to their German roots. Joseph Rowntree developed an interest in travel in his later life and regularly went to Switzerland during the summer, after he had spent some time there after the death of his first wife Julia (1841-1863) and later with his second wife and children. As he said ‘money spent on travel is never wasted’.

In 1895 John Wilhelm, who played a major part in the ‘Quaker Renaissance’ at the end of the nineteenth century, travelled to Jerusalem, on his way there passing Italy. In 1897 he met Rufus M. Jones (1863-1948) in Switzerland, an American Quaker minister and towering figure in the history of Quakerism, professor of philosophy and editor of the American Friend, with whom he established a deep and long lasting friendship.

Seebohm uses the examples of observance of practice in Europe in many of his works, including a detailed analysis of Northern Europe in particular. His comparative concern in his sociological studies was similar to that of his father. His second work was titled Land & Labour. Lessons from Belgium, which was published in 1910.

Originally he had intended to make a survey of France, Switzerland and Belgium to analyse land and labour policies in Europe, but he decided to limit the scope of his study because ‘it would carry me far beyond the limits of the single volume I contemplated’. Forty years later, at the end of his life, in 1951 he published English Life and Leisure for which he went on a research trip to Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland to acquire the research materials for a comparative chapter on life and leisure in the Scandinavian countries.

Thus, both father and sons demonstrated their concern for a transnational and comparative outlook and an understanding of the world that went well beyond its national borders.


Rowntree, B. Seebohm (1910): Land & Labour. Lessons from Belgium, London: Macmillan & Co., V.

Rowntree, B. Seebohm (1951): English Life and Leisure, London: Longmans, XIV and 415-465.


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