The History of pensions

Pensions have a long history in the UK, and have developed and changed over time.

These pages outline some of the key steps in the development of pensions in the UK, with profiles of pensions provided at specific companies or in particular industries, and covers both state pensions (provided to citizens by the UK Government) and occupational pensions (pension schemes administered by employers or on behalf of employers for the benefit of their employees).

Medieval and Early Modern Periods

The Nineteenth Century

Pensions since 1900

More information on the history of railway pensions can be found in the Directory section of the website.


Read more about the history of pensions in our Blog

Acknowledgements and sources of further information

Much of the information provided in this section of the website has come from four books about the history of old age and pensions:

  • Pat Thane’s Old Age in English History (Oxford University Press, 2000),
  • C.G. Lewin’s Pensions and Insurance before 1800 (Tuckwell Press, 2003),
  • Tony Salter, Andrew Bryans, Colin Redman and Martin Hewitt's 100 Years of the State Pension (Faculty and Institute of Actuaries, 2009), and
  • Robin Blackburn’s Banking on Death or, investing in life: The History and Future of Pensions (Verso, 2003).

LSE Library's pamphlet collection contains items on the campaign for and against old age pensions at the end of the 19th century and more recent publications on the financing of pensions. Some of these are available online on the LSE Library website, where information is also provided on how to search for further items in the pamphlet collection.

A bibliography of printed materials relating to pensions can be found here.


The Pensions Archive Trust - Registered Charity No. 1122633    

Chairman - Jeff Highfield