Born in Bengal, where his father was a judge in the Indian Civil Service, Beveridge was educated at Oxford University. He taught law, wrote leader columns for the Morning Post and in 1908, entered the Board of Trade.
From 1909 to 1916 he was director of Labour Exchanges, organising a national system of labour exchanges and a compulsory unemployment insurance scheme.
As director of the London School of Economics from 1919 to 1937, he transformed it into an institution of international reputation, later becoming master of University College, Oxford (1937-1944) and president of the Royal Statistical Society (1941- 43).
The Beveridge Report resulted from his chairmanship of the Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services appointed in 1941. It was a comprehensive scheme of social insurance, without income limits, and formed the basis of much subsequent social legislation. Although greeted cautiously by the government and the public, many of its recommendations were adopted.
He chaired the Development Corporation of Aycliffe and Peterlee, Co Durham was, for a short time, MP for Berwick upon Tweed (1944-45).