Home » Articles posted by Georgina Brewis

Author Archives: Georgina Brewis

Getting away from it all…

In September I was one of the lucky PhD students selected, after application, for a space on an academic writing retreat at Chapelgarth Estate. The space was provided by ICHRE visiting scholar Dr Marcella Sutcliffe. This was the first time I had been on a writing retreat and although I was not sure what to expect, I knew intuitively that I needed to get away from the pressures of everyday life and to have the time to focus on my academic writing. The pressures of undertaking a part-time PhD are enormous and the biggest challenge for me was finding the time to think and to write as thus far I had been trying to write to meet deadlines – before supervisions or for a publication.

Chapelgarth in North Yorkshire

The writing was a facilitated retreat with a group of academic staff and doctoral students, nine in total, from different higher education institutions. I had read about Rowena Murray’s work on writing retreats and wanted to experience the type of structured writing retreat that she has been so successful at implementing.  The retreat at Chapelgarth used Murray’s structure and was facilitated by Dr. Marisela Mendoza from Nottingham Trent University who was trained with Murray.

The retreat began on Tuesday late afternoon when we, as a group, set our writing goals for the first session of Day 1. I have been using HMI reports to get evidence of pedagogical practice in interwar London elementary schools and my goal was to look at how arithmetic and mathematics was taught during this period. This would constitute a section in one of my ‘findings’ chapter. On Wednesday morning, we began writing for 1.5 hrs, after which we had a 30-minute break. This pattern of writing for 1.5 hours and taking a break (half-an-hour or more depending on the time of day) carried on throughout the retreat.  In total, we had 7 writing sessions following Murray’s structure (see plan below).

The retreat allowed me ‘head space’ in an environment that was conducive to reflection, whilst at the same time, providing a communal writing space which ensured that maximum use was made of the available time.  The community of scholars that I became part of was itself supportive as it allowed for the sharing of ideas and an exchange of information – and the size helped in this respect as we got to know each other quite quickly.

Additionally, and just as importantly, the physical environment at Chapelgarth Estate contributed to a sense of peace and well-being as the anxiety one usually associates with deadlines was forgotten about during this short stay. Chapelgarth was a home-from-home experience without all the hassle of everyday life. The chef and Marcella provided some wonderfully nutritious and delicious meals and Marcella’s care of our every need added to the experience. Of course, the beautiful woodland walks, the wonderful garden, the sunny weather, and the woolly lamas were all a delight and also contributed to my experience. The end result was coming back with written content that I am happier with in terms of quality. I am very grateful to ICHRE and Marcella Sutcliffe for making this possible for me.

Nazlin Bhimani

Exploring the History of Language Learning and Teaching in Paris

Many thanks to the Richard Aldrich bursary for enabling me to attend the conference on ‘The History of Language Learning and Teaching: Between the Eurocentric Model, Missionary Linguistics and Colonial Linguistics’, which took place on 8-9 June 2018, at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris.

The conference covers a range of papers focusing on various languages relating to European and Colonial contexts. It was an enriching and intercultural experience for me, not only enabling me to explore research interests and theories on a variety of topics but also relating the historical and cultural context of Paris to my existing intercultural experience especially through my experience studying and working abroad.

The paper I presented traces the early development of teaching and learning the Chinese language through missionaries and diplomatic officers during the 19th century in Britain. The uniqueness of this paper is that it focuses on Chinese language studies in the UK context by providing original data (archive materials) relating to those missionaries and diplomatic officers who had long residence in China, produced a varied range of texts for the learning of Chinese and laid the ground for the academic study of Chinese in Britain. The paper derives from my larger British Academy-funded study on the chequered history of British university engagement with Chinese Language Studies.

The conference offered useful theoretical contexts to consider language teaching and learning with historical and non Euro-central perspectives. The fact that the conference was held in Paris with a group of academics specialising in history and language studies added a historical dimension to my research as the examples of materials for learning Chinese appeared in the late 17th century in Europe. The other paper within the same session touches upon the socio-historical formation of Brazilian Portuguese, another example of exploring the variety within languages such as Portuguese and Chinese.

Paris conference.pngMy session was chaired by Joseph Errington of Yale University, who also delivered a keynote speech on ‘Indonesia(n) between the colonial, national, and global’. Indeed, when we talk about teaching and learning languages we must reflect on the changing global context. Interesting discussions were stimulated by questions raised by speakers and the chair, and other audiences particularly who were interested in teaching and learning Mandarin Chinese. There is an increasing interest in the history of language studies. The history of the teaching and learning languages can help policy-makers and course leaders look back and reflect upon what might be achieved in the future, as the geo-political background has changed over the past decades, new imperatives have emerged. Future publications will follow, reflecting these research projects and interesting discussions emerged from the conference.

Tinghe Jin

Tinghe Jin is Assistant Professor (Research) at the University of Durham


A Doctoral Student’s Experience of an International Collaboration: BERA 2017

In early September I was one of 996 participants who enjoyed the three day annual conference of the British Educational Research Association Conference (BERA) in Brighton. The programme was so large it required serious study in advance but enabled me to consider my own research in relation to that in other educational disciplines. There were 16 history sessions. I am a doctoral student and this was my second BERA conference. I write to highlight the opportunities it gave me as a postgraduate student, ones that I would not have expected. BERA, however, like ICHRE provides many opportunities.

History SIGI was co-convenor of a two panel symposium with Professor Linda Chisholm from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa on ‘Transnational perspectives on the history of missionary education’. The first panel dealt with post-colonial changes and continuities, while the second dealt with identity changes in the process of change and continuity beyond the colonial period. Our interest was in transnational linkages in the changes and continuities after the official ending of colonialism. An international collaboration, the symposium resulted from a discussion with Linda at the BERA 2016 History SIG social. Our research in Catholic and Lutheran missionary education crossing Italian-American and German-South African national boundaries respectively seemed a good focus for a panel at BERA 2017.

Talking with Professor Kim Fong Poon-McBrayer, from the Education University of Hong Kong, over drinks at the 2016 conference reception I learnt that in the course of her research on inclusion in Hong Kong she had become curious to follow up data which pointed to the legacy of missionary education in the development of inclusive schools in Hong Kong. We went on to invite Dr Brendan Carmody of UCL Institute of Education who has published in History of Education, on the educational work of Irish missionaries in Zambia and Dr Annalaura Turiano of Aix –Marseilles whose doctoral thesis looks at how Italian Salesians in Egypt altered the nature of their place in Egyptian education over time. Our SIG co-ordinator, Dr Heather Ellis, agreed to be the discussant.

Our symposium abstracts were among 959 submitted. 592 were accepted. We were given helpful feedback including a numerical score for each assessment criteria. I learnt from the process and benefitted from the experience of the other scholars in our group. As a retired teacher I was able to offer my administrative and organisational skills! More of us are now pursuing doctorates so this is something we can contribute to the scholarly community. At the end of our symposium Heather shared her observations including pointing out that missionary education has implications for today. These gave us a good focus for a productive de-brief over lunch the following day where we had a lively discussion around the categories of transnational, diasporic and colonial histories, concluding that these categories are relational.

I also benefitted from the bursaries open to presenters at the conference. I was awarded a BERA student bursary covering the cost of the conference and my travel and accommodation were covered by an ICHRE Richard Aldrich bursary.  Two other members of the group were awarded international collaboration bursaries. Our collaboration has also contributed to our writing. I have gained useful insights for my thesis. Kim and Annalaura are following up with articles and Linda’s book, Between Worlds: German Missionaries and the Transition from Mission to Bantu Education is due to be published in November 2017. BERA 2018 will be held at Northumbria University.

Maria Williams, PhD Student, UCL Institute of Education

Why might BERA wish to thank Margaret Thatcher?

In 2017 ICHRE’s Director Gary McCulloch took over as President of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and delivered his first Presidential Address. Here he asks ‘What does BERA owe to Margaret Thatcher?’

Gary McCulloch

This sounds like a weird pub quiz question, and may have an even weirder answer. When BERA’s inaugural conference met in Birmingham in April 1974, Thatcher had already lost her post as secretary of state for education and science amid the shambles of the general election, in which Edward Heath’s Conservative government famously asked who runs Britain and then found out that it didn’t.  Yet Thatcher was ultimately responsible for the DES’s dusty answer when the leaders of the new organisation asked for a pump priming grant to hold its first conference and get itself organised.

The DES’s negative response caused much concern, with research leaders comparing the British attitude to educational research unfavourably with other advanced nations.  Most failed applications of this type lead to the end of a project rather than a starting point.

So, why did the DES say no to BERA, and why might we thank Mrs Thatcher for it?

The answer to the first question can be found in the National Archives at Kew.  Sir David Eccles, the Conservative minister of education who set up a ministerial research unit, was happy to support academic research based in the universities, even where this might be critical of official education policy.  Many of his officials were much less sanguine, and resisted applications to fund new societies and centres in the 1960s.

This attitude hardened with Mrs Thatcher in charge in the early 1970s.   The department shifted from a ‘patronage’ role to one that was ‘policy oriented’.  In future, the DES would only support an application if it was directly related to the Department’s own policies, or deemed to be of direct public concern.

Its new planning unit affirmed in a memorandum in October 1973 that ‘What the Department seems to need is the services of what might be called “hack” research workers.  Not “hack” in a derogatory sense, but people who get down to a job of fact gathering and careful assessment without having too many preconceived ideas of where the educational system ought to be going.’

Nevertheless, rather than stifling the nascent BERA at birth, the DES’s approach actually forced it to depend on the resources available to university-based educational researchers.  This would certainly not be an easy road, especially as there were some in the academy who looked down on educational research and in the schools who regarded it as irrelevant.

But at least it would not be dependent on the vagaries of state funding which might be vulnerable to changes in government policy.  Instead, it would be an independent charitable agency standing on its own feet, accountable above all to its own membership for its future direction.

So here, then, is the answer to the second question.  In this sense, BERA has a lot to thank Mrs Thatcher for, as she helped to establish an organisation that in 2017 flourishes as a broad church with over 2,000 members, which has carved out a space for researchers often in difficult times, and that stands for high quality educational research in all its many forms across the UK and for members around the world.

John Nisbet, BERA’s first president, at the conference that the DES declined to fund, pointed out that such research had a ‘critical role’, that is, providing ‘constructive criticism’. Another early president, Brian Simon, pointed out exactly forty years ago that the real issue was ‘whether scientists are to be allowed to operate as scientists, educationists as educationists, researchers as researchers; or whether all are to become service personnel, waiting cap in hand for orders in response to which appropriate methods will be sorted out to produce acceptable results or conclusions’.

It is this academic freedom and commitment to truths that may be inconvenient, in an age of fake news and widespread distrust of experts, that BERA continues to represent today.

This post was originally published on the BERA Blog, 4 September 2017.

Sources and the History of Women Religious Medieval to Modern: Archival, Oral, Material and Digital

By Maria Patricia Williams

The 2017 H-WRBI Annual Conference took place at University College Dublin, Ireland and was Ireland and was immensely helpful to me as a researcher in the history of education. Deidre Raftery and her team at UCD provided us with an exciting and varied programme. Conference papers examined the history of women religious, medieval to modern engaging with sources and commenting on methodologies around the use of archival, oral, visual, material and digital sources. The majority of papers were on sources relating to the history of women religious involved in education.

Susan O’Brien gave an excellent keynote entitled, ‘Speaking in the Silence: Researching the Sisters’ Stories, 1850-2000’.  She highlighted the lack of historical research on women religious in England during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, unlike the situation in other European countries and in the United States. The recent ‘religious turn’ in feminist history is providing opportunities for exploration of a vast mine of untapped resources in convent archives and challenges the researcher to consider them in their social and cultural contexts. This can provide many opportunities for us, as historians of education.

The presentations were of a very high standard and it was difficult to choose between the two parallel sessions. Several papers explored the use of oral testimonies. Carmen Mangion spoke on convent group identity and the impact of ‘cultural scripts’ on personal accounts.

Flora Derounian considered the identity of women religious as workers in post-World War II Italy, using some subtitled film clips of her interviews to demonstrate her methodology. Films made and commissioned by Irish missionary societies of women 1847-1963 were the focus of Edel Robinson’s presentation during which we viewed previously undocumented films. Several papers focused on financial issues. Catriona Delaney explored the impact of the introduction of state funding in Ireland on the schools of the Presentation Sisters, 1940-58. Sarah Joan Moran showed us the insights provided by the account books of Court Beguinages of the Low Countries for her work on gender, economic and religious history. Historians at UCD were seen to be at the ‘cutting-edge’ as Deidre Raftery demonstrated the use of digital technologies for ‘virtual reunification’ of dispersed archival material. We also benefited from presentations by several archivists who showed how they are making sources in the archives of women religious more accessible for researchers.

The conference used the UCD O’Brien Centre for Science which was modern, spacious and light- filled and the food was very good. This all created an atmosphere conducive to continuing discussions during our breaks. The conference fee was reasonable and bursaries were available. The UCD en-suite rooms with communal kitchens were very comfortable. The campus is a short bus ride from the city of Dublin which enabled some of us to do a little sightseeing before returning home.

For more on the work of the H-WRBI see here.


Maria Patricia Williams is a doctoral student at UCL Institute of Education under the supervision of Professor Gary McCulloch. Prior to commencing her research she worked in London comprehensive schools for thirty years.

Finding, and Preserving, Democracy in UK’s voluntary sector archives


Editors’ Note: Charlotte Clements continues HistPhil’s forum on archives and knowledge management.

In this post I want to offer a UK perspective on the archives of philanthropic and non-profit organisations. I am sure that several of the issues I highlight are common outside the UK and I am interested in working across borders to share knowledge about best practice and to champion the archives of voluntary organisations.

My interest in the archives of voluntary organisations began as a researcher. I have used them for many years while studying youth voluntary movements in England. For me, the preservation of these archives is a matter of democracy: they are a vital record of the role of civil society, past and present. We cannot understand or protect democracy without recourse to the knowledge and memory contained in the archives of such organisations, whether they are large grant makers such as the Pears…

View original post 1,237 more words

Call for papers – Pedagogika special issue

A Czech colleague has asked us to issue a call for papers for the prestigious Czech journal Pedagogika on the topic of the history of education that is being put together by Andreas Hoffmann, Tomáš Kasper and Karel Rýdl.  The issue will focus on the following questions:

  1. In what way was the “normative canon” of the ideas and personalities of History of Education constructed since this discipline had been established until the “disintegration” of this concept in the 20th century in particular European countries? What was the structure of the specialised discourse which shifted the aims, structure and general concept of History of Education towards social- and cultural-science profile? When did the “disintegration” process take place in various countries in the intellectual environment of the second half of the 20th century and what did the process look like? What were the arguments serving as its basis and what research was it based on?
  2. What topics and research areas are opened up in the cultural- and social-science foundation of History of Education? What research methods are used, combined and preferred and what impacts can be detected in terms of establishing fundamental categories in the discipline of Educational Science?
  3. History of Education used to be a discipline exploited heavily as an instrument to the goals of science practised in totalitarian regimes in the 20th We shall ask what the aims this instrumentalisation served were, what its normative concept was based on, and what its impact on historical and educational research was.
  4. History of Education constituted “undisputable” part of teacher education and subject-matter didactics for pedagogues for a very long period of time. The questions are: Why was the significance of this discipline thus emphasised, how was its significance justified and legitimised? What is the role and significance of historical and educational reflection as well as of reflective perspective on history in today’s concept of teacher education and subject-matter didactics for future pedagogues?
  5. What role have the outcomes of historical and educational research been playing in teacher professional practice – either spontaneously or as a result of management processes in education as part of official policies of both national states and supranational political institutions?

Closing date 31 January 2017. Please follow this link for more information and details of how to submit a paper.

Visiting delegation from China

A senior delegation from Hunan First Normal University, China, visited UCL Institute of Education in September 2016, following up an earlier visit in December 2015.  Led by President Professor Xiaoqi Peng, it met the new IOE director, Professor Becky Francis, and held further discussions with the ICHRE director, Professor Gary McCulloch, before going on to take part in the annual conference of the British Educational Research Association held in Leeds later that week.
Professor McCulloch was first invited to visit HNFNU in April 2015 and was formally designated as a visiting professor.  In 2016, Hunan Province awarded him the title of ‘famous overseas teacher’ and in this capacity he will undertake a visiting tour in spring 2017 to develop the relationship between ICRHE and Hunan further, as well as to promote the profile of historical research in education.

Roll of Honour: Schooling and the Great War, 1914-1919

Barry Blades

The production of Roll of Honour began nearly two decades ago. At that time I was undertaking doctoral research at the Institute of Education in London and needed contextual information on British schools during the Great War. Amazingly, I found that there was very little material on the topic, especially for the thousands of maintained schools which educated the great majority of British children in 1914. Even the histories of the elite public schools tended to say very little about the impact of the war on the schools themselves and on the pupils living and studying within their walls. Most concentrated instead on their Old Boys – and very occasionally Old Girls – serving on the battle fronts. The history of schooling during the conflict of 1914 to 1919 appeared to be yet another ‘hidden history’, a topic neglected by both historians of education and of the Great War itself – until now.

Roll of Honour both shifts and widens our gaze. It examines the conflict as it was experienced and viewed from Britain, and by ‘forgotten’ groups who served their country in wartime in myriad ways. It investigates the impact of the Great War on British schools and, conversely, the impact of schools and their communities on the British war effort 1914-1919. Pupils and teachers – male and female – take centre stage in this detailed account of the wartime experience and contribution of schools of all kinds. The experiences of local authority elementary schools sit alongside those of ancient grammar school foundations, new Edwardian secondary and technical institutions, private schools of all sizes, reputation and status, and even military and reformatory schools. ‘Tommy’ was not the only one to serve in the Great War. Millions of British citizens – including schoolchildren and their teachers – served on the home front. School ‘campaigns’ helped raise the New Armies, bolstered troop morale, provided munitions, countered the enemy U-boats and raised millions of pounds for the government’s war chest. Total war created new battle fronts on which the schoolchildren of Britain faced new and terrifying weapons of war and became casualties.

Roll of HonourRoll of Honour also challenges some of the persistent and pervasive myths about the Great War. The reaction of school communities to the British declaration of war against Germany – as depicted in school logbooks, annual reports and other documentary evidence – indicates that the citizens of 1914 were not universally carried away by ‘war fever’. The reaction of teachers to Lord Kitchener’s call for recruits to serve on the battlefronts – and to the demands of the conflict more generally – covered a wide spectrum, ranging from outright support and direct involvement to conscientious objection and sustained anti-war campaigning. Analysis of the military ranks held by the products of the many different types of school reinforces previous research on social and educational hierarchies, but also undermines many of the stereotypes of the period. Roll of Honour demonstrates, for example, that the majority of junior officers in the Great War were not the products of the public schools. Two thirds of all subalterns, in fact, had been educated in other types of school. The British officer corps included many thousands of men who had attended elementary schools or had won scholarships to the new secondary schools established after 1902. They, and a great number of the teachers who had taught them, became ‘Temporary Officers’ – and, by default, ‘Temporary Gentlemen’ – for the duration of the war only. Many schools suffered casualties, but the much-lauded ‘Lost Generation’ from the elite public schools is but one part of a much larger ‘Lost Citizenry’. The former have been justly remembered for their heroic sacrifices. The crucial contribution of their 685,000 fellow fallen citizens who had been educated in Britain’s other schools has often been marginalised. Roll of Honour reminds us of how even some decorated war heroes have simply been forgotten, victims of the condescension of posterity.


Roll of Honour is the first in a trilogy of books by Barry Blades on schooling and the Great War to be published by Pen & Sword Books over the next few years. The other titles are: Temporary Gentlemen: Teachers and the Great War, 1914-1919, and Little Soldiers: the Militarisation of Childhood and the Great War.

More details are available on the Schooling and the Great War website www.ww1schools.com



Welcome to the website for the International Centre for Historical Research in Education (ICHRE), a research centre at UCL Institute of Education (IOE). We were officially launched on 23 July 2014 at the Education, War and Peace (ISCHE 36) conference – one of the largest history of education conferences ever to be held in Europe.

ICHRE aims to become a leading centre for historical research into education. We hope to make a significant contribution to the development of research and scholarship on the history of education. ICHRE is located in the IOE’s Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. Although a new centre, ICHRE builds on the strong tradition of historical research at the Institute of Education, which has long been recognised as the leading UK base for the history of education and as one of the most significant centres worldwide.

We offer world-class teaching in the history of education – broadly defined – through our research degrees, our unique History of Education MA and on a ‘history pathway’ on our BA Education Studies. All courses are taught by specialists in social, cultural, political and educational history, and our teaching is closely linked to our growing portfolio of externally funded research projects.

Current research projects are funded by the AHRC, the British Academy and the Swedish Research Council, while grants in recent years have come from the ESRC, Leverhulme Trust and the Society for Educational Studies.

We are developing an exciting programme of ICHRE events including a regular seminar series at IOE together with one off conferences, training workshops and symposia.

We will work in close partnership with colleagues across UCL including the History DepartmentNewsam Library and Archives and the Centre for Holocaust Education. We have close links to external associations including the History of Education Society (UK) and the International Standing Conference in the History of Education (ISCHE).

We welcome all applications from potential MA or research students, enquiries from visiting academics and other possible partners.

Follow us on twitter at @ioe_ichre or email ichre@ioe.ac.uk