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.
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.
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…
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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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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 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 Department, Newsam 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 firstname.lastname@example.org