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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…

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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.

The Idea of an English School: Literature, Politics, and the University, 1932-1965

Alexander Hutton, a Research Associate at King’s College London, spoke on the ways in which English Literature education was used as a means of training a social democratic elite capable of creating and maintaining the welfare state in mid twentieth-century Britain.

Focusing on the careers of three individual English academics – L.C. Knights at Manchester and Bristol; Bonamy Dobrée at Leeds and F.W. Bateson at Oxford, the talk demonstrated how each of them engaged with radical social democratic politics during the 1930s and 1940s, and how these interactions reshaped their conception of the subject and its wider social relevance. For example, L.C. Knights taught adult education classes in industrial Lancashire as well as raising money for Republican Spain through selling jam, and Bonamy Dobrée was a leading figure of the cultural Popular Front of the 1930s, whereas F.W. Bateson worked as a Labour Party activist and became a major spokesman on socialist agricultural policies.

These interventions with leftist politics caused the three figures to rethink the purpose of English Literature within society and, in their respective universities, to rethink the syllabus in terms of literature’s relationship to the wider problems of group living, its possibilities of critiquing a capitalist society, and its possibilities in training a humane elite of teachers, adult education tutors, writers, journalists, civil servants, arts administrators and academics.

These figures, to a greater or lesser extent, set about reforming syllabuses at their universities in terms of exposing English students to wider contexts such as history or sociology. They each wrote manifestoes on this, such as Dobrée’s 1943 Universities and Regional Life, where the post-war provincial university was an essential tool for democracy, acting as a bastion of cultural value in places often lacking cultural and intellectual life. Universities had to become leading ‘propagandists’ for social change and ‘the good life…so they can help to mould the new industrial civilization in which the century of the common man will find its being.’

sussex 1

Above and below: Basil Spence’s designs for the University of Sussex

Sussex 2

F.W. Bateson, who met with stiff resistance at Oxford (where the department was dominated by figures such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein who rejected the notion that literature should have a social function or that it was particularly relevant to the modern world) was instrumental in founding the journal Essays in Criticism (1951-) as well as the Oxford Critical Society. These acted as an ‘insurgent’ Oxford English School, foregrounding the work of younger critics and writers, many of whom were taught by Bateson, including Al Alvarez, Kingsley Amis, Bernard Bergonzi, Stuart Hall, John Holloway, Philip Larkin, W.W. Robson, John Wain, and Raymond Williams.

The paper concluded by looking at David Daiches’ creation of the new English School at the University of Sussex. Though Daiches had repudiated his youthful Marxism, which produced his first book Literature and Society (1938), he remained committed to the idea that literature teaching must be relevant, which went on to underpin the Sussex ‘core and context’ system, set out in Daiches’ The Idea of a New University (1964), which prepared graduates to become vital contributors to modern technological society.

Whilst these visions were ultimately limited, and generally failed to withstand critiques from Marxist, feminist or Post-colonial perspectives, they were important parts of the reshaping of the subject in the context of university reforms in the pre-Robbins era.

Asking the wrong questions?

Jonathan Doney is a post-doctoral Research Fellow and Associate Lecturer at the University of Exeter, an Associate Lecturer at the University of Winchester, and an Honorary Associate of the International Centre for Historical Research in Education (ICHRE) at UCL’s Institute of Education. He recently gave a lunchtime seminar on his ESRC funded doctoral work. His project (That would be an ecumenical matter) centres on the ways in which a focus on the discourses of ecumenism enriches understandings of how the adoption of the Study of World Religions became possible in English Religious Education during the 1960s and 1970s.

Speaking to the title: ‘”I’m sorry, I can’t give you an answer. I’m dealing with different questions.” Post-structural Methods and Histories of Curriculum Development’, Jonathan explained the way in which the history of education often focuses on events and their significance, asking ‘what happened?, what does it mean?’.

Picture1His doctoral work takes another direction, and concentrates on a different question. Influenced by the historical work of Michel Foucault, particularly his work on the History of Ideas, Jonathan has become interested in ‘how certain practices become possible’.


In his talk, Jonathan described the development of a new methodology, which he has called ‘Statement Archaeology’. Beginning with the foundational notions which Foucault describes in his work, (especially the necessity of emphasizing ‘statement’, ‘relative beginnings’ and ‘moments of discontinuity’), Jonathan described how the operationalization of the method has worked in the context of his doctoral study through the application of a series of principles which guide the gathering of statements, and a number of indicative questions asked of the statements so gathered. He exemplified these steps in practice through the discussion of one particular area of his doctoral research.


Picture2The inclusion in Schools Council Working Paper 36 – Religious Education in the Secondary School (published 1971) of statements repeated from supranational and national ecumenical discourses have hitherto been overlooked. Through a detailed exploration of the origins and provenance of these statements, using Statement Archaeology, Jonathan demonstrated the efficacy of his method, showing that the inclusion of the ecumenical context enriches understandings of how the adoption of World Religions Teaching became possible in English Religious Education during the 1960s and 1970s.



Thomas Hill Green and Local Citizenship in Twentieth-Century Britain

Tom Hulme writes about the influence of the Victorian idealist philosopher Thomas Hill Green following his Lunchtime seminar paper earlier this year

Earlier this year I was very happy to be invited to the UCL Institute of Education to give a paper as part of their History of Education Lunchtime Seminars. I had not been living and working in London long, so it was a new place for me – and a nice surprise! I gave a talk titled (rather drily!), Thomas Hill Green and Local Citizenship in Twentieth-Century Britain.

Thomas Hill GreenThe paper was about the lasting influence of the Victorian idealist philosopher Thomas Hill Green (1836–1882) in the application of citizenship education, and the specifically local and urban articulation that this took. Despite the tendency for historians to view citizenship through the prism of the national or imperial, it was actually common for both children and adults to be taught that it was in the local, and the city especially, that the rights and responsibilities of citizenship were received and enacted. Using Green’s justification for state intervention to ensure individual liberty, educators argued that municipal government was the guardian of the life and health of individuals and communities—an educational approach they termed civics. These ideas were prominent in the organizations that provided civics in the 1920s and 1930s, such as the National Association of Local Government Officers and the Association for Education in Citizenship. If anyone is interested in seeing the ‘finished article’, they can find it here, in Twentieth Century British History!

I was really pleased with the enthusiasm and engagement of the audience– I don’t really come from a history of education background, but I felt like my work had found a natural home. I was given lots of new ideas, and plenty of food for thought. Was there a big difference between how civics was taught to boys and girls? Was civics only a state-elementary school subject, or was it also prominent in public school? At some point I will definitely return to these questions; even though I had finished the article before the paper, it now already needs to be expanded!

tom_hulmeTom Hulme is Early Career Lecturer in Urban History at the Centre for Metropolitan History. His research looks at the relationship between cities and citizenship in Britain and North America in the first half of the twentieth century.


See our seminars page for the upcoming papers.

The Left Book Club and adult education in Britain and Australia

Chloe Ward, from the University of Melbourne, recently presented at one of our lunchtime seminars. Her thesis is on the transnational history of the Left Book Club. You can follow Chloe on Twitter @doctorchlod

The Left Book Club (LBC), a subscription book club founded in 1936 by Victor Gollancz, has been seen by historians as, variously, a publishing enterprise, a communist front organisation, a British Popular Front and an educational agency. Historians have rarely explored its transnational connections. Last Thursday, I gave a paper at the ICHRE lunchtime seminar series exploring the LBC’s links with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) in Britain and Australia.


[Worker, 30 August 1938, 2]

In Britain, the LBC’s association with the WEA was informal. WEA tutors like the future Labour MP Stephen Swingler led its local discussion groups and political campaigns. Leading figures in the WEA warned against too close an involvement with the LBC because of its association with the Communist Party. In 1937 WE Williams, editor of the WEA journal The Highway warned that this ‘energetic ally of adult education’ risked abandoning its liberal, pluralistic agenda as it hurried its members to conclusions ‘by taking the short cut along the left fork’.[1]

In Australia, the WEA established formal links with the Club. The WEA’s NSW director, David Stewart, took up a joint agency for the Club with the Sydney Anvil Bookshop in 1937. In 1938 Stewart faced down demands from the Catholic Press for the WEA, a state-funded body, to cease cooperating with the Club. Stewart explained publicly that the Club fulfilled an indispensable role for working-class readers and WEA students. It provided them cheap, quality books that would otherwise have either been unavailable in Australia.[2]

The differences between the WEA’s attitude to the LBC in Britain and Australia, I argued, reflect their independent political and philosophical trajectories since Albert Mansbridge founded the Australian WEA in 1913. In Britain, the WEA defended its position as a liberal and ‘non-political’ institution against the left. In Australia, the WEA was more closely entwined with left-wing politics. They also demonstrate the great degree to which the book trade shaped the WEA’s collaboration with other organisations. Adult educators warmly welcomed the LBC’s cheap, informative books to an Australian market dominated by the British book trade.


[1] WE Williams, ‘Notes and Comments’, The Highway, April 1937, 173-174.

[2] David Stewart, ‘The Left Book Club: W.E.A.’s Reply’, The Catholic Press, 8 September 1938, 13.

Schools of the 21st century- safe havens or dangerous places for our children?

In his article for ‘The Conversation’, ICHRE Director Gary McCulloch discusses the continuing effect of a series of reforms begun in the early 20th century to support the welfare of children:



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