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Current projects

There are currently several externally funded research projects associated with ICHRE.


Discourses of Voluntary Action at two “Transformational Moments” of the Welfare State, the 1940s and 2010s (ESRC grant ES/N018249/1, 2017-2019)

This ESRC funded project is led by Northumbria University seeks to explore the role of voluntary organisations in welfare provision during the 1940s and the 2010s, both described as ‘revolutionary moments’ in UK welfare provision. The project will explore the contribution the voluntary sector has made at two very different but pivotal moments in the history of social welfare in the UK through the eyes of voluntary organisations themselves, as well  as the government and the general public. The project is being led by Irene Hardill, Professor of Public Policy at Northumbria, in partnership with Georgina Brewis (UCL Institute of Education), Angela Ellis Paine (University of Birmingham), Dr Rose Lindsey (University of Southampton), Rob Macmillan (Sheffield Hallam University).


Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT) (AHRC, 2017-2019)

This project is a two-year AHRC fellowship awarded to Sam Duncan (Department of Education, Practice and Society), with Mark Freeman (ICHRE) as mentor. Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT) will be the first comprehensive study of contemporary adult reading aloud practices. While regular attention is paid to reading aloud as a tool for teaching and learning, far less is paid to the reading aloud that adults do every day at home, work and in the community. These everyday oral reading practices are largely overlooked in academic and educational discussions of reading. The project will explore reading aloud as cultural practice, transforming contemporary conceptualisations of what reading is or involves by documenting and analysing contemporary adult reading aloud practices and their role in adult lives. It will create an account of the varied everyday reading aloud practices of adults across different local, linguistic and faith communities in England, Wales and Scotland. Project findings will be disseminated to both academic and community/practitioner audiences through the project website, a directive in the Mass Observation Project Archive, a collection of audio-recordings in the British Library Sound Archive, academic and non-academic presentations and articles, and a book – the first major work on contemporary adult reading aloud practices.


British Ex-Service Students and the Rebuilding of Europe, 1919-1926 (AHRC, via ‘Everyday lives in War’ First World War Engagement Centre, 2017)

This project investigates the war generation’s entry into higher education by focusing on one particular aspect: their contribution to reconstructing Europe by forging links with students from other countries, including former enemy nations. The immediate post-war years saw a plethora of international student initiatives – from the humanitarian efforts of European Student Relief to an international federation for national student unions. British university students were actively involved in these ventures; indeed, the very foundation of the National Union of Students (NUS) in 1922 was partly aimed at strengthening international links. The project has been co-designed with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the North East branch of the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). The project team consists of Daniel Laqua (Northumbria; principal investigator), Georgina Brewis (UCL; co-investigator), Sarah Hellawell (research associate), Mike Day (NUS) and Jude Murphy (WEA). The team members will organise a public event in Newcastle and hold a policy seminar at the NUS headquarters in London.


The Moral Economy of Global Civil Society: A History of Voluntary Food Aid (Swedish Research Council, 2013-2017)

Voluntary famine relief has saved innumerable lives over the past two centuries and exemplifies the practical workings of what current discourse calls global civil society. This project explores the roots of global civil society using a concept of ‘moral economy’. Three studies of representative cases highlight distinct periods of transnational humanitarianism: the Irish famine of the mid-nineteenth century, the Soviet famine of 1921–1922; and the famine in the Horn of Africa 1983–1985. By exploring the networking efforts of voluntary organisations and by examining their moral and economic agency in a historical perspective the project provides an account of the socio-political foundations of globalization. The project is led by Professor Norbert Götz at Södotörn University, Sweden with Georgina Brewis a co-investigator at UCL Institute of Education. See the project webpage.


Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain (British Academy, 2014-2019)

Georgina Brewis is Director of this British Academy Research Project (ARP) and Charlotte Clements is the Research Associate. The project encourages voluntary organisations to undertake their own archive projects and offers them practical support to do so. The 5 year project (2014-2019) continues the work of the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives which was founded to raise awareness of the importance of voluntary sector archives as strategic assets for governance, corporate identity, accountability and research. The project seeks to co-produce knowledge bringing together researchers, custodians, creators of records and others to share expertise and resources. In 2016-7 we are extending the work with a new partner Charity Finance Group funded by a small UCL Public Policy grant. See the project website for further information as well as specific guidance and case studies.


Recently completed projects

ICHRE steering group members were involved in these recently completed studies.


The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain 1905-2016 (AHRC, 2013-2016)

Twentieth-century Britain was subject to regular bouts of ‘pageant fever’, as communities across England, Scotland and Wales staged theatrical re-enactments of events from local and national history. These often involved thousands of men, women and children involved as performers, organizers and spectators. This was national costume drama on a grand scale. Over the course of the twentieth century many hundreds of events were mounted by communities and institutions, ranging from small churches and village communities to large cities such as Liverpool and Manchester. This large AHRC-funded project investigates historical pageants of all kinds, working with local communities as they investigate their own histories of pageantry, as well as aiming at a series of academic outputs. The project was a consortium involving the IOE (Mark Freeman, ICHRE), King’s College London and the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, as well as project partners such as St Albans Museums, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery (Carlisle) and the Scarborough Museums Trust. Highlights will include an international academic conference in 2016. Further information can be found on the project website.


The Social Organisation of Educational Studies: Past, Present and Future (Society for Education Studies, 2011-2013)

This recently completed research project was led by Gary McCulloch traced and analysed the social organisation of education studies in the UK. The project maps the changing discourses and knowledge structures of educational studies across the United Kingdom in relation to the State, research and education.


Social Change and English: A Study of Three English Departments, 1945-1965 (Leverhulme Trust, 2009-2012)

In the twenty years after the Second World War, English society experienced opposing positions regarding the education of Britain’s youth, particularly teachers of English. Different attitudes to achieving a fully democratic society—whether by cultivating high standards in the ablest students or promoting a common cultural experience across abilities and social classes were explored. The major output of the research was a new book that studies three London school English departments in unprecedented detail, one of them an early comprehensive school, using oral history interviews and the collection and analysis of a large body of documents, including teachers’ mark books and students’ work.

Pete Medway, John Hardcastle, Georgina Brewis and David Crook, English Teachers in a Postwar Democracy: Emerging Choice in London Schools, 1945-1965 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)


Raising the school leaving age: participation and policy in historical perspective (ESRC, 2009-2010).

This project examined the raising of the leaving age, concentrating upon the 1960s and 1970s, and assessed both the historical development of the policy and its contemporary implications. The major outcome of the project was a book revealing the impacts of contested policies on changing conceptions of childhood and youth and on social and educational inequality:

Tom Woodin, Gary McCulloch and Steven Cowan, Secondary Education and the Raising of the School Leaving Age: Coming of Age? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).