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History of Education Seminar Programme 2019/20

All welcome, no registration required.

The ‘History of Education Seminar’ at IHR (Institute of Historical Research) is convened by Georgina Brewis and Gary McCulloch. The seminar attracts speakers from around the world, providing a forum for established historians as well as early-career researchers to present their work. For further information please contact Gary McCulloch or Georgina Brewis at ioe.ichre@ucl.ac.uk

Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby: Education, Intelligence and Merit

Natasha Periyan, New College of the Humanities

Thursday 30 January 2020, Room 541, UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AL.

This paper examines how the concept of intelligence and the scholarship system shaped interwar meritocratic discourses (Wooldridge 1994) through a consideration of the literary and educational work of Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby. As both teachers and writers, Holtby and Brittain were closely networked to interwar educational debates: they were among the first women to graduate from Oxford, campaigned for the National Union of Women Teachers and wrote for educational magazines. The paper examines these writers’ teaching work and educational journalism as a context for understanding  pedagogic scenes in Brittain’s Testament of Youth (1933) and Holtby’s South Riding (1936). It analyses Brittain’s self-construction as the meritocratic subject and Holtby’s critique of how the concept of intelligence and the scholarship system exposes the limits of democratic educational reform.

Natasha Periyan’s research examines the relationship between modernist-era literature and educational debates. She has worked as a Research Associate at the University of Kent on the AHRC-funded project ‘Literary Culture, Meritocracy and the Assessment of Intelligence in Britain and America, 1880 – 1920’ and held teaching positions at Goldsmiths, Falmouth, Royal Holloway and is currently teaching Northeastern University students at the New College of the Humanities. She has published articles and book chapters on writers including Virginia Woolf, George Orwell and D.H. Lawrence. Her book, The Politics of 1930s British Literature: Education, Gender, Class (Bloomsbury 2018) won the 2018 ISCHE First Book Award.

The Duties of Man by Joseph Mazzini: The Many English Fortunes of a Book by an Italian Exile (1851- 1936)

Dr Marcella Sutcliffe, ICHRE, UCL Institute of Education

Thursday 27 February 2020, 5.30pm, Room 541, UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL.

This paper focuses on the English versions of the ‘Duties of Man’ by Joseph Mazzini, and the reception and circulation of the book within radical and liberal circles. From its first published translation, which appeared in extracts in William Linton’s paper, the English Republic, to the later editions, the book became a firm point of reference for English radicals, co-operators and liberals, who frequently cited it as the most influential book they had read. The paper will focus in particular on the liberal English emancipationists, which included not only MPs but also local councillors, amongst whom many were women. The aim of the paper is to trace Mazzini’s fortune within the English liberal readership by tracing the trajectories followed by the book, through its multiple editions, its platforms for dissemination – including provincial and settlements’ libraries – and its reception. By taking the long view on the history of the book, my analysis aims also to establish whether – following the appropriation of Mazzini’s creed by the fascist ideologist in Italy – reading and promoting The Duties of Man in Britain acquired a new meaning of militant democratic defiance.

Dr Marcella P. Sutcliffe is a nineteenth-century historian and a Visiting Fellow at ICHRE, UCL Institute of Education.  Marcella’s research focuses on the history of education in England and Italy in the long Nineteenth Century. After completing her PhD at Newcastle University, Marcella published her book on the transnational networks within the adult education movement in Victorian provincial England ( Boydell & Brewer, 2014). Marcella was an Award-holder at the British School at Rome and an AHRC researcher on the project  Active Citizenship, Public Engagement and the Humanities: The Victorian Model. She has published articles in a number of journals and was Special Section editor in the History of Education journal. As an independent scholar, Marcella runs and hosts Academic Writing Retreats at Chapelgarth Estate, North Yorkshire, where she is currently venue coordinator and academic facilitator. Academic Writing Retreats at the venue are run according to the established Rowena Murray Structured Retreat Writing model.

Child-centred education and concepts of childhood in post-war English and Welsh primary schools


Thursday 26 March, 5.30pm, Room 639, UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL.

Dr Laura Tisdall, University of Newcastle 

‘Child-centred’, or ‘progressive’, pedagogy dominated English and Welsh primary schools in the decades following the Second World War, drawing from developmental psychology to establish a new set of expectations for a normal childhood. While child-centred educationalists intended this model to give children greater freedom in the classroom by fitting education more closely to their needs and wants, it had unintended consequences when put into practice by primary teachers. The white, able-bodied male child was the invisible norm in post-war schools, so children who did not fit this mould were especially likely to fall foul of child-centred ideas. However, this paper will contend that even relatively privileged children might struggle to meet teachers’ expectations due to the contradictions inherent in child-centred conceptions of childhood. This pedagogical programme, I suggest, would ultimately prove inadequate for the radical project of Luara

Laura Tisdall is a NUAcT/Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Newcastle University. Her book A Progressive Education? How Childhood Changed in Mid-Twentieth-Century English and Welsh Schools was published by Manchester University Press in 2019. Her new research project considers how British children and adolescents imagined adulthood and their own adult futures from c. 1950 to the present day.


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