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International Centre for Historical Research in Education


International Centre for Historical Research in Education (ICHRE) at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) is a leading centre for historical research into education



ICHRE runs the History of Education Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research. 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. All sessions will be online using ZOOM until further notice. Please register via IHR for each seminar. For further information please contact Gary McCulloch or Georgina Brewis at ioe.ichre@ucl.ac.uk.


Thursday 21 January 2021, 5.30pm: Child-centred education and concepts of childhood in post-war English and Welsh primary schools

Register via IHR here.

Dr Laura Tisdall, Newcastle University. With a response from Professor William Reese (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

‘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 ‘setting the child free’.

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.


Thursday 18 February 2021, 5.30pm: ‘This paternalism was chafing’: The rise and fall of a community at Swansea University, 1945-1973

Register via IHR here.

Dr Sam Baxland, Swansea University

In the immediate years after the Second World War, the problems faced by the higher education sector were particularly acute at Swansea University. Having opened in 1920, it still had an underdeveloped site and a fragile sense of its wider purpose. In the following twenty years, under the leadership of a visionary Principal, ‘the College’ – as it was then known – designed and implemented a new holistic curriculum, whilst constructing an early example of a British single-site university campus, both of which resembled the Keele model. The most noteworthy consequence of these changes was the way in which a sense of community and ‘togetherness’ was fostered at the College, not least by the building of on-site halls of residence and a central meeting place that had been so conspicuously absent on the site beforehand.

This paper will explore how academic and architectural developments fostered radical social changes at Swansea’s College. A period of relative harmony and collegiality, which involved a degree of deference and paternalism, also helped encourage a particularly strong manifestation of the ‘long 1968’ at Swansea, complete with protests, sit-ins and a huge general strike by students. Therefore, just as it had fostered a sense of unity, the campus quickly encouraged a new generation of like-minded young people to reject the College’s authority and traditions, with one who produced critical pamphlets about the University remembering the atmosphere there as ‘chafing’. The significance of these years at the end of the 1960s for the history of universities and young people will be assessed in particular.

Throughout this paper, various oral history clips from those who lived through this period at the College will be played. These testimonies were collected specifically for the research that lead to a recently released book, Swansea University: Campus and Community in a Post-war World, 1945-2020 – which was published to mark the institution’s centenary.

Sam Blaxland is a Post-doctoral Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at Swansea University.


Thursday 18 March 2021, 5.30pm: ‘Rethinking Catholic Education Ministries: Women Religious in Post-War Britain’

Register via IHR here.

Dr Carmen Mangion, Birkbeck, University of London, with a response from Professor Judith Harford (University College Dublin)

The role of Catholic women religious (nuns and sisters) for much of the nineteenth and into the twentieth century was related to maintaining the structures of the Catholic Church and creating a Church body centred on Catholic devotions and the sacraments.  They were seen as central to the formation and enforcement of an obedient, devotional, associational Catholic culture: they managed schools, hospitals and welfare institutions and organised sodalities and confraternities for young and old.  Nowhere was the presence of female religious felt more ubiquitously than in the education sector.  This paper will examine how Catholic education ministries were reshaped after 1945 using contemporary printed material and oral history testimony.  This research will be placed within the historiography of women, religion, philanthropy and the growth of state welfare.   It will examine the post-war changes in Catholic education looking at the education of sisters and their changing roles within Catholic parish and convent schools as the decline in vocations becomes more visible.  It acknowledges the conflict between sisters, the Church and laity as this changes unfold.  It examines the re-development of education ministries outside of institutional educational structures and in collaboration with both the Church and State.  These shifts, it will be argued, was a move from Catholic-centred, functional ‘fortress-church’ ministries to ministries that engaged with the Church in the world.