Welcome to the website for Social Change and English, 1945-1965. This three-year project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The study investigates how social and cultural developments in the twenty years after the Second World War played out in the teaching of English in London schools. We are seeking to establish what went on in English classrooms in relation to broad social and cultural change. In the post-war era a revitalisation of the subject occurred, initiated by teachers acting without official support in a few schools. To date, no studies of English have examined specific changes in post-war school curricula as one facet of developments in society more generally. Read our blog to keep up to date with new developments.
The project is based on case studies of English departments of three London secondary schools. This in-depth case study approach allows us to reconstruct the teaching and learning of the subject English in the period 1945-1965. The chosen case studies include two grammar schools (Minchenden and Hackney Downs) and one experimental comprehensive (Walworth School). We chose these English departments because they influenced the way the teaching of English developed, not only in the UK, but in the Commonwealth, the USA and beyond.
Each case study involves oral history interviews with surviving teachers and pupils together with the study of official and unofficial school and departmental documents, such as lesson plans, mark books and pupil work. Through the interviews we are constructing life histories of key English teachers as well as probing former pupils’ reflections of what their English lessons did for them. In addition we are using publications by teachers, press reports and archival materials, including records of such associations as the London Association for the Teaching of English (LATE). The project has used what we believe to be a uniquely wide range of sources to reconstruct a social history of the subject English.