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Education and Childhood

This seminar focuses on the impact of psychology in education and in relation to children, particularly in the first half of the twentieth century. It calls for consideration of the influence and rationale for mental testing, but also for the role of new psychological ideas in the development of progressive education. How far did these two approaches develop, what factors facilitated this, and what factors held it back? In the process, in what senses was childhood reshaped? Finally, can you find sources in the Modern Records Centre that cast light on these processes, and in what ways do the writing and careers of A.S. Neill and Susan Isaacs cast light on the subject?


Evans, B. and Waites B., IQ and Mental Testing: An Unnatural Science and its Social History (1981).

Hall, Jody S. 'Psychology and schooling : the impact of Susan Isaacs and Jean Piaget on 1960s science education reform'. History of Education, 29:2 (2000), 153-70.

Hardyment, Christina, Dream Babies: Child Care from Locke to Spock (1983).

Hearnshaw, Leslie, Cyril Burt: Psychologist (1979).

Hendrick, Harry, Child Welfare: England, 1872-1989 (1994).

Humphries, S., Hooligans or Rebels: An Oral History of Working-Class Childhood and Youth, 1889-1939 (1981).

Joynson, R.B., The Burt Affair (1989).

Rose, Nikolas, The Psychological Complex (1985).

Steedman, Carolyn, Childhood, Culture and Class: Margaret McMillan, 1860-1931 (1990).

Steedman, Carolyn, ‘”The Mother Made Conscious”: The Historical Development of a Primary School Pedagogy’, History Workshop Journal, 20 (1985), 149-63.

Steedman, Carolyn, Strange Dislocations: Childhood and the Idea of Human Interiority, 1780-1930 (1995).

Sutherland, Gillian, Ability, Merit and Measurement: Mental Testing and English Education (1984).

Thom, Deborah, ‘The Healthy Citizen of Empire or Juvenile Delinquent? Beating and Mental Health in the UK’, in M. Gijswijt-Hofstra & Hilary Marland (eds.), Cultures of Child Health (2003) pp. 189-212.

Thom, Deborah, ‘Wishes, Anxieties, Play and Gestures’, in R. Cooter (ed.), In the Name of the Child: Health and Welfare, 1880-1940 (1992), pp. 200-19.

Thom, Deborah, ‘The Healthy Citizen of Empire or Juvenile Delinquent?: Beating and Mental Health in the UK’, in Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra and Hilary Marland (eds.), Cultures of Child Health in Britain and the Netherlands in the Twentieth Century (2003), 189-212.

Thomson, ‘Psychology and Education’, Psychological Subjects, pp. 109-39.

Thomson, Mathew, The Problem of Mental Deficiency: Eugenics, Democracy, and Social Policy in Britain, 1870-1959 (1998).

Urwin, Cathy, and Sharland, Elaine, ‘From Bodies to Minds in Childcare Literature: Advice to Parents in Inter-War Britain’, in Cooter, In the Name of the Child, 174-199.

Wooldridge, Adrian, Measuring the Mind: Education and Psychology in England, 1860-1990 (1994).

Sources: Modern Records Office (Educational Papers); writing of A.S. Neill and Susan Isaacs (available in Library)