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Seminar 4: School and Home


From early twentieth century Liberal Reforms to ‘Jamie’s dinners’, schools have been envisaged as potential sites of health, as places to provide medical surveillance and to educate children and encourage healthy practices, notably through the teaching of domestic science. But they are also potential sites of dispute with parents in terms of responsibility for health. This seminar will explore these topics, along with a special focus on the role of sex education in schools and responses to this on the part of pupils.

1. What measures were introduced to address the health of school children during the first half of the twentieth century?
2. Why was such a strong emphasis placed on the teaching of domestic science in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain?
3. What was sex education in schools intended to achieve and did it fulfil its objectives?

Seminar Reading:

Carol Dyhouse, ‘Good Wives and Little Mothers: Social Anxieties and the Schoolgirls’ Curriculum, 1890-1920’, Oxford Review of Education, 3 (1977), 21-35. e-resource JSTOR

John Welshman, ‘Dental Health as a Neglected Issue in Medical History: The School Dental Service in England and Wales, 1900-40’, Medical History, 42 (1998), 306-27. e-resource Pub Med

Hera Cook, ‘Getting “foolishly hot and bothered”? Parents and Teachers and Sex Education in the 1940s’, Sex Education, 12 (2012), 555-67. e-resource Taylor & Francis

Primary Sources

Growing Girls (1951)

As Boys Grow (1950s)

For a good introduction to the history of sex education in schools also see:

Additional Reading:

Lucinda McCray Beier, For Their Own Good: The Transformation of English Working-Class Health Culture, 1880–1970 (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 2008), ch. 5, ‘“They never told us anything”: Sex and Family Limitation’.

Angela Davis, ‘“Oh no, nothing, we didn’t learn anything”: Sex Education and the Preparation of Girls for Motherhood, c.1930-1970’, History of Education, 37 (2008), 661-77. e-resource Taylor & Francis

Anna Davin, Growing Up Poor: Home, School and Street in London 1870-1914 (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1996), Part 2.

Carol Dyhouse, Girls Growing Up in Late Victorian and Edwardian England (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981).

James Hampshire, ‘The Politics of School Sex Education Policy in England and Wales from the 1940s to the 1960s’, Social History of Medicine, 18 (2005), 87-105. e-resource Oxford journals

Bernard Harris, The Health of the School Child: A History of the School Medical Service in England and Wales (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1995).

Bernard Harris, ‘Educational Reform, Citizenship and the Origins of the School Medical Service’, in Marijke Gijswijt-Hofstra and Hilary Marland (eds), Cultures of Child Health in Britain and the Netherlands in the Twentieth Century (London and New York: Rodopi, 2003), 85-101.

Vanessa Heggie, ‘Domestic and Domesticating Education in the Victorian and Edwardian City’, History of Education, 40 (2011), 273-90. e-resource Taylor & Francis

Harry Hendrick, ‘Child Labour, Medical Capital and the School Medical Service, c.1890-1918’, in Roger Cooter (ed.), In the Name of the Child: Health and Welfare, 1880-1940 (London: Routledge, 1992), 45-71.

J.D. Hirst, ‘The Growth of Treatment though the School Medical Service, 1908-18’, Medical History, 33 (1989), 318-42. e-resource Pub Med

Ellen Jordan, ‘“Making Good Wives and Mothers”? The Transformation of the Middle Class Girls’ Education in Nineteenth-Century Britain’, History of Education Quarterly, 31 (1991), 439-62. ​e-resource JSTOR

David Limond, ‘"I never imagined that the time would come": Martin Cole, the Growing Up Controversy and the Limits of School Sex Education in 1970s England, History of Education 3:37 (2008) 409–429.

Hilary Marland, Health and Girlhood in Britain, 1874-1920 (Houndmills: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013), ch. 4.

L.D.H Sauerteig, ‘Sex, Medicine and Morality during the First World War’, in R Cooter, M Harrison and S Sturdy (eds), War, Medicine and Modernity (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1998), 167-88.

L.D.H. Sauerteig and R. Davidson (eds), Shaping Sexual Knowledge: A Cultural History of Sex Education in Twentieth-Century Europe (London, New York: Routledge, 2009).

Carolyn Steedman, ‘Bodies, Figures and Physiology: Margaret McMillan and the Late Nineteenth-Century Remaking of Working-Class Childhood’, in Roger Cooter (ed.), In the Name of the Child: Health and Welfare, 1880-1940 (London: Routledge, 1992), 19-44.

John Stewart, ‘The Campaign for School Meals in Edwardian Scotland’, in Jon Lawrence and Pat Starkey (eds), Child Welfare and Social Action in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: International Perspectives (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001), 174-94.

Charles Webster, ‘Government Policy on School Meals and Welfare Foods, 1939-70’, in David F. Smith (ed.), Nutrition in Britain: Science, Scientists and Politics in the Twentieth Century (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 190-213.

John Welshman, ‘School Meals and Milk in England and Wales, 1906-45’, Medical History, 41 (1997), 6-29. e-resource Pub Med

Essay Questions

In what ways did school become a 'site of health' in the twentieth century?

What measures were introduced to address the health of school children during the early twentieth century and how effective were they?

In what ways and why did sex education in schools change in the twentieth century?