Le Play House and the Regional Survey Movement in British Sociology 1920 - 1955 | CONTENTS | Introduction | Theory | Origins | Early C 20th | Le Play House | IoS | WW2 | Postwar


The Second World War

"Sociology stands for a view-point and method that has universal application in human life: in every complex situation we can at least attempt to define, understand and estimate the importance of the various factors and trends. War is the negation of this viewpoint and method. In wartime force and its grim associates, fraud and inhumanity, operate between combatants for an indefinite period. How many sociologists adjust themselves to this situation ?" (Farquharson 1940)

Evacuation to Malvern

In August 1940, following the outbreak of war, the Institute moved to Malvern; the reasons were partly to escape the Blitz, although there were other factors as well, and some members of the Institute's Council were very unhappy about the isolation that they saw as being likely to result. Normal activity had been continued for the first half of 1939, with a series of meetings in London, and active preparation was taking place for the fourth Annual Conference on the Social Sciences to be held in October on the growth and decay of towns in contemporary England, for the International Congress on Sociology to be held in Bucharest in September and the International Conference on Social Work to be held in July 1940. All were of course cancelled. The Annual Report for 1939 records that "It happened that Mr and Mrs Farquharson had arranged during the summer to give up their residence at the Institute headquarters and had taken a house in Malvern, Worcestershire. At the end of August they were able to provide immediate accommodation for indispensable papers and records of the Institute and allied organisations." Other papers, records and office staff remained in London, and Farquharson visited London regularly to maintain both centres until early 1940. The 1940 Annual Report records that the Gordon Square premises were badly damaged by bombs during the year, and that all papers that could be recovered were put into storage in Worcester, before being moved to the new Le Play House, in Albert Road South, Malvern.

The retreat to rural seclusion appeared to many active members of the Institute to be somewhat premature, and likely to cut Le Play House off still further from the mainstream of academic life and any public influence. Stanley writes of Mass Observations scathing attitude towards the Institute, "retired in the comfortable calm of Malvern throughout the war" (Stanley 1981:217), where it continued to "conduct genteel schools in civics which study cathedrals, respectable ruins rather than doing the fieldwork relevant to the war." (Madge and Harrisson 1940). Ernest Barker wrote to Waldegrave, Chairman of the Institute's Council in June 1939, "I am adverse to a country centre ... to develop a permanent country centre for the contingency of a period of war would appear to me not to be logical or prudent. The permanent home of the Institute is necessarily in London", and later to Farquharson, "Honestly, I think Malvern is impossible." (VB302). In a letter to Barker, Farquharson explained the choice of Malvern - Dorothea had a close friend in Switzerland, "for whom she might at any time to undertake heavy responsibility", and for whom Malvern was one of the few health resorts in England which would be suitable. Farquharson sought to justify the choice of Malvern and its relevance to the war effort further, writing in the 1939 Annual Report (published in November 1940) that, "nothing should be done that draws attention away from the national effort", and suggesting that "for the tired worker there is no doubt that Malvern offers opportunities for recuperation." In 1940, in Le Play House's Emergency Wartime Bulletin, he wrote,

"The war time task of sociology may be envisaged as threefold :

  1. the study of the social aspects of the war situation in this (and other) countries
  2. the study of the social aspects of reconstruction
  3. the study of the bearing of sociology on the future organisation of human life."

He went on to suggest that the war offered the opportunity both to study "the essence of English life" during periods of adversity, and recognising that significant changes would be likely to occur afterwards; and also the opportunity of planning, through education, for a closer relationship with France and other European countries in peacetime. (Farquharson 1940)

In any event, the Institute remained at Malvern, and activity in London declined, although discussion meetings, the Race Group led by E J Turner and conferences (See 7.2 below) continued. Farquharson and others were keen to maintain some kind of London centre, and there was a suggestion in 1942 that rooms might be taken at Chatham House for £100 a year. Barker wrote to Farquharson, baulking at the cost and at Farquharson's suggestion that his protégé, Marie Jahoda be invited to run a London Centre - "You must forgive an old Englishman (of the working class stock that is perhaps the most obstinately English) if he feels that the charge of a centre for the activities of a British Institute of Sociology should be vested in somebody who belongs to the country by birth and tradition." Farquharson was also in correspondence with Ethel J Lindgren, at the time a researcher at Cambridge, on the same subject and on the possibility of Jahoda being offered a job at Cambridge (EJL).

Surveys and Education

A major area in which Le Play House developed the use of the survey during and immediately after the war was in the field of education, at all levels from the initial promotion of civic education in schools (a theme which was fairly widely supported in the 1920s (Hadow 1926)) through to work in universities, teacher training colleges and in adult education. Le Play House and the Institute regarded themselves too as educational bodies, and saw education both in sociology generally and in survey techniques in particular as being one of their major responsibilities (IOS Executive 17.2.31 - VB211) - as the practical participation by the Farquharsons and other Institute members in survey research declined in the late 1930s, so their interest in education increased. Both Farquharsons had backgrounds in education - Alexander taught in schools in London and Worcestershire between 1904 and 1910 before moving on to social work organisation, and Dorothea taught in schools and training colleges, latterly at Nevilles' Cross College, Durham from 1927 to 1933 before she married. It was Dorothea's continuing interest in and commitment to teacher education that gave it such a high profile in the Institute's affairs (Copner 1982; Hill 1983), and during the 1930s, Le Play House began organising fieldwork, meetings and exhibitions for training college lecturers and students, an activity which continued until the early 1950s.

During the war, the Institute was invited to submit evidence to the McNair Committee on Teacher Training (1942), as the question of whether sociology should be included in the curriculum of teacher training colleges was a live issue at the time, and the fact that it was subsequently included is due in no small measure to the activities of the Institute and the Farquharsons. (One could speculate further to the effect that the expansion of sociological activity in teacher training colleges in the 1950s was one of the main factors behind the development and widespread institutionalisation of sociology in this country a few years later, and draw the conclusion that some small measure of acknowledgement should be due to the Farquharsons for this.). The Institute organised three Conferences on education during the war, the first of which was on the place of sociology in the training of teachers at St Hilda's College Oxford in January 1943. A report of the proceedings was subsequently published in a pamphlet, which contains papers by Mannheim, Ginsberg and Mess among others, (Dymes 1943). Discussion centred on the problems inherent in a two year course; the relationship between the kind of theoretical social philosophy expounded by Ginsberg and the practical survey work put forward by the Farquharsons and the several colleges already practicing it; and the shortage of trained staff to teach sociology at that level. It was partly because of this, and also because the conference proved so popular that conferences on education were held in the two following years (Dymes 1946: Dymes 1949); on education in the universities in 1944, and on the sociology of schools in 1945. A paper produced by the Farquharsons at the invitation of a number of training college principals, while recommending the incorporation of sociology into the training college curriculum, felt that the training college "should cease to model itself on the university with its highly specialised courses, but should revise its curriculum ... by partial or total removal of barriers between subjects." "Unless there has been planned and deliberate co-ordination of the various subjects in the curriculum" they write, "the student is left with a knowledge of an infinite series of disconnected subjects in an overcrowded timetable, and a sense of competition or even conflict between the claims of one subject and another" (AF15). However, the idea of integrated social studies in the teacher education curriculum did not attract widespread favour for another thirty years.

There is evidence to suggest that the relevance of the Institute's survey work was becoming apparent to many teachers. Writing in the 1939 Annual Report, Farquharson states that "there is a constant demand for the new series of Discovery Broadsheets designed to meet the needs of teachers dispersed with their schools, and faced with the problems of initiating local studies in their new areas." In 1944, as a consequence of the Oxford Conference (above), a joint committee involving the Institute, the British Psychological Society and the Association of Teachers in Colleges and Departments of Education (ATCDE) was formed to look at the place of sociology in the training of teachers - this continued after the war, when the role of the Institute, and particularly Dorothea Farquharson in providing assistance to the Emergency Teacher Training Colleges established after the 1944 Education Act was considerable (See Section 8.1 below).

Army Education

Dorothea Farquharson also contributed a great deal to Army education during and immediately after the war. Speaking at the Institute's 1945 Conference on the sociology of education, Ms M Hardman, formerly an ATS Senior Commander described how, "it had occurred to some people interested in Army Education that many of the troops had no idea at all what they were fighting for." (Hardman 1949:71) A series of talks by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, and pamphlets on "The British Way and Purpose" were largely useless, especially for the Women's Services because "the members of the discussion groups had neither the knowledge nor the interest necessary for effective discussion." For this reason, talks and formal discussion was abandoned in favour of a more active approach, and from 1942 onwards, experiments began in local survey work. Early in 1943, the Institute was approached by the Army Education Corps, on the recommendation of a number of ATS Officers who had attended an Institute course at Haywards Heath previously. Officers of the Royal Army Education Corps visited Le Play House (then at Malvern) and the institute was invited to conduct a course in survey techniques for a group of Army Officers at Louth in September 1943 (Farquharson D 1948). The survey that was conducted covered housing, agriculture and local government, with the ostensible purpose of preparing the students for occupying and administering foreign territory during the forthcoming Normandy invasion (Hill 1983). The course was followed by a larger one at Brighton in 1944; and by courses in Bradford, Hull, Luton, Perth, Pontefract, St Andrews, Wakefield and elsewhere. The longest was held at Durham over two weeks in April 1945 for the training of future leaders of the RAEC, and the techniques learned were later applied in Europe, North Africa and India. Twelve officers from the British Army of the Rhine attended the Institute's Field trip to Ghent in 1947, and the Army also produced its own version of the Institute's 'Discovery' broadsheets; guides for the conduct of surveys which were intended for schools and voluntary organisations.

However, despite these close contacts over a number of years, Army historians do not appear to have regarded the Institute's work as any more worthy of note than their counterparts in sociology. Writing a few years later, Dorothea Farquharson observes ruefully that a book on Army Education makes no mention of herself, the Institute or the use of the Regional Survey technique, (Farquharson D 1951)

The Wartime Social Survey

The full history of the Wartime Social Survey remains to be written, (Moss 1986: Platt 1986) and its significance in the development of social research in this country is not clear, although three of those most involved with it (Jahoda 1982: Lindgren 1982: Moss 1983) have implied recently that a great deal of evidence concerning its work is as yet unstudied. Neither was the Institute of Sociology directly connected with the Wartime Social Survey, although inevitably in such a small community of interested scholars there was considerable overlap of membership and reciprocal contact. Marie Jahoda and Ethel Lindgren, both of whom were actively involved with the Farquharsons and Le Play House (the former before the war and the latter afterwards) worked for the Survey during what Lindgren called 'Phase II' between July 1940 and August 1941 (Lindgren 1982).

The survey had its origins in the burgeoning of empirical social research in the late 1930s, both within the academic sphere (Glass, Bowley and others at the London School of Economics) and outside, through such initiatives as the British Gallup Poll, run by Henry Durant and described by MacRae as "in many ways much more sophisticated than the American Gallup polls"(MacRae 1982), and the early BBC surveys of listening habits from 1939 onwards (Moss 1983). The Government had been actively planning a Ministry of Information in the eventuality of war, and somewhat surreptitious moves to establish one were made as soon as war broke out in September 1939. The Wartime Social Survey was initially organised as a semi-autonomous unit, working from the London School of Economics notionally under the control of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, but fairly transparently funded by the MOI. The whole exercise, of social research, intended to ascertain the state of national morale was widely criticised by the press (in particular by Ritchie Calder (Whitehead 1985) and The Daily Herald (Moss 1983)). In fact, the social survey in its various guises throughout the war produced valuable and reliable evidence of the state of morale, findings which were often too dismal to be made public (Jahoda 1982). In 1941, the Ministry of Information took over the Survey more directly, and Louis Moss was recruited from the British Institute of Public Opinion, where he had been working on the British Gallup Survey and BBC audience research. His arrival, which seemed to mark the total subjugation of the Survey to the needs of the Ministry, coming as it did at the same time as the Ministry acted for the first time to suppress research findings on morale resulted in "all of us, including the cleaning ladies resigning as scientific protest" (Jahoda 1982); they were replaced by others, both from the Ministry and from Market Research, described by Lindgren as "shady people" (Lindgren 1982). However, although both Lindgren and Jahoda were involved with the Institute, there is no evidence of any direct contact between the Wartime Social Survey and Le Play House at any point. From 1941 onwards, under Moss the Survey continued to develop social research techniques, to the extent that it became, as the Government Social Survey, a permanent fixture, now part of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (Whitehead 1985).


Le Play House and the Regional Survey Movement in British Sociology 1920 - 1955 | CONTENTS | Introduction | Theory | Origins | Early C 20th | Le Play House | IoS | WW2 | Postwar