The Radical Politics of Birkbeck’s Past

Event Date: 16 May 2016
Room 101
Birkbeck College
30 Russell Square
London WC1B

The Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life presents:

The Radical Politics of Birkbeck’s Past

Richard Clarke in Conversation with Jason Edwards

 Come along and hear how central Birkbeck was to providing working-class Londoners access to real education in an era when such ideas were considered radical and potentially dangerous. In his research Richard Clarke has identified, and visited, the sites of the Birkbeck Bank, its Land and Building Societies and the Birkbeck Estates (including the Birkbeck Railway Station), the Birkbeck Schools, and the four remaining Birkbeck pubs (two of which still serve alcohol). Through his investigations he has revealed the hidden history that Birkbeck played in changing the physical as well as the political landscape of London.

There are many grand institutions in London that have a lauded and venerable history but the significant role Birkbeck played in challenging a social order that deprived London’s working people of a decent home, the vote and an education is not widely known. In the run up to Birkbeck’s bicentenary in 2023 it’s high time that that we revisited Birkbeck’s radical past concealed within London’s streets.

Richard Clarke was Senior Lecturer in Conservation at Birkbeck College and Director of the University of London Centre for European Protected Area Research (CEPAR) until 2012. Amongst many other interests Richard has undertaken a truly fascinating study of 19th century suburbanisation in relation to the Birkbeck Land and Building Society. He has examined the relationship between 19th century contested (individual and collective) models of useful knowledge and ‘self-help’ and their manifestation in working-class housing in the activities of the Birkbeck Bank and Building Society (once the largest in the world) and education through Birkbeck Schools, which pioneered what were then progressive teaching techniques.

Jason Edwards is a lecturer in politics in the Department of Politics, Birkbeck. Jason is a political theorist with interests in political sociology and the history of political thought. Jason is an expert in radical politics. His book The Radical Attitude and Modern Political Theory (London: Palgrave Macmillan) was published in 2007 and he continues to return to the theme throughout his writing.

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