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Exchange Value: British “Scholarship Boys” in Mid-Twentieth-Century America

  • D. L. LEMAHIEU (a1)


In the late 1950s and early 1960s a number of British “scholarship boys” traveled to America sponsored by British and American foundations. Their experiences in the United States qualify and complicate existing narratives about upwardly mobile meritocrats. First, Americans regarded these figures in a manner that helped alter their view of themselves. Distinctions that mattered in Britain became less significant in America, though scholarship boys remained shrewd enough to penetrate the veneer of a superficial egalitarianism. National identity became a marker that sidelined residual anxieties about social hierarchy. Second, American prosperity affected the bias against consumerism shared by many British intellectuals during the mid-twentieth century. As professionals supported by government or educational institutions, these visitors differentiated themselves from those in the private sector, which pursued other goals. America exposed scholarship boys to a system that assimilated consumerism without sacrificing professionalism and a commitment to social progress.



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1 Richard Hoggart, A Sort of Clowning, 1940–1959 (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction Publishers, 1994), 148–49. I have used the American edition of Hoggart's autobiography that combines the three books published in Britain into one volume while retaining the original titles and the same pagination: Richard Hoggart, A Measured Life: The Life and Times of an Orphaned Intellectual (New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction Publishers, 1994).

2 Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life with Special Reference to Publications and Entertainments (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970; first published 1957), 238–49. See also Adrian Wooldridge, Measuring the Mind: Education and Psychology in England, c. 1860–c. 1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 310–15; Gregg, Melissa, “A Neglected History: Richard Hoggart's Discourse of Empathy,” Rethinking History, 7, 3 (2003), 285306 ; Susan Brook, Literature and Cultural Criticism in the 1950s: The Feeling Male Body (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 22–27.

3 David Kynaston, Modernity Britain, 1957–1962 (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014), 201–17. See also LeMahieu, D. L., “‘Scholarship Boys in Twilight: The Memoirs of Six Humanists in Post-industrial Britain,” Journal of British Studies, 53 (Oct. 2014), 1011–31.

4 On Thatcher as a “scholarship girl” see, among others, Charles Moore, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography: From Grantham to the Falklands (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), 22–39.

5 Michael Young, The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870–2033: An Essay on Education and Inequality (London: Thames & Hudson, 1958). On Young see Asa Briggs, Michael Young: Social Entrepreneur (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2001).

6 Guy Ortolano, for example, confined the notion to a specific historical period. See Guy Ortolano, The Two Cultures Controversy: Science, Literature and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 219–54. This definition also seems to be the case with Christopher Hilliard, English as a Vocation: The “Scrutiny” Movement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 107.

7 Peter Mandler, for example, recently demonstrated the popularity of comprehensive schools after the war, in part because parents wanted an excellent education for everyone, not just gifted exam takers. See Peter Mandler, “Educating the Nation 1: Schools,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, sixth series, 24 (Dec. 2014), 5–28.

8 See, among many examples, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Unpopular Education: Schooling and Social Democracy in England since 1944 (London: Hutchinson, 1981); W. D. Rubinstein, Elites and the Wealthy in Modern British History: Essays in Social and Economic History (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1987), 172–221; Saunders, Peter, “Might Britain Be a Meritocracy?”, Sociology, 29, 1 (1995), 2341 ; Joseph A. Soares, The Decline of Privilege: The Modernization of Oxford University (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 207–14; Anita Biressi and Heather Nunn, Class and Contemporary British Culture (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 69–117; and, as an example from the daily press, Roy Strong, “England's Class System Is a Meritocracy,” Daily Telegraph, 8 June 2015. As these sources show, the debate is extensive and sometimes creates strange alliances.

9 Harold Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society: England since 1880 (London: Routledge, 1989).

10 Among many other provisions, the Education Act of 1944 made secondary schooling free for all pupils. See G. A. N. Lowndes, The Silent Social Revolution: An Account of the Expansion of Public Education in England and Wales, 1895–1965, 2nd edn (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), 242–68; and Gary McCulloch, The 1944 Education Act and the Twenty-First Century (Ilford: Woburn Press, 1994).

11 A classic, though limited, study is Brian Jackson and Dennis Marsden, Education and the Working Class (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962). For a critical analysis of such research see Mike Savage, Identities and Social Change in Britain since 1940: The Politics of Method (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

12 See Margaret M. Gaines, “The Scholarship Boy, 1870–1939: A Study of the Working Class Student in the English Educational System, English Society, and the English Novel,” PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1970, 51–72.

13 See, among others, Geoffrey Crossic, ed., The Lower Middle Class in Britain, 1870–1914 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977); Tom Jeffery, “A Place in the Nation: The Lower Middle Class in England,” in Rudy Koshar, ed., Splintered Classes: Politics and the Lower Middle Classes in Interwar Europe (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1990), 70–96; Bailey, Peter, “White Collars, Gray Lives? The Lower Middle Class Revisited,” Journal of British Studies, 38 (July, 1999), 273–90.

14 Felski, Rita, “Nothing to Declare: Identity, Shame, and the Lower Middle Class,” PMLA, 115 (2000), 3345 ; Hammerton, A. James, “Pooterism or Partnership? Marriage and Masculine Identity in the Lower Middle Class, 1870–1920, Journal of British Studies, 38 (July, 1999), 291321 .”

15 A. H. Halsey, No Discouragement: An Autobiography (Houndmills: Macmillan, 1996), 23.

16 Ibid., 43.

17 Harold Evans, My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009), 19, 21.

18 Ibid., 41.

19 J. F. C. Harrison, Scholarship Boy: A Personal History of the Mid-twentieth Century (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1995), 1.

20 Bryan Magee, Clouds of Glory: A Hoxton Childhood (London: Pimlico, 2004), 119, 122, 213.

21 Bryan Magee, Confessions of a Philosopher: A Personal Journey through Western Philosophy from Plato to Popper (New York: Modern Library, 1997), 9–10.

22 Malcolm Bradbury, Liar's Landscape: Collected Writing from a Storyteller's Life (London: Picador, 2006), 48.

23 Bradbury, Malcolm, “The Rise of the Redbrick,” Holiday, 34 (1963), 8487, 86.

24 Quoted in John Haffenden, Novelists in Interview (London: Methuen, 1985), 28.

25 Bradbury, Liar's Landscape, 48.

26 Bradbury, Malcolm, “How I Invented America,” Journal of American Studies, 14, 1 (1980), 115–36, 120.

27 Richard Hoggart, A Local Habitation: 1918–1940 (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1994), 25.

28 Ibid., 182. See also Jonathan Croall, “Scholarship Boy,” Times Educational Supplement, 1 June 1990, B6; Chris Waters, “Autobiography, Nostalgia, and the Changing Practices of Working-Class Selfhood,” in George K. Behlmer and Fred M. Leventhal, eds., Singular Continuities: Tradition, Nostalgia, and Identity in Modern British Culture (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), 181; Andy Medhurst, “If Anywhere: Class Identifications and Cultural Studies Academics,” in Sally R. Munt, ed., Cultural Studies and the Working Class: Subject to Change (London: Cassell, 2000), 19–27; Stefan Collini, “Richard Hoggart: Literary Criticism and Cultural Decline in Twentieth-Century Britain,” in Sue Owen, ed., Richard Hoggart and Cultural Studies (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 33–56.

29 Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society, 267–68.

30 Harrison, Scholarship Boy, 71.

31 Bryan Magee, Growing up in a War (London: Pimlico, 2008), 208–9.

32 Zachery Leader, The Life of Kingsley Amis (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006), 354–61.

33 Richard Pells, Not Like Us: How Europeans Have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture since World War II (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 99–100.

34 Bryan Magee, Go West, Young Man (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1958), 29.

35 Bradbury, “How I Invented America,” 129–30.

36 Halsey, No Discouragement, 63.

37 Inderjeet Parmar, Foundations of the American Century: The Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 1–3.

38 Pells, 94–133.

39 Hoggart, Sort of Clowning, 156.

40 Ibid., 157.

41 Ibid., 161.

42 Harrison, Scholarship Boy, 149–50.

43 Marcus Cunliffe, In Search of America: Transatlantic Essays, 1951–1990 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991), 4.

44 Malcolm Bradbury, Stepping Westward (London: Penguin, 1968; first published 1965), 66.

45 Ibid., 137–38.

46 Howard Temperley, How It Was: Memories of Growing up in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s (Milton Keynes: AuthorHouse, 2010), 228.

47 Praseeda Gopinath, Scarecrows of Chivalry: English Masculinities after Empire (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013).

48 Halsey, No Discouragement, 66.

49 Harrison, 150.

50 Magee, Go West, 139.

51 Hoggart, Sort of Clowning, 167.

52 Ibid., 169.

53 Evans, Paper Chase, 226–27.

54 Magee, Go West, 148.

55 Halsey, 65–66.

56 Michael Shattock, “Parallel Worlds: The California Master Plan and the Development of British Higher Education,” in Sheldon Rothblatt, ed., Clark Kerr's World of Higher Education Reaches the 21st Century: Chapters in a Special History (Dordrecht: Springer, 2012), 107–27.

57 Magee, Confessions, 132, 136.

58 Edited versions of these interviews can be found in Bryan Magee, Men of Ideas (New York: Viking Press, 1978).

59 Bradbury, Stepping Westward, 11, 225, 37, 345.

60 Bradbury, “How I Invented America,” 117.

61 Ibid., 123.

62 See, among others, Heide Ziegler and Christopher Bigsby, eds., The Radical Imagination and the Liberal Tradition: Interviews with English and American Novelists (London: Junction Books, 1982), 60–78; D. J. Taylor, After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1993), 129–49; D. J. Taylor, “Worst Enemy: Malcolm Bradbury's Liberalism,” TLS, 23 Nov. 2012, 14–15.

63 Harrison, Scholarship Boy, 187.

64 Hoggart, Sort of Clowning, 171.

65 Halsey, No Discouragement, 65.

66 Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society, 405–71.

67 Halsey, 57.

68 A. H. Halsey, A History of Sociology in Britain: Science, Literature, and Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 112–37. See also Halsey, Decline of the Donnish Dominion: The British Academic Professions in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

69 Evans, Paper Chase, 210.

70 Ibid., 213.

71 Evans provides an extensive account of this relationship in Harold Evans, Good Times, Bad Times (New York: Atheneum, 1984).

72 Harrison, 122.

73 Malcolm Chase and Ian Dyck, eds., Living and Learning: Essays in Honour of J. F. C. Harrison (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996), 1–9, 252–55.

74 Harrison, 83.

75 Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

76 E. P. Thompson, The Poverty of Theory & Other Essays (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1978), 1–210.

77 Some memoirs made clear their good fortune. See, for example, Harold Perkin, The Making of a Social Historian (Twickenham: Athena Press, 2002), 156–7; 293.

78 Victoria de Grazia, Irresistible Empire: America's Advance through Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2005), 110–18.

79 Daniel Horowitz, Consuming Pleasures: Intellectuals and Popular Culture in the Postwar World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). On cultural studies see, among many others, Dennis Dworkin, Cultural Marxism in Postwar Britain: History, the New Left, and the Origins of Cultural Studies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997).

80 Eric Hobsbawm, Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life (New York: The New Press, 2002), 386.

81 Magee, Clouds of Glory, 227.

82 Halsey, No Discouragement, 67.

83 Evans, Paper Chase, 193–94.

84 Bradbury, “How I Invented America,” 130.

85 Temperley, How It Was, 219.

86 Evans, Paper Chase, 218.

87 Hoggart, Sort of Clowning, 163.

88 See, among others, Keith Feiling, A History of the Tory Party, 1640–1714 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950); and Linda Colley, In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party, 1714–60 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

89 On European and American definitions see, for example, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Politics of Hope (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1963).

90 For American views see, among others, Richard H. Pells, The Liberal Mind in a Conservative Age: American Intellectuals in the 1940s and 1950s, 2nd edn (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989), 216–61; Howard Brick, Age of Contradiction: American Thought and Culture in the 1960s (New York: Twayne, 1998); Brick, Transcending Capitalism: Visions of a New Society in Modern American Thought (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006), 200–18. Daniel Horowitz, Consuming Pleasures, 194, argues that Hoggart had limited influence in America during the 1950s.

91 Malcolm Bradbury, No, Not Bloomsbury (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 16.

92 Harrison, Scholarship Boy, 165.

93 Ibid., 150.

94 Halsey, 237–39; Richard Hoggart, An Imagined Life: 1959–1991 (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1994).

95 The bibliography on masculinity has become immense. I have found particularly useful R. W. Connell, Masculinities, 2nd edn (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). See also Christine Skelton, Schooling the Boys: Masculinities and Primary Education (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2001); Beverley Skeggs, Formations of Class and Gender (London: Sage, 1997); Michael Roper, Masculinity and the British Organization Man since 1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994); Mairtin Mac an Ghaill, ed., Understanding Masculinities: Social Relations and Cultural Arenas (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1996), esp. 203–17.

96 Hoggart, Sort of Clowning, 193.

97 Bradbury, No, Not Bloomsbury, 9.

98 Sonya O. Rose, What Is Gender History? (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010), 109. See also the review essay by Francis, Martin, “The Domestication of the Male? Recent Research on Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century British Masculinity,” Historical Journal, 45, 3 (2002), 637–52; and Roper, Michael, “Slipping out of View: Subjectivity and Emotion in Gender History,” History Workshop Journal, 59 (Spring 2005), 5772 .

99 Halsey, History of Sociology, 119.

100 Widdowson, Peter, “The Anti-history Men: Malcolm Bradbury and David Lodge,” Critical Quarterly, 26, 4 (1984), 532 .

101 Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society, 454.

102 Cynthia G. Franklin, Academic Lives: Memoir, Cultural Theory, and the University Today (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009), 9. See also the comment by Cornell West quoted in Bruce Robbins, Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (London: Verso, 1993), 3.

103 Ortolano, Two Cultures Controversy, 219–54.

The author wishes to thank Michael Ebner and Mary Hummel.

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