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An Anti-Urban Education? Work Camps and Ideals of the Land in Interwar Britain

  • JOHN FIELD (a1)
Abstract

This article examines the role of work camp movements in developing rural critiques of urban living in interwar Britain. A variety of work camp movements flourished in Europe during the interwar years, often partly as a reaction against urbanisation, and this paper explores the ways in which three such movements developed the work camp as a means of countering the socialising influences of city life. Yet while all of the interwar British work camps were located in the countryside, they varied in the extent to which they tried to promote rural values and orientations among their trainees. We can see the work camp as a liminal pedagogic space, designed to lead trainees to particular educational outcomes, using techniques and methods that focused on bodily change as well as cognitive development.

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1. See Macleod, D., Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA and their Forerunners, 1870–1920 (Madison, 1983), pp. 234–45; Rosenthal, M., The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement (London, 1986).

2. Hemmings, F. J. and Stevenson, A. Lates, ‘School Camping’, in The Teachers’ Guide: A Practical Treatise Written by Specialists (London, 1930), pp 227–69.

3. Henriques, B., Club Leadership (Oxford, 1933), pp. 140–1.

4. Pomfret, D., ‘The City of Evil and the Great Outdoors: The Modern Health Movement and the Urban Young, 1918–1940’, Urban History, 28 (2001), 405–27.

5. The Times, 13th September 1918.

6. Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Ina, Managing the Body: Beauty, Health and Fitness in Britain, 1880–1939 (Oxford, 2010), pp. 281–2

7. See the analysis in Cupers, K., ‘Governing through Nature: Camps and Youth Movements in Interwar Germany and the United States, Cultural Geographies, 17 (2008), 173205

8. The notion of liminality is drawn from the anthropology of social transitions, as explored in Turner, V., The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (New York, 1996), p. 95.

9. J. Field, ‘Exporting People of British Stock: Training and Emigration Policy in Interwar Britain’, SCUTREA conference 2010, available at http://tinyurl.com/3obrtjq.

10. Report of the Oversea Settlement Committee (OSC) for the year ended 31st December 1928, HMSO, London, 1929, p. 5.

11. Bowers to A. W. Hurst, Treasury, 12th December 1928, National Archives (NA) T161/902.

12. Parliamentary Debates, 14th April 1927.

13. London Unemployed Fund. Preliminary Statement (London, 1905), p. 36; Lansbury, G., My Life (London, 1928), p. 147.

14. For example, Parliamentary Debates, 5th August 1925, 14th April 1927.

15. Cole, G. D. H., The Next Ten Years in British Social and Economic Policy (London, 1929), pp. 4855.

16. Ministry of Labour Circular Minute 58/1932, 1st June 1932, NA LAB2/1775/SE774.

17. Labour Emergency Expenditure Committee. Proposal, 21st December 1928, NA T161/902.

18. Dunoon Herald and Cowal Advertiser, 2nd November 1934.

19. Rendle, E., ‘Social and Economic Changes in Forestry in the Inter-war Years’, Scottish Woodland History Discussion Group Notes, 8 (2003), 30.

20. Passmore to Barlow, 9th November 1932, NA LAB18/31.

21. Labour Emergency Expenditure Committee. Proposal, 23rd March 1933, NA LAB18/31.

22. G. Anderson to Passmore, 23rd June 1933, NA LAB18/31.

23. Passmore to Allen, 11th January 1933, NA LAB18/31.

24. Patel, K. K., Soldiers of Labor: Labor Service in Nazi Germany and New Deal America, 1933–1945 (New York, 2005), pp. 194 and 302.

25. UABNI. Memorandum by the Chairman on Training, 1st January 1935, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, LAB/5/2.

26. Blackshirt, 13th March 1937.

27. Blackshirt, 6th November 1937.

28. See Armytage, W. H. G., Heavens Below: Utopian Experiments in England, 1560–1960 (London, 1961).

29. Prynn, D., ‘The Woodcraft Folk and the Labour Movement, 1925–70’, Journal of Contemporary History, 18 (1983), 7995.

30. Mallon, J. J., ‘A “Peace Army” Takes the Field’, Labour Magazine, 11 (1933), 403.

31. Westlake, A. T., ‘History of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry from its Origins until 1934’, in Westlake, A. T. and others, An Outline History of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, 1916–1976 (London, 1979), pp. 1015.

32. Edgell, D., The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, 1916–1949 as a New Age Alternative to the Boy Scouts (Lewiston NY, 1993), Volume 1, p. 214.

33. Edgell, Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, Volume. 1, p. 227.

34. Cited in Edgell, Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, Volume 2, p. 457.

35. Westlake, ‘History of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry’, pp. 21–3

36. Edgell, Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, Volume 2, pp. 463–4.

37. Children's Newspaper, 20th August 1932; D. Edgell, Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, Volume 2, p. 471.

38. Daily Express, 5th September 1932.

39. Daily Mirror, 19th April 1934.

40. Norman Glaister to E. H. E. Havelock, Development Commission, 15th March 1937, NA D/4/372.

41. Edgell, Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, Volume 2, pp. 463–4.

42. A Technique for the Expansion of Rural Life. Memorandum from Grith Fyrd Camps to HM Treasury, August 1933, NA LAB23/19.

43. Glaister, J. Norman, ‘Grith Pioneers – Some Experiences of a Community’, Community in Britain: A Survey of Community Thought and Activity Compiled Mainly from Addresses Given at the Bath and London Conferences in 1937 (Ashton Keynes, 1938), p. 48.

44. Daily Express, 29th June 1932.

45. Technique for the Expansion of Rural Life, August 1933, NA LAB23/19.

46. H. E. P. Bunday, General Secretary Grith Fyrd Camps, to F. Malcolm Stewart, Commissioner for Distressed Areas, 3rd March 1936, NA LAB23/19.

47. Bradshaw, D., The Hidden Huxley: Contempt and Compassion for the Masses, 1919–1937 (London, 1994), pp. 238–9.

48. For examples, see Workers’ Educational Association, Thirty-Second Annual Report for the Year Ended 31st May, 1935, p, 68; Thirty-Third Annual Report for the Year Ended 31st May, 1936, p. 75; 34th Annual Report for the Year Ended 31st May, 1937, p. 73.

49. Keeling to Malcolm Stewart, Distressed Areas Fund, 21st November 1934, NA LAB23/19; Note, C. M. Ryan, 1st March 1935, NA LAB23/19.

50. Wills, D., The Hawkspur Experiment: An Informal Account of the Training of Wayward Adolescents (London, 1967).

51. The most comprehensive treatment to date is Jefferies, M. and Tyldesley, M., eds, Rolf Gardiner: Folk, Nature and Culture in Interwar Britain (Farnham, 2010).

52. Moore-Colyer, R., ‘A Northern Federation? Henry Rolf Gardiner and British and European Youth’, Paegagogica Historica, 39:3, 313–8.

53. Bearman, C., ‘The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Mary Neal and Rolf Gardiner’, The Morris Dancer, 4 (2009), accessed on 12/6/11 at www.themorrisring.org/themorrisdancer/4_1/bearman.html.

54. North Sea and Baltic, Harvest 1937.

55. Jefferies, M., ‘Rolf Gardiner and German Naturism’, in Jefferies, M. and Tyldesley, M., eds, Rolf Gardiner, p. 57.

56. ICGC, Summer Vacation Camp: September 1930, accessed on 21/4/2010 at http://www.icgcarchive.co.uk/1930s/documents/1930_summer_camp_report.pdf.

57. North Sea and Baltic, Spring 1936.

58. North Sea and Baltic, Spring 1935.

59. North Sea and Baltic, Spring 1935.

60. Untitled report, Informant B.2f, 4th July 1939, Notes and comments for attention 3rd July 1940, NA KV2/2245.

61. Moore-Colyer, R., ‘Rolf Gardiner, English Patriot and the Council for the Church and Countryside’, Agricultural History Review, 49 (2001), 189.

62. Gardiner, R., The Second Coming and Other Poems, 1919–1921 (Vienna, 1921), p. 34.

63. Boyes, G., ‘Potencies of the Earth: Rolf Gardiner and the English Folk Dance Revival’, in Jefferies, M. and Tyldesley, M., eds, Rolf Gardiner, pp. 7071.

64. North Sea and Baltic, Autumn 1932.

65. Gardiner, R., ‘The Triple Function of Work Camps and Work Service in Europe’, North Sea and Baltic, Harvest 1937.

66. K. K. Patel, Soldiers of Labor, pp. 194–7.

67. Gardiner, ‘Triple Function’, 28.

68. Memorandum on the development of a Residential Centre for Social Education at Springhead, no date [?1934?], Pennyman Papers, Teesside Archives U/PEN/11/30.

69. North Sea and Baltic, Harvest 1937.

70. Students’ Work Camps in North Yorkshire, 1934, Pennyman Papers, Teesside Archives U/PEN/11/32.

71. North Sea and Baltic, Midwinter 1937.

72. Bene to Auslandsorganisation of the NSDAP, 30th August 1934, NA KV2/2245.

73. North Sea and Baltic, Autumn 1932.

74. North Sea and Baltic, September 1933.

75. Memorandum on the Development of a Residential Centre for Social Education at Springhead, no date [?1934?], Pennyman Papers, Teesside Archives U/PEN/11/30.

76. Springhead Work Camps: What they are and how to join them, no date, Pennyman Papers, Teesside Archives U/PEN/11/30.

77. North Sea and Baltic, September 1933.

78. North Sea and Baltic, Autumn 1939.

79. Springhead Ring News Sheet, Winter Solstice 1938.

80. Springhead Ring News Sheet, September 1939.

81. Fourth Cleveland Work Camp 1933, Teesside Archives U/PEN/11/28; Northern Echo, 19th November 2009.

82. Unsigned note, no date [1939–40], NA KV2/2245.

83. R. J. Moore-Colyer, ‘Rolf Gardiner, English Patriot’, 187–209.

84. Director-General to liaison office for Central Africa, 10/10/49, NA KV2/2245.

85. http://www.springheadtrust.co.uk/, accessed 22/10/11.

86. Götz, N. and Patel, K. K., ‘Facing the Fascist Model: Discourse and the Construction of Labour Services in the USA and Sweden in the 1930s and 1940s’, Journal of Contemporary History, 41:1 (2006), 65–8; MacDowell, L. S., ‘Relief Camp Workers in Ontario during the Great Depression of the 1930s’, Canadian Historical Review, 76:2 (1995), 205–28; Patel, Soldiers of Labor.

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