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The School of Oriental and African Studies
Imperial Training and the Expansion of Learning


  • Date Published: July 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107164420

£ 80.99

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About the Authors
  • The School of Oriental and African Studies, a college of the University of London, was established in 1916 principally to train the colonial administrators who ran the British Empire in the languages of Asia and Africa. It was founded, that is, with an explicitly imperial purpose. Yet the School would come to transcend this function to become a world centre of scholarship and learning, in many important ways challenging that imperial origin. Drawing on the School's own extensive administrative records, on interviews with current and past staff, and on the records of government departments, Ian Brown explores the work of the School over its first century. He considers the expansion in the School's configuration of studies from the initial focus on languages, its changing relationships with government, and the major contributions that have been made by the School to scholarly and public understandings of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

    • A history of the School of Oriental and African Studies from its foundation in 1916
    • The first academic study of a British university institution concerned solely with teaching and research relating to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East
    • Examines the contributions made by the School towards Britain's relationships with, and understandings of, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Insightful, empathetic, and wryly amusing, Brown provides a magisterial account of one of the UK's most idiosyncratic academic institutions. In surveying a century of opportunity and uncertainty, he unfolds a compelling tale of leadership, scholarship, and quirkiness set amidst troubled times, educational upheaval, and a wavering sense of national need.' David Arnold, University of Warwick

    'Ian Brown has given us a masterly study of an educational and institutional transformation under pressure, as seen from within its agonised and sometimes acerbic working-party debates … The change from serving government's needs at the state's expense (most directly in the Second World War) to meeting the priorities of teenage university candidates on student loans was made not without cost, particularly to the provision of language teaching. An account of that transition makes this book a contemporary history of change in Britain's university system as much as in SOAS, a singular institution.' John Lonsdale, University of Cambridge

    'Ian Brown has written an authoritative institutional history without losing sight of the individuals who populate it. The School of Oriental and African Studies is one of the world's foremost centres of teaching and scholarship over its vast range of interests. Ian Brown shows that its very survival is near-miraculous, as it faced other jealous institutions, government bureaucracies full of promise and short on their fulfilment, parsimonious governments and indifferent commercial interests … This is a fine example of what an institutional history should aspire to be.' M. C. Ricklefs, Australian National University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107164420
    • length: 346 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.65kg
    • contains: 27 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. 'Long contemplated and too long delayed': the founding of the School
    2. 'Partly a research institution and partly a vocational training centre':
    3. The war years, 1939–45
    4. The great post-war expansion
    5. Expansion into the social sciences
    6. The great contraction
    7. The 1990s: renewed expansion but unresolved issues
    8. The past in the present

  • Author

    Ian Brown
    Ian Brown was a postgraduate student at the School of Oriental and African Studies between 1968 and 1974, returning in 1979 as a lecturer on the economic history of South East Asia. He retired from the School in 2013 as Research Professor, having been Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities between 2007 and 2011. His major publications include The Elite and the Economy in Siam, c.1890–1920 (1988), Economic Change in South-East Asia, c.1830–1980 (1997) and Burma's Economy in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, 2013).

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