Research

DOMUS produces and publishes interdisciplinary research that challenges and explores boundaries of knowledge and ways of seeing with regard to histories of education, schooling and childhood. This research is a product of dialogue and debate and DOMUS seeks to provide an intellectual home for all those with an interest in the legacies of the past for present educational research and practice.

Research themes

Histories of education, schooling and childhood

Our research into histories of education, schooling and childhood explores educational ideas, practices and outcomes across the globe. This exploration includes formal pedagogy, or teaching methods and practices in schools but it is also much broader than that. Our research examines any of the processes by which culture is organised and transmitted across generations and between social groups. This includes studies of schools systems; of ideas about humans and their behaviour; of formal and informal pedagogy; the experiences of educational actors with a specific interest in those groups, including women, children and racialized groups, who are frequently written out of mainstream histories.

Current projects

Ian Grosvenor’s new, co-edited book with Lisa Rasmussen, Making Education: Material School Design and Educational Governance, addresses the relationship between material school design and educational governance in Europe, Latin and Central America and the United States. It demonstrates how educational governance was, and is, constituted, materialized and transformed in design of buildings and spaces and the way that school leaders, teachers and pupils have adopted, inhabited and re-shaped them in everyday school life. 

Siân Roberts is collaborating with Domus associate member Stephen Parker of the University of Worcester and Jody Crutchley of Liverpool Hope University on book for Oxford University Press entitled Religious Education in British Broadcasting: A History which will be published in 2020.

Selected past projects

The Children’s Lives Exhibition was part of Birmingham’s contribution to the Cultural Olympiad programme in 2012. Curated by Ian Grosvenor and Sian Roberts, and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, it examined the lives of children from the 18th century to the present day. It was the first major exhibition on childhood to be held in Birmingham and revealed both how the experience of childhood, and the understanding of childhood, changed over time.  

Educational progressivism

Our research into educational progressivism explores the varied meanings and seeks to expand understanding of progressive education, past and present. It includes case studies and explorations of schools, systems, individuals and networks of influence, considering the meaning of progressivism in education from a variety of standpoints. Drawing from the past to inform the future through focusing on social and educational movements, experience, aspiration, hope and struggle in this essentially contested area of educational ideology. Jane Martin is joint co-editor (with Dr Cathy Burke, University of Cambridge) of Progressive Education: Policy, Politics and Practice – a Routledge book series..

Current projects

Jane Martin founded the Caroline Benn Society to promote research into the histories of comprehensive education. That work continues to develop notably through a biographically driven project exploring the life and work of public intellectual Caroline Benn (1926-2000) and the creation of the Caroline Benn Digital Archive. This study offers a fresh appraisal of the Comprehensive Education Movement, at a time when a return of selective secondary education is increasingly promoted as a solution to social injustice and lack of upward social mobility. The American-born wife of Tony Benn (1925-2014), one of the most prominent post-war socialists in Europe, Caroline Benn’s own work, often overlooked, is critical to our understanding of the 1970s, a contested period in education and politics, and narrative histories of the post-war period. 

A study of Indian influences on progressive education in Britain during the early twentieth century and their subsequent impact. This research, undertaken by Laura Day-Ashley and funded by the British Academy is based on the premise that the existence of the empire opened up channels for a two-way exchange of educational thought and practice, and was primarily concerned with the flow of educational influence from the colonized to colonizer. By concentrating on the connections between educationists and movements in Britain and India in the early twentieth century, the research seeks to gain an understanding of motivations underlying these connections from both sides and the extent to which they were political and/or pedagogical. Additionally, the research also examines how Indian influences arising from these connections were manifested in British educational thought and practice.

Jane Martin is completing a book Gender and Education in England since 1770: a social history. This is the first social history book of its kind commissioned for the Palgrave Gender and History series. Drawing on previously unused and underutilised contemporary sources, oral history interviews, autobiographies and classic sociology of education, novels, and film, it charts continuity and difference in the relation between gender, politics and education, from the perspective of pupils/ students/ teachers/ politicians/ policy-makers/ educator activists.

Personal accounts have been found and used to travel through time to construct histories of education and childhood where no other evidence might exist.

Selected past projects

British Academy/ Leverhulme 2014-16: Caroline DeCamp Benn: a comprehensive life, 1926-2000

Drawing from personal papers and oral histories, this biographically-driven study tracked the story of Caroline Benn and the Comprehensive Education Movement between 1960 and 2000, placing it in the larger social and political context of the time. Benn’s commitment to the comprehensive ideal that all learning and each learner and each learner’s path is of inherently equal value and is treated as such within an educational system, challenging the myth that educational potential is a fixed quantity, was famous in education circles. Using her story as a lens for analysis provides fresh insights into education, politics and policy-making, mapping how women developed influence and the ways they navigated routes through a gendered political environment. 

Peace and humanitarianism

Our research into peace and humanitarianism explores the attempts of educators to alleviate suffering, particularly children’s suffering, in wartime. These attempts have included the provision of material aid; the evacuation and displacement of children to children’s colonies and camps; the development of therapeutic and creative pedagogies in these settings; the visual representations that promoted these forms of aid; and the gendered subjectivities that have been a characteristic of humanitarian organisations and the aid they give.

Current projects

Siân Roberts is collaborating with Birmingham City University and the Peace Pledge Union on a project to map the histories and archive and museum collections relating to peace education and activism, and to explore how these histories can inform current activism and campaigning. A meeting of interested parties was held in December 2018 to consult potential participants and agree the next steps. 

Siân Roberts will be participating in the workshop Humanitarian Handicrafts: Materiality, Development and Fair Trade. A Revaluation being held at the University of Huddersfield in June 2019. The workshop will explore the generation of artisanal products and folk artwork by humanitarian organisations, and Siân’s paper will explore the humanitarian and educational use of handicrafts by Quaker educators in humanitarian relief in the aftermath of the First World War. 

Selected past projects

Siân Roberts and Kevin Myers worked alongside Dr Rebecca Wynter of the History of Medicine department on the collaborative project Quakers and the First World War: Lives and Legacies. Working in partnership with Central England Quakers and volunteers, the project researched and co-produced four booklets uncovering Quaker responses to the First World War including peace activism, medical and humanitarian relief in Europe, and humanitarian and political activism on the Home Front with refugees and others. The booklets are available to download at https://www.voicesofwarandpeace.org/voices-projects/

Heritage education

Heritage education is a noticeably interdisciplinary area of research concerned with the organisations, institutions and practices devoted to the preservation, production and presentation of history, art and culture. Our research into this area is usually concerned with how the experiences and voices of those excluded or marginalised in mainstream historical accounts can come to be included. Including those experiences has the potential not only to enrich our understanding of history, it also has the potential to develop more inclusive and socially just societies. 

Current research projects

Izzy Mohammed and Kevin Myers (Diverse Stories: Towards BME Narratives of the First World War) have been investigating the production of BME narratives of the First World War. They are aiming to understand how BME communities have engaged with the centenary commemoration of the First World War, the research they have undertaken, the knowledge they have produced and its potential legacies for our understanding of both past and present.

One part of the AHRC funded Connected Communities Programme set out to make visible a number of different traditions for individuals and groups seeking to understand, or get involved in, collaborative research. As part of this project, Kevin Myers and Ian Grosvenor identified and explained the long tradition of ‘history from below’ as a collaborative enterprise between researchers, archivists, curators, teachers, enthusiasts, local historians, archaeologists and researchers.