- About SoES
- Roll Call
- Some Honorary Degrees
- Honorary Degrees – Professor Derrick Swartz (1989-1995): Oration, 2008
- Honorary Degrees- David Lockwood
- Honorary Degrees: Howard Newby (1967-1988): Oration
- Honorary Degrees: Howard Newby (1967-1988): Response
- Honorary Degrees: Response by Derrick Swartz 2008 (1989-1995, MA PhD)
- Honorary Degrees: Ruth Lister (1967-70); Response
- Tales from ‘Imaginations’
- Tales from past folk
- The Troubles at Essex 1974 Michael Mann
- Peter Townsend: The Fortunes of Sociology at Essex 1963-1982
- Visiting Professor, Scholars, Lecturers
Posts Tagged social policy
Ken asked me to write a short piece to share my memory of my encounter with Sociology Department at Essex, which I am delighted to do so.
I learnt about Sociology at Essex from my former teacher Sammy Chiu (who had been at Essex in 1982 to 83). Those big names such as Peter Townsend, Stan Cohen, David Lockwood, Paul Thompson …; and the radical and progressive academic atmosphere attracted me. With all those fantasy and romantic dreams on studying overseas, I came to Essex to study the MA in Social Service Planning programme (which ceased to be on offer from the early 1990s) in 1988. I was greeted by Dennis Marsden along the corridor (in fact, he sent me most of the course outline months earlier so that I could prepare better), and then, a warm welcome by Brenda Corti who showed me my pigeon hole in the Sociology Reading Room. The Reading Room became my favourite place to meet friends and fellow students (and I learnt how to refill the coffee powder in the machine, and drink coffee on and on every day). It was there I found two Hong Kong students (C H Ng and W K Chan) were in there final stage of PhD study in the Department. I was very fortunate to have the Department’s support and then receive a full scholarship to support my study. Without this, I don’t think I could have come to Essex. It proved to be a turning point of my life.
Yet, I was probably not too ready for academic study at that time, and did not perform very well during this year. Nevertheless, it gave me an eye-opening experience, being exposed to a variety of theories and perspectives, staff with diverse academic interests, and personal contact with students from all over the world. I was also impressed by the very informal and warm atmosphere in the Department, with a lot of social activities: the graduate workshop and conference at Clacton-on-Sea, the gatherings and interesting discussions in The Rose and Crown at Wivenhoe (I can now find it on Google Earth!), Chinese meals at the relatively cheap Dragon House also at Wivenhoe (I still have a picture with Omololu Soyombo who is now at Lagos University, and Moha Asri Abdullah who is now with International Islamic University Malaysia). I also remember Mary Girling’s lovely dogs sitting quietly in the Reading Room. May to June 1989 was a dramatic and traumatic moment for many Chinese students, for the things happened in Tiananmen Square. And the Department staff were very understanding and supported us in organizing actions on the campus. In that year, I also experienced many personal challenges, and I was so grateful to the support from Dennis, Michael Harloe, Brenda, Mary and many others, that I could recover quickly to complete my dissertation (supervised by Michael) in August and then have time for a lovely “run-the-England / Scotland” trip with Moha.
I graduated in 1989, and went back to Hong Kong to work for three years. But I decided to return to Essex to start my PhD in September 1992, under the supervision of Michael. As Michael was leaving for Salford to become Vice-chancellor in 1997, I had a good reason pushing me to finish my study as quickly as possible (I passed the viva in January 1996, and received my PhD in July). I still consider coming back to Essex to do my PhD as the right decision. I received tremendous support and excellent guidance from Michael, Colin Samson and Rob Stones (they were my panel member). Studying PhD was a very different experience from studying a MA. Well, I became older and more mature, spent lesser time in the Common Room and more time in my own office, concentrated on my own study and more intellectual discussion with other PhD students. The Department offered me financial sponsorship on data collection both in UK and in Hong Kong. After spending the first year in Essex, I returned to Hong Kong to work with City University of Hong Kong (where I stay until now) to earn money to pay tuition fee. Thanks to email, I received very good guidance from Michael. Michael gave me very detail comments on every draft chapter.
It was 25 years since I first came to Essex. In August 2013, I visited the Department again with my family, told my children how I spent my times in there. That was summer, and the Reading Room and the campus were almost empty. Still managed to buy souvenir from the shop. I also visited Mary, and my children played with her deerhounds.
have had many opportunities to connect with old and new friends from Essex in many other occasions. Met Ken, Rob, Paul Thompson, Yasmin Soysal, Karen O’Reilly (she is also the external examiner of a programme in my University) and Tony Woodiwiss in Hong Kong, Bryan Turner in Seoul, Adrian Sinfield in Edinburgh, Michael (apart from Hong Kong) in Salford and Oxford, Mary in Brightlingsea, John Scott through email (!), visited the ‘Colin Bell’ Building at Stirling, hosted two Essex Sociology graduates as my post-doc fellow and visiting PhD student. But sad to know some have passed away in these years: Ian Craib, Dennis, Brenda, Mary McIntosh, Barbara Hudson …
The Department has changed a lot. The social policy (my major research area) component seems no longer a key emphasis in the Department. Many familiar faces have left. Yet, the Department is as strong, vibrant, energetic and international as always. Wihtout any hesitation, I am proud to be a graduate of the Essex Sociology Department.
I welcome you to visit me in Hong Kong!
Raymond Chan (MA 1989, PhD 1996)
For all the significance my decision to study at Essex was to have on my life, my memories of my actual time there are very hazy. I do remember the mixture of excitement and trepidation I felt when I first arrived in 1967 in what was still in part a building site and, then again taking part in my first seminar groups. I enjoyed being part of such a new and young department and to feel that we, the students, were contributing to its development alongside the staff. I was privileged to be taught by Peter Townsend and I suspect it was those seminars that led me to the Child Poverty Action Group and then on to an academic social policy role. However, we had our criticisms of the curriculum: in particular we felt we were served a somewhat indigestible overdose of Talcott Parsons with very little of the founding ‘fathers’ of sociology on the academic menu!
But my clearest memory is of some of the events of May 1968. The sense of virtually the whole student community coming together in protest was exhilarating. Every time I hear Country Joe and the Fish’s Fixing to Die Rag it takes me back to dancing round the square. (And music generally was a highlight -crushed into the Hexagon for bands such as the Who and Fairport Convention.) I recall one of the endless meetings when a woman, whose name I forget, strode across the platform, sleeping bag under her arm, declaring that she’d had enough of all this f****** talk and was off to Paris where the real action was.
The aftermath of May 1968 was, however, disappointing. We negotiated with the university authorities for greater student participation in the governance of the university. But when we returned the next year it seemed like much of the political energy had dissipated: the student leaders had retreated into the developing counter-culture leaving the foot soldiers to get involved in the more mundane staff-student liaison committees etc. Indeed my overall memory of the Left at Essex isn’t that positive. When I went to a meeting of what I think was called the Socialist Society as a green fresher it was so unwelcoming that I never went back. And I found it strange that the same leaders who spoke the language of student-worker unity were dismissive of the concerns of local residents (many of whom were of course the very same workers).
My disappointment is, however, not to belittle the significance of greater student involvement in departmental governance, which was still pretty novel back then. In the sociology department I think we were able to make a real difference, especially with regard to how our work was assessed.
Overall I’m proud to be a graduate of the Essex sociology department; and receiving an honorary degree in 2012, with the oration given by Joan Busfield who taught me all those years ago, was quite an emotional experience.
Ruth Lister is Baroness Lister of Burtersett and Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Loughborough University. She was awarded an honorary degree at the University of Essex on July 18th, 2011. For more, click on Honorary Degree.
John Veit-Wilson is Emeritus Professor of Social Policy of Northumbria University and Visiting Professor in Sociology at Newcastle University. He was one of the original ‘poverty researchers’ employed in the foundation year of the university (1964). He has sustained a life-long interest in concepts, theories and measures of poverty, their uses and their histories, extending it to issues of human rights to incomes adequate for social inclusion. He writes:
In September 1964 I was appointed a research officer in the just-opening Essex sociology department, working on the national survey of poverty under Peter Townsend at Essex and Brian Abel-Smith at LSE. It was a joint project, even if Peter’s name is inseparably associated with it; Brian later dropped out of the joint project when it became incompatible with his other activities. I’d been working in London in various jobs, management training and business services for five years, after a postgraduate degree in Stockholm, and so until we found a house in Colchester and sold ours in London I worked in one of LSE’s offshoot buildings (Skepper House near UCL). I also had the use of an office in one of the wooden prefab huts behind Wivenhoe House. We moved to Colchester in early summer 1965, by which time sociology had moved into the new concrete buildings, and I shared an office with Joan Busfield, who had just arrived…
I focused on the research project and didn’t have any teaching responsibilities. During the months I was still in London and working at LSE, I worked with Hilary Land on the intensive qualitative pilot study of large families, which she continued. When I got to Essex I worked on the study of long-term sick and disabled men and their families as my sole project. Dennis Marsden was studying single mothers and Adrian Sinfield had already written on his study of unemployed men and their families. The aim was for the first time to generate fruitful ideas about what people who were themselves experiencing situations in which poverty is a risk when other compensating resources are deficient, saw as the necessities and the deprivations of ordinary lives. From these ideas the team then developed new approaches to poverty, both conceptually in terms of the public rather than the expert perspective on what it meant, and also methodologically. It was the findings of these studies that suggested the key indicators of what deprivation was in the UK at that time as perceived by the public. In the light of subsequent argument about ‘who dreamt them up’ it’s important to re-emphasise their foundations in empirical research.
My contract as a research officer was specified as three years from the outset, so it was naturally expected to terminate in August 1967. By then the pilot projects had been completed and the team was drawing conclusions from them and planning the next, national, stage of the research. At that point the Rowntree funding did not cover as many staff and so my contract was not extended. Hilary (at LSE) and Dennis continued, and Adrian was already lecturing anyway. With a wife and three young children to support I had to take the first permanent teaching job I was offered, which turned out to be at what later became Newcastle Polytechnic. I worked there for 25 years and was head of the sociology group (about 16 people) from 1974 to 1987. I’ve been at Newcastle University in various honorary or research positions since taking early retirement from the Poly (now called Northumbria University) in 1992.
As my first degree was in economics and social anthropology and with a masters’ degree (equivalent) in Swedish social policy, there was a tremendous amount of sociology for me to learn, and immersion in the busy intellectual life of the Essex sociology department certainly affected my life and career greatly thereafter. Peter sent me on the first BSA summer school for postgraduate students and new researchers, at Exeter University in the summer of 1965, which also taught me a lot. Colin Bell was a fellow student. He was a graduate student at Swansea at the time, I believe, but with some connection to the Banbury project I seem to recall. Essex was a small and very friendly and welcoming department while I was there, and I and my family had a lot of help in settling in from people like Ernest and Fiona Rudd. Ioan Davies’s partner found us an au pair (Eva Riekert with whom we are still in friendly contact) in an emergency when our third child was about to be born.
There’s one correction I should make, though, and that’s to the entry about Dennis Marsden, a lifelong friend from those times. He wasn’t appointed a year after the university opened but only four months later. He and I used to joke about the fact that I’d been appointed from 1 September 1964 and was therefore eligible for the additional allowance for staff children then paid by all universities. That allowance was abolished from the end of 1964; so when Dennis took up his post on New Year’s Day 1965 he did not get it for his children. All three research officers on the poverty team (Hilary, Dennis, me) were offered their appointments during 1964 and Dennis was the last to be able to take up the post. Michael Meacher was also a researcher in the department at this time, and was just developing his political interests — he fought the 1966 election in Colchester as an apprentice no-hope Labour candidate before being selected for Oldham. He’d already gone to York by the time I left Colchester in September 1967.
The work of the poverty research team and what I learnt at Essex made an enormous contribution to my entire subsequent career in poverty theory and method, as can be seen on my personal website (www.staff.ncl.ac.uk/j.veit-wilson/). It includes a rehabilitation of the pre-Townsendian theoretical work of the poverty research pioneer Seebohm Rowntree. That was followed by three archive studies: the Beveridge Committee’s covert assumptions about benefit levels (they recommended less-eligibility not adequacy); the only government in-house study of National Assistance (in)adequacy ever carried out (kept secret and firmly denied as even feasible ever since); and the absence of any conceptual justification for the level of the personal tax allowance. My cross-national work in the early 1990s led to the development of the concept of Governmental Minimum Income Standards. It was not surprisingly rejected by government but a version of it is now widely accepted as an empirically justified basis for setting the living wage. And at a practical policy level, I accompanied Brian Abel-Smith who was speaking about the findings of Peter’s and his research (published as The Poor and the Poorest, 1965) to the meeting called by Quakers concerned about poverty at Toynbee Hall in March 1965. The participants decided to take action and set up what became the Child Poverty Action Group. I wrote its first policy paper and have been actively involved with it for most of the subsequent half-century, most recently as a trustee and vice-chair. And it could be said I owe all that to my Essex experiences in 1964-67.
John’s achievements and activities in recent years have included election as an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences and Honorary Fellow of the Joint University Council. He has held visiting professorships at the universities of Bremen and ELTE, Budapest, and numerous visiting scholar positions in other countries, including a Research Fellowship at the Hanse Institute for Advanced Studies, Delmenhorst, Germany 2008-09. He is consultant both to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation research programme on ‘Money Matters’ as well as member of advisory groups on Minimum Income Standards and other projects, and to the Technical University of Lisbon’s research programme on Minimum Income Standards for Portugal. Journals in Greece and Korea have included him as an adviser, and his work has been translated into German, Greek, Polish and Russian. He has translated two social policy books from German, on poverty concepts and research and on European Foundations of the Welfare State, as well as from Swedish, the Social Democratic Party’s statement of Principles and Values.
Barbara Hudson, a much loved graduate student in the department in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, has died unexpectedly. Ken Plummer recalls her as a truly lively and engaged student who loved Gadamer and Criminology! She added hugely to the life of the department during her time here, was a much loved teacher, and a lively stalwart of the Labour Party. She returned to give a 40th anniversary lecture in the department ten years ago, by which time she was Professor of Criminology.
She wrote to Ken Plummer in January to express her sadness at the deaths of Mary McIntosh, and her beloved supervisor Stan Cohen:
“I am now retired and have that strange Emeritus Professor status. Still doing a bit of writing and a few lectures. I’ve had a wonderful experience of spending a month or so in Brazil every year for seven years, working with the Ministerio Publico in the state of Parana, and doing some teaching on a Masters course in law and human rights. And I’ve also been involved in a research project with Oslo, which seems to be carrying forward the critical criminology of Nils and Thomas. Apart from this, I’m growing roses and doing water colour paintings. I’ve been very happily living with Harry since 1985, which seems a miracle given the ups and downs of my time in Colchester”.
Eamonn Carrabine commented:
It is with great sadness that we learnt of Barbara’s sudden death on Monday September 9th. For over three decades she has been at the forefront of shaping debates in and around the sociology of punishment. At the core of her work is a deep and abiding interest in social justice, and her more recent work remained committed to challenging inequalities by focussing on the construction of difference, the criminalisation of migration and the questions posed by security since 9/11.
The message we received about her death said:
I am very sad to inform you that on Monday afternoon (9th September) Barbara Hudson died suddenly whilst on holiday in Greece. Barbara was not only an enormous influence and inspiration for members of the European Group over the last three decades but also a close personal friend to many. Her untimely death has come as a terrible shock and her family have asked for privacy for the next few days. I realise that many people will want to send their condolences and also wish to know about funeral arrangements. The European Group want to commemorate Barbara in accordance with the wishes of her family and so we will send you further details regarding how members can send condolences in the coming days. Barbara was a wonderful person who possessed not only a remarkable intellect but also a wonderful sense of compassion and understanding for others. She will be greatly missed by very many people.
European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control
Dennis Marsden joined the Essex Sociology Department in 1965, one year after the university opened.
He came from the Institute of Community Studies to become a Joseph Rowntree Research Officer working with Peter Townsend, the founding professor, on the highly influential project Poverty in the UK.
In 1968, he became a lecturer in the department where he taught the sociology of education and pioneered the very successful MA in Social Service Planning. In the late 1970’s he became Head of the Department. He retired in 1999 after thirty five years in the department…
(Continued under Memories/Obituaries)
I started university in Germany and studied sociology, history and education. Initially, I was meant to be an exchange student in Rotterdam and return to Germany after one year. By random selection, plans changed. I came to Essex, spent one year in the history department, and stayed five years in the sociology department where I completed an MA (2006) and a PhD (2010). My thesis dealt with in-work benefits in the UK and Germany and I have been involved in several research projects on self-employment, migration and citizenship.
After graduation, I took up a job as a research officer at the Institute for Employment Studies. Together with my colleagues, I carry out commissioned research projects on employment related aspects such as training, apprenticeships, labour market intelligence, and social policy in the UK and Europe. I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at City University of Hong Kong. I collaborate with Professor Raymond Chan in research on employment for the elderly, asking questions of welfare provisions, changing employment patterns and regional differences.
The strongest link with Essex comes from the good relationship with one of my colleagues who now happens to be my wife. Together, we enjoy travelling, cooking, baking, laughing and preparing to become the next Luhmann or Meyer respectively.
Peter Townsend was Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex from October 1963 to December 1981, and chairman of the Department during its first seven years. He was elected Pro-Vice Chancellor (Social Policy) and served from 1974 for three years. He moved to the University of Bristol as Professor of Social Policy in January 1982 and became Professor of International Social Policy at LSE in 1998. He died in 2009.
A brief outline of his work with linkscan be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Townsend_(sociologist)
THE FORTUNES OF SOCIOLOGY AT ESSEX 1963-1982
This paper was given : Nov 11 2004 Department of Sociology, Essex, 40th anniversary
Note: abstract only below. The full paper can be found under ‘Memories’ (above)
The development of sociology at the University of Essex is in many ways the recent history of the subject in Europe. After the sweeping claims for the subject in the 19th Century there was little consolidation institutionally by the time of the foundation of the new universities in the mid -1960s. Essex was in the vanguard of a new professional, scientific and international approach to the subject and the early years of the establishment of the department in the University illustrate both the internal debate about the scope of the subject and its intellectual priorities and the external interpretation of its role and functions -which was sometimes hostile and often uncomprehending or dismissive.
The scrutiny of that early history of the subject at Essex (and at some of the other new universities) helps to reveal the innovations which were made to address fundamental intellectual and social questions. That collective work represented a major contribution to national and international culture. Representatives of the subject played an honourable and constructive role during the periods of political unrest at British universities during the 1960s and 1970s, although that role -and its longstanding contribution to the vitality and liberal values of university life – remains to be pro
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( who retired in 2006)
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