Category Archives: Social Work and Social Policy

Choice Outstanding Academic Title awards for 2014

Posted by Emily Ferro, Marketing Coordinator

Ashgate is thrilled to announce that Choice has honored three Ashgate books by naming them Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014. The recognized titles are Decolonizing Social Work; Ageing, Ritual and Social Change: Comparing the secular and religious in Eastern and Western Europe; and The Ashgate Research Companion to the Thirty Years’ War. Books recognized by Choice display ‘excellence in presentation and scholarship’ and provide content of significance in their field of study. Out of the thousands of titles reviewed by Choice in 2014, only 10% were celebrated as Outstanding Academic Titles.

Decolonizing social workDecolonizing Social Work by Mel Gray, John Coates, Michael Yellow Bird, and Tiani Hetherington features articles written by Indigenous and non-Indigenous social work scholars examining local cultures, beliefs, values, and practices as central to decolonization. Choice notes that the volume is “a sturdy reminder of the vast social justice work still to do in the world.” Through careful amalgamation of the work of the essayists, Gray, Coates, Yellow Bird, and Hetherington interrogate trends, issues, and debates in Indigenous social work theory, practice methods, and education models. Choice compliments the book’s readability and its glossary, and highly recommends it to all academics, libraries, and practitioners.

Ageing ritual and social changeAgeing, Ritual and Social Change by Peter Coleman, Daniela Koleva, and Joanna Bornat explores European changes in religious and secular beliefs and practices related to life passages. “The editors and contributors deserve appreciation for undertaking this challenging comparative project,” writes Choice, calling the collection “A significant multidisciplinary contribution to the literature on aging, religion/ritual, comparative oral history, and social change.” Drawing on fascinating oral histories of older people’s memories in both Eastern and Western Europe, this book presents illuminating views on peoples’ quests for existential meaning in later life. Choice highly recommends Ageing, Ritual and Social Change for upper-division undergraduates and up.

Ashgate research companion to the thirty years warThe final book named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2014 is The Ashgate Research Companion to the Thirty Years’ War by Olaf Asbach and Peter Schröder. A comprehensive and authoritative overview of research on one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, Choice notes that this book “will serve for some time as an essential starting point for research on the origins, conduct, and legacies of the wars and the peace.” By combining the work of key international scholars, this research companion explores the complexities of the conflict using an innovative comparative approach. Choice deems this book “Essential,” recommending it to all upper-division undergraduates and up.

Congratulations to all of the honorees.

For a listing of all of our recent prizewinners, visit  

Announcing a new social policy series from Ashgate: Social Welfare Around the World

Posted by Claire Jarvis, Commissioning Editor

Our new Social Welfare Around the World series (edited by Bent Greve, Roskilde University) aims to publish high quality research monographs and edited books, focusing on development, change in provision and/or delivery of welfare – with a primary focus on developed welfare states. The books will provide overviews of themes such as pensions, social services, unemployment or housing, as well as in-depth analysis of change and impact on a micro level. The impact and influence of supranational institutions on welfare state developments will also be studied as will the methodologies used to analyse the on-going transformations of welfare states.  Publications can be diverse in approach; however the provision of new data and interpretation hereof is of central importance.

For further information about submitting a proposal please contact either the series editor Bent Greve ( or commissioning editor Claire Jarvis (

About the Series Editor: Bent Greve is Professor of Welfare State Analysis at the Department of Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University, Denmark and editor and author of (amongst others): Innovation in Social Services: The Public-Private Mix in Service Provision, Fiscal Policy and Employment (Ashgate 2014); Welfare and the Welfare State: Present and Future (Routledge, 2014); Historical Dictionary of the Welfare State (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); Evidence and Evaluation in Social Policy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014); The Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State (Routledge 2013); and The Future of the Welfare State (Ashgate, 2006).

Helen Chatterjee and the Museums on Prescription research project

Posted by Helen Moore, Marketing Manager

Museums Health and WellbeingDr Helen Chatterjee, author of Museums, Health and Well-Being, was interviewed on the BBC news for a feature on loneliness yesterday talking about ‘Museums on Prescription’ a three year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Helen Chatterjee is leading a team of researchers to explore the value and role of museums in social prescribing.

Social prescribing links patients in primary care with local sources of support within the community which can improve their health and wellbeing. ‘Museums on Prescription’ is the first of its kind internationally and will research the development and efficacy of a novel referral scheme.

The project will connect socially isolated, vulnerable and lonely older people, referred through the NHS, Local Authority Adult Social Care services and charities, to partner museums in Central London and Kent.

The research project is a collaboration between over 15 organisations including The British Museum, Sir John Soanes Museum, UCL Museums & Collections, Camden Council, and Kent and Medway NHS Partnership Trust.

Other organisations involved include Age UK Camden, Arts Council England (ACE), the New Economics Foundation (Nef Consulting) and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

The scheme will complement existing social prescription services including ‘arts on prescription’ and ‘books on prescription’ and will work in partnership with organisations such as the RSPH, ACE and local branches of Age UK to roll out ‘museums on prescription’ nationwide.

Since 2006, researchers at UCL have been pioneering research into the role of museums in health and wellbeing. A series of research projects, funded by the AHRC and amounting to over £1million, have helped to establish UCL as the leading centre for research in this area.

Professor Paul M. Camic, Professor of Psychology & Public Health and Research Director, Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology, Canterbury Christ Church University, is the project’s Co-Investigator and Dr Linda Thomson, UCL, is the Lead Postdoctoral Research Associate for the project. Dr Theo Stickley, Associate Professor of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham, is the project’s External Advisor.


Helen Chatterjee awarded AHRC Grant

New AHRC grant will fund ‘Museums on Prescription’ research

BBC News link

A Life in Education and Architecture – Mary Beaumont (Crowley) Medd

burke_series 1324 cover.QXD:a life in educationCatherine Burke’s book on the architect Mary Beaumont (Crowley) Medd was reviewed by Harriet Harriss earlier this year in the Times Higher Ed

Burke, a historian of education, shows mastery of her subject here and delivers it through a light, accessible style… Burke’s book offers everything from an education and practice manifesto to a compelling romance. The narrative overlays within the text capture valuable insights into the infrastructure of key design projects, including clients, creative collaborators and educators working towards a common enterprise.

You can read Catherine Burke’s full introduction to the book on the Ashgate website, but to whet your appetite, here is an edited extract:

The architect Mary Beaumont Crowley (1907–2005), was one of a number of individuals who, in the twentieth century, devoted their professional lives in pursuit of a form of education for children and young people that would be best described as child centered in its values, principles, practices and essential humanity. During her professional career, she advised on the educational principles that should underpin the design of many buildings later listed as of historical and architectural significance, and her methods of detailed observation and evaluation of the work of children and teachers in schools earned her a reputation among educationalists in England as the key player behind the changes in the design of schools achieved during the second half of the twentieth century.

This book is addressed to educators and architects who are interested in the perennial question – what makes a good school? Mary was one of a generation of architects who designed schools for the public sector in the post war years during the largest and most extended British school building programme of the twentieth century.

The impetus behind this book was a hunch and a question about relationships in educational history. Returning by train from visiting a nursery in Nottingham one Friday in June 2005, I read about the life of Mary (Crowley) Medd in her obituary, jointly authored for The Guardian by architectural historians, Andrew Saint and Lynne Walker. I read for the first time about Mary, acknowledged as a driving force for change among a team of predominantly male architects in the Ministry of Education where she made contacts with the best teachers, learned what they were trying to do and watched children in and out of classes … and by bringing this direct and – far rarer among architects – systematic observation of habits and needs to bear on designing schools, she acquired unique authority in primary school planning.

The hunch I had, and thereafter tried to follow, was that Mary as a female architect was able to establish a special and unique form of empathy with the predominantly female teaching force in primary schools at the time. I wondered whether as a woman, she was advantaged in acquiring a special understanding of the relationships that underpinned pedagogy and its development. In so doing, I began to question whether it was this special understanding that had fostered in post-war England the emergence of a new and rich knowledge about key relationships between pedagogy and the material context of schools.

As in much historical research, one’s initial notions become challenged in the process of seeking out the evidence and exploring the wider context. However it soon became clear that there were indeed significant relationships that shaped Mary’s life and practice that fundamentally influenced her approach to the design of schools for young children. Uncovering the nature of these relationships became the substance of this book and particularly how they found expression through Mary’s endeavours to further innovative educational practice within public schooling in post-war England and Wales.

Since her death in 2005, Mary’s papers, consisting of a substantial archive of diaries, photographic albums, letters, plans and publications, have been deposited in the Newsam Archive at the Institute of Education, University of London. These complement an existing archive of materials related to the activities of the Architect and Buildings Branch of the Ministry of Education (later DES). Mary’s personal papers contain materials relating to her infancy and childhood, family life and school days at several schools including Bedales; study in Switzerland; experiences as a student at the Architectural Association from 1927–1932; travel in Europe, including influential visits to Scandinavia; work on housing during the 1930s; wartime planning at the Hertfordshire Education Department; travel during the immediate post-war period; marriage and professional work with David Medd including substantial international engagement; and consultancy work both at home and abroad in retirement.

These documents, of a life well lived, have shaped the narrative of this book. The archive has also shaped the research journey I have taken over the years since Mary Crowley’s death. Questions raised by reading diary entries and travel journals and browsing plans prompted meetings and conversations with her husband David Medd. I met David on several occasions and talked for hours about Mary’s personality and career in the house at Harmer Green, Welwyn North that she and he had designed together in the early 1950s. Surrounded by the garden she had loved and nurtured, the piano she played so well over many decades, the furniture designed by David and the lampshades by Alvar Aalto, I tried to understand the extraordinary impact of this modest character who was, according to those who knew her best, so frustratingly self-effacing yet exceedingly driven.

David took a great interest in my efforts to understand Mary’s contribution to the design of schools in the twentieth century and in addition to the meetings, wrote me scores of letters, each one handwritten and densely filled with notes of detail that enriched the research. But David told me, ‘you want to get in a bit more – you want to give the impression you’ve done more than reading!’ From these conversations and letters the international scope of Mary’s influence and influences became more apparent and so, taking David’s suggestion seriously, part of my efforts to understand Mary eventually included visiting some of the places that were of especial importance in her life and career. To understand as fully as possible some of the references Mary made in her diaries, I journeyed to these places and tried to see through her eyes and sense through the images she made in pen and ink, the past as she experienced it. Following in Mary’s footsteps, I tried to estimate to what extent it is true that ‘in different places we are different people’.

Architectural history need not be just about buildings or architects but can also be about relationships, values and how these inform the process of architectural practice. Therefore, the book is structured around different aspects of the relationship between education and architecture that shaped Mary’s life and legacy. It explores the significance and impact of a rich and long life whose earliest years were spent at a time of great change in the worlds of education and architecture, when the teaching profession was becoming established and when pupils were coming to be viewed in new ways that suggested the need to make arrangements for a completely new concept of a school.

Alongside a new view of the developing child in an appropriate environment there was at the same time emerging a new modernist architecture with an emphasis on function and social value. Each chapter in this book is organized around the available documentation that reveals the significant places, architecture, art and friendships that featured during Mary’s long life, the projects she engaged with and the individuals and communities of educators, artists and designers with whom she was associated.

In the twenty-first century, when planned renewal of school building stock is high on government agendas across the world, this life that brought together education and architecture so successfully is highly relevant. The examples discussed consider the legacy that connects Mary Crowley’s life with contemporary concerns of educators and architects who are challenged with the responsibility of designing schools for a rapidly changing world.

Of course there are many more avenues that this account could have taken. The many years of dedicated consultancy work across the world in Mary’s later years have not been covered in any detail but there is a summary of the substantial contribution Mary made across the world during these years. Nor have I considered the many musical, dramatic and artistic interests she pursued with her husband. These gaps will be filled by others who might be inspired to take up one or more of the roads left unexplored here. The emphasis has been on redressing the balance between the large and noisy histories of architects who have designed schools with this account that argues for the importance of telling the quiet stories in nurturing children and designing for education.

About the Author: Dr Catherine Burke is an historian and senior lecturer in education at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. She has researched Mary Medd’s life and travels since the architect’s death in 2005, while at the same time engaging with architects designing schools today to bring about a better understanding of the history of the subject. Other related publications include The School I’d Like (2003) and School (2008) both with Ian Grosvenor.

More about A Life in Education and Architecture: Mary Beaumont Medd

Some thoughts on social work histories, and on David Burnham’s ‘The Social Worker Speaks’ in particular

Posted by Claire Jarvis, Senior Commissioning Editor

Last month’s Third European Conference for Social Work Research held in Jyvaskyla, Finland was a big success. I was particularly interested in Adrienne Chambon’s keynote speech on social work histories. In it, she argues that it is important to overcome the ‘official’ histories of the discipline and make a real effort to look at local practices as experienced by social workers on the ground, so as to provide a ‘bottom-up’ account of social work.

The Social Worker SpeaksDavid Burnham’s The Social Worker Speaks is an excellent example of this approach as it charts the motivations, work activities and attitudes of workers in the public sector (from Poor Law to Social Services Departments), probation and workers in the voluntary field (including early century philanthropic visiting societies as well as specialist societies such as the Children’s Society and the NSPCC) across Britain from 1904 to 1989.

Burnham seeks to rectify the scant attention paid to who social workers were, what they believed, what they actually did, and what they thought of what they did. By deliberately including stories of how social workers behaved, their frustrations and triumphs, passions and occasional sins- it offers a more human history of social workers. This book is deliberately not a history of social work, but a history of social workers – the first of its kind.

The British Journal of Social Work said the following:

‘Most writers on social work history do not deal with the lives of individual front line social workers – for example, how they behaved, their attitudes, frustrations, triumphs and even occasional misdemeanours. Burnham’s book attempts to remedy this, dealing with the motivations and activities of workers in the public sector from the Poor Law to Social Services Departments, as well as those in probation and workers in the voluntary field, including philanthropic visiting societies and more specialist societies such as the NSPCC… Burnham has put together a rather impressive and unusual text – one which I found to be an easy and enjoyable read. It brought back some fond and some not-so-fond memories, and will certainly appeal to those wanting to gain an insight into the history of social workers and what their attitudes and activities involved.’

We’d like to offer a 20% discount on The Social Worker Speaks for the next two months if you order it off the website using the following promotion code: A13HOW (valid until 30/06/2013).

World Social Work Day

Posted by Claire Jarvis, Senior Commissioning Editor

Ashgate Publishing is very pleased to promote World Social Work Day on the 19th of March and its theme of promoting social and economic equality around the world. As the International Federation of Social Workers states:

Social work has a critical role in the promotion of social and economic equalities and in striving for a people-focused and regulated economy. World Social Work Day is the annual opportunity to advocate a social work perspective in political systems that affect the wellbeing of peoples and to celebrate the social work contribution to societies.

We are publishing a number of books over the next 12 months which demonstrate how social workers are working to achieve these goals.

Decolonizing Social Work by Mel Gray, John Coates, Michael Yellow Bird and Tiani Hetherington is the follow-up to the hugely successful Indigenous Social Work Around the World. In this path-breaking  volume, Indigenous and non-Indigenous social work scholars examine local cultures, beliefs, values, and practices as central to decolonization. Supported by a growing interest in spirituality and ecological awareness in international social work, they interrogate trends, issues, and debates in Indigenous social work theory, practice methods, and education models including Indigenous research approaches.

North American social work practitioners and academics will find much of interest in Hilary Weaver’s forthcoming ‘Social Work and Native Americans’.

Sven Hessle has taken on the task of editing three volumes of contributions from last year’s hugely successful Social work and Social Development conference in Stockholm. Taken together, these three books provide the most comprehensive overview of the current state of social work around the world:

‘Human Rights and Social Equality Challenges for Social Work’

‘Global Social Transformation and Social Action: The Role of Social Workers’

‘Social Work, Environmental Change and Sustainable Social Development’

We will be attending a number of conferences this year, so if you’d like to see the range of books we’re publishing or to discuss any potential book projects, please email me at or arrange a meeting with me at one of the following conferences:

European Social Work Research Conference: 20-22 March, Jyvaskula, Finland

JSWEC: 10-12 July, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

IFSW Asia Pacific Conference, June 4-6, Manila, The Philippines

To hear about new social work books as they are published, sign up for our monthly social work and social policy email update

Not a history of social work, but a history of social workers

Dave Burnham’s new book The Social Worker Speaks: A History of Social Workers Through the Twentieth Century has just been published. It charts the motivations, work activities and attitudes of social workers across the country from 1904 to 1989, and includes the words and thoughts of social workers themselves.

Below is an edited extract from the author’s introduction. You can read the introduction in full, and get further information about the book on our website.

This book is about social workers; the ordinary men and women across the twentieth century who toiled on society’s front line. The account describes their motivations, work practices and interventions, wherever possible in their own words, set against social and cultural developments, legislative changes and practice requirements. To allow the narrative to flow, the tale returns regularly to the social workers in one town.

This is no history of ‘Social Work’ the profession, it is about individual social workers. This is an unusual approach so I shall explain what I have done.

Most histories of social work are partial, concentrating on particular aspects of the profession, or on grand characters in social work, pioneers such as Octavia Hill or Eileen Younghusband. Other histories have a clear focus on a particular field of activity or organisation: hospital social work, psychiatric social work, the Children’s Society. Some histories of social work published towards the end of the twentieth century focus on various crises in social work, from the mid seventies onwards, when social work’s status and role was questioned from the left and its very purpose questioned from the right.

Read any of these histories and look for individual social workers and the reader will not find them – very few mention front line workers or discuss their day-to-day experience.

The partiality of such histories, histories without people, is akin to the way histories of the Great War were presented until Martin Middlebrook’s First Day on the Somme (1971) was published with its direct quotes from 500 ordinary soldiers involved. When Middlebrook submitted his manuscript Penguin asked Corelli Barnett to review it. A fine historian of the Great War in the traditional vein, Barnett commented that Seigfried Sassoon and Henry Williamson had already told the tale from the trenches so Middlebrook’s book was not necessary. But Sassoon and Williamson were both middle class, both writers, both educated and had been officers. Barnett just did not get it. Penguin published Middlebrook’s book and it has sold 40,000 copies (Middlebrook 2004). Subsequently, first class scholars like Lyn McDonald (The Roses of No Man’s Land, 1980; 1914, 1987) followed Middlebrook’s lead and now no account of the Great War would be considered complete without observations about and from men in the trenches.

This gap in the history of social work has broader connotations. Consider the idea of the social worker available to the general population. There are, I would contend, three broad public images.

There are those unfortunates caught up in child deaths or other failings: real people involved in thankfully short-lived media storms, but as silent and furtive on TV news bulletins as murder suspects as they scuttle into buildings holding enquiries. Then there are the fleeting, ill-drawn but invariably wooden figures who occasionally appear in TV soaps, interviewing the main characters who want to become foster parents, or whose dad can no longer cope. The third example is Clare in the Community.

Compare this stilted, demeaning set of images with the idea the general population has of teachers for instance or doctors, priests, nurses or police officers. Novels, radio and TV dramas offer us scores of examples – Jane Tennison, Gene Hunt, James Herriot and so on. These may be inaccurate or idealised, but they breathe; they live.

Anyone who has done the work understands that life as a social worker can be fascinating, scary and rewarding; offering horrendous insights into the way people suffer, granting flashes of achievement. But only social workers know this. Social workers have not told their stories.

The research methods used have been simple. There are three strands:

1. I undertook a survey of the literature. This included a search for unpublished MA and PhD theses as well as a review of the histories of social work written from 1900 onwards. Part of the literature search included a subcategory exploration for accounts by individual social workers. There are diaries, memoirs, some autobiographies and even a few autobiographical novels.

2. I reviewed a considerable amount of material in the Bolton History Centre (BHC), the public archive in Bolton. There is a good set of Poor Law and Public Assistance records there and records of many voluntary organisations. I have also consulted records in London, Birmingham, Manchester, York, Bury and Preston.

3. I sought out social workers from across England and contacted about 70 people seeking reminiscences. As a result of that I have taken personal testimony from 48 social workers, one or two who started before the end of the war and a few others, at the other end of the scale who are still working. There are of course contributions in the records of social work associations from front line workers, but I have avoided these because I wanted to capture the individual experience, not organisational or political views. Similarly I have interviewed people whose careers culminated in senior positions or in social work education and research but have deliberately not asked them about their years of leadership or their time in academia.

Any historian, especially one personally involved in the area of study, as I have been since 1973, cannot escape the accusation of having some agenda. I trained as a probation officer on a Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) course at Leicester University between 1973 and 1975. I worked as a probation officer for three years in Nottingham, then latterly as a child care social worker in Manchester before moving away into training and management in the 1980s. I am married to a social worker. Some of my best friends are social workers. So I have some conscious biases and no doubt unconscious ones too.

Of conscious biases underpinning the approach to this text, I lay claim to three. First of all I offer a vehicle for people to tell their tale and try to report people’s views directly. I suppose I am following J.R. Green whose observations of charitable workers are quoted in Chapter One. Green was a clergyman-turned historian who rejected the Rankian claim that all history is the history of politics and diplomacy, refuting drum and trumpet history as he called it, and wrote instead about people.

Secondly I have tried to uncover the tales of people whose roles have been largely ignored in previous histories. So part of the aim here is to tell the tales of those social workers working before 1948 under the Poor Law. Thirdly I have deliberately attempted to consult a broad and non-traditional evidence base.

Using personnel records, memoirs and novels as material for a history of social workers brings to mind R.G. Collingwood’s observation that historical understanding develops sometimes with the use of evidence historians have hitherto thought useless. Butterworth’s admonition to historians to empty their minds is impossible but I have tried to stand outside the system, at a distance looking in, leaving my contemporary baggage at the door.

Despite it all I have no doubt brought my own biases to bear here. But in doing so I hope I have produced a solid and colourful contribution to the debate. While succeeding histories on the same subject may not be cumulative, differing approaches, contrasting views and even conflict is good for debate and increases the readers’ ability to reach or reconsider his or her own truth. So partial as this history is, if it offers a different angle on the past or encourages anyone to seek out the history of social workers in their own area, it has done its job.

Dave Burnham

More about The Social Worker Speaks: A History of Social Workers Through the Twentieth Century