Today two new podcasts have been added to History SPOT.  The first is from our Sports and Leisure History seminar and looks at women racers in the early twentieth century at Brooklands race track.  The second is from our Voluntary Action History seminar which takes a look at philanthropy after the First World War in regard to education and housing.

Sport History
28 November 2011
Dr Jean Williams (De Montfort)
Speed: Towards a Collective Biography of Brooklands Women, 1907-1939

Very little has been written on the history of motor racing, which is quite an unexpected omission.  Even less has been said about women motor racers at the turn of the century such as Bertha Benz the first person to drive a motor car over a long distance: her drive took her from Mannheim to Pforzheim which is approximately 180km.  Or how about Duchess Anne d’Uzès the first European woman to pass a driving test in 1898?  Ironically, Duchess Anne d’Uzès broke the record books again one month later when she became the first person to be caught speeding!  Then there is Camille du Gast a pioneering racing driver whom Dr Jean Williams claims as deserving of a paper in her own right. 

Without a strong presence in historical writings these women and others like them have been left largely ignored.  Jean Williams attempts to de-mythologize these women racers through the use of biography. Williams does this through the example of the Brooklands race track in Surrey which allowed women more leeway than elsewhere at the beginning of the 20th century.  Case studies include that of Kay Petre and Mary Bruce.  Both these women were fascinated with speed and not only raced motor cars but also became involved in aviation.  They represent a growing national consciousness and fascination with ‘dangerous’ sports involving technologically advanced vehicles.  Williams paper therefore helps to raise awareness of this gap in the historical literature and begins to rediscover a lost part of our motor racing heritage. 


Voluntary Action History seminar
5 December 2011
Dr Mark Freeman (University of Glasgow)
A ‘movement that moves’: the settlement movement in Britain after the First World War

Abstract for this seminar:

1930s housing estateThis paper will examine how the university settlements and similar organisations reinterpreted their roles after the First World War, as British philanthropists reshaped their activities and organisational cultures in the light of wider social and political changes. Although recent work by Kate Bradley and others has begun to shift the focus of settlement historiography to the interwar and postwar periods, these institutions of organised philanthropy have usually been studied in terms of their Victorian origins rather than their twentieth-century development, despite their continuing importance in the landscape of welfare and educational provision after the First World War. This paper focuses on the emergence of representative organisations of settlements, particularly the Federation of Residential Settlements (FRS), which was established in 1920 and renamed the British Association of Residential Settlements (BARS) in 1927, and the Educational Settlements Association (ESA), which started at around the same time. The two organisations were both rivals and allies, making common cause in many individual projects while at the same time each defended robustly its own distinctive conception of the role of settlements in their communities. It is argued that, as a result of the tensions between each organisation and its members, and of their problematic relationship with each other, the settlement movement in the 1920s failed to become, in the words of the ESA executive, a ‘movement that moves’; in other words, it failed to develop a coherent vision and practice of social service. Only in the 1930s did collaborative ventures on new housing estates and in the ‘depressed areas’ help settlements to re-create the spirit of pioneering social service that had animated the pioneers of the 1880s. The paper emphasises the importance of institutional structures in promoting and impeding the development of philanthropic and educational initiatives, and shows how tensions between centre and locality restricted the effectiveness of both the BARS and the ESA. It participates in a burgeoning historiography of interwar voluntarism, as well as shedding light on the development of some less well known – but nevertheless politically important – developments in the history of adult education in this period.