Brian Simon and the Struggle for Education

Gary McCulloch, Antonio F. Canales, and Hsiao-Yuh Ku

ISBN: 9781787359819

Publication: September 21, 2023

What is this?

This is the first full-length study of the life and career of Brian Simon (1915-2002), leading Marxist intellectual and historian of education in twentieth-century Britain. Using documentary sources that have only recently become publicly available, it reveals the remarkably broad range of Simon’s life as student, soldier and school teacher, Communist Party activist, and educational academic, campaigner and reformer. In a sympathetic biography that yet retains critical distance, the authors analyse Simon’s contribution to Marxism and the Communist Party. They explore the influence of both on his work as a historian of education and trace the significance of his Marxist beliefs, political associations and historical approach to the cause of educational reform. In so doing, they consider the full nature and limitations of Simon’s achievements in his struggle for education. Unlike many Marxist scholars he remained loyal to the Communist Party in the 1950s, which damaged his reputation as a public intellectual. Nevertheless, his support for comprehensive education helped to promote egalitarian educational reforms in Britain, although he was later unable to provide sufficient resistance to the 1988 Education Reform Act and to a decline in the position of the comprehensive schools.

In all this, the significance of Simon’s family, and especially his relationship with his wife Joan is to the fore. Joan and Brian forged a formidable 60-year partnership, in politics and the Communist Party as well as in life, that lasted until Brian’s death in January 2002. 

Gary McCulloch is the inaugural Brian Simon Professor of the History of Education and the founding director of the International Centre for Historical Research in Education (ICHRE) at the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society.

Antonio Fco Canales is Doctor in History at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain) and Full Professor in History of Education at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain).

Hsiao-Yuh Ku is an associate professor at the National Chung Cheng University in Taiwan.  

List of figures

1 Introduction 

2 The making of a Marxist intellectual 

3 Soldier and school teacher in the 1940s 

4 Marxism, psychology and pedagogy 

5 An emerging public figure 

6 Chairman of the National Cultural Committee of the Communist Party 

7 Campaign for comprehensive education 1951-1979 

8 Defending comprehensive education 1979-1990   

9 Afterthoughts and last words 


Format: Open Access PDF

B&W photo/halftones

Copyright: © 2023

ISBN: 9781787359819

Publication: September 21, 2023

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