‘What do they know of England who only England know’: a case for an alternative narrative of the ordinary in 21st century Britain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


In 2017 it was 20 years since the publication of Assimilating Identities. Racism and Education in Post 1945 Britain (London: Lawrence and Wishart). In this study a narrative was constructed which documented the experiences of Afro-Caribbean and Asian children and families within the English education system. It was a narrative which drew largely on the education archives of the local state. Some use was made of documentary evidence generated within the black community, including oral testimony. In the intervening years there has been a shift in history practice, including history of education, towards a broadening of the source material used in the construction of narratives, most notably the use of visual sources. These years have also seen a growing interest amongst historians of education in looking beyond schooling and investigating the educational experiences associated with other sites of learning: congresses, museums, heritage sites, libraries, community centres etc. This paper aims to bring these two developments – research engagement with the visual and non school sites of learning – into dialogue by revisiting the research agenda which shaped Assimilating Identities and addressing the question twenty years on: ‘What do they know of England who only England know?


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-168
JournalHistory of Education
Issue number2
Early online date31 Jan 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Jan 2018


  • visual evidence , Brexit , Powellism , agency , history