Reflecting on the past
Essays in the history of youth and community work
Edited by Ruth Gilchrist, Tracey Hodgson, Tony Jeffs, Jean Spence, Naomi Stanton and Joyce Walker

To see sections of this book in a PDF, please click here.

This book is designed to encourage the search for better solutions, more enlightened policies and ways of working with young people that stimulate dialogue and democracy rather than uniformity and conformity.

The essays show the authors' enthusiasm and determination to expose and preserve the cord of history linking contemporary practitioners with those who went before.

Thoughtful reflection on what once worked - and what did not - is, however, often perceived by those pushing an agenda of reform as something that merely slows down implementation.

According to their world view, concern for the ideas and movements that brought us to where we are today is a distraction. History is relegated to the status of 'hobby', and the cord linking us to the past is no longer seen as a precious thread offering a route to greater understanding, but as a rope tied to a sheet-anchor preventing progress.

Excluded from the policy forum, and driven from the academy and lecture-hall, the study of the history of community and youth work has, as a result, become an oppositional activity.

As a branch of learning it will almost certainly be more vigorous and vibrant as a result of that exclusion. In this absorbing book it is also underpinned by the editors' belief that dissent is an essential component of intellectual and social progress.

This book accompanies the History of Youth and Community Work Conference at Northern College, near Barnsley, 14th - 16th October 2011.

Paperback. 192 pages. 9781905541737. Published February 2011. £24.95


All those who work with young people - youth and community workers, social workers, teachers - as well as students, researchers, lecturers, tutors.



The development of youth work with girls and young women in the nineteenth century
Tony Jeffs & Jean Spence, both Durham University

A journey through the history of social pedagogy
Gabriel Eichsteller, ThemaPra Social Pedagogy

Amelia Earhart, occupation: social worker
Dan Conrad, University of Minneapolis

From Raikes' revolution to rigid institution, Sunday schools in twentieth century England
Naomi Stanton, Open University

HMI Inspectorate and youth work, 1944 - 2009
Tom Wylie

Anomalous identities, youth work amidst 'trashy daydreams' and 'monstrous nightmares'
Simon Bradford, Brunel University

Crossing borders: reflections on Scotland's first experimental youth centre
Annette Coburn & Brian McGinley, Strathclyde University

The Kingston Youth Service: space, place and the Albemarle legacy
Jon Ord, College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth

Lessons from the USA National Youthworker Education Project
Sheila Oehrlein, Minnesota Dept of Education

Rise and fall of the National Community Development projects 1968-1978: lessons to learn?
Keith Popple, London South Bank University

From CYSA to CYWU: A radical journey subverted
Tony Taylor, In Defence of Youth Work Campaign


Tony Jeffs
is an editor of Youth and Policy, part-time teacher Durham University and member of the Institute of Applied Social Research, Bedfordshire University.

Jean Spence Durham University School of Social Sciences and member of the editorial board of Youth and Policy.

Tracey Hodgson is a member of the Youth and Policy editorial board and a researcher working with Durham University and West End Women and Girls' Centre, Newcastle.

Naomi Stanton is researching Christian formation in young people at the Open University. She is also a part-time youth worker and a member of the editorial board of the journal Youth and Policy.

Joyce Walker University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Youth Development.


"This book is a valuable contribution to youth work, reminding everyone of the long history of the profession... At a time when the profession is under threat, it is good to take heart from these histories and to use them as a resource for imagining the future." Children and Young People Now.

"The book sets out to chart the history of youth and community work in an engaging and challenging fashion. The 'case' for exploring history is succinctly made... This is a book about the construction of professional identity, positioning, meaning and purpose. It is intended to challenge current thinking and direction in youth and community work with the editors seeing the book as 'oppositional activity'... it foregrounds the importance of engaging with and understanding history in order to build stronger and relevant practice... Matters of professional identity, leadership and the impact of managerialism are debated against a shifting backdrop of competing demands, expectations and priorities... A concern to stimulate debate about democracy, participation, social justice and equality lies at the heart of the volume. I would recommend this book to those in training, practitioners and mangers of youth and community services. Those interested in young people and the factors that can shape and influence their lives will also find interest." Children and Society.