My MA dissertation explores the role of the Socialist Sunday Schools (SSS) within the history of the British socialist movement, with a primary focus on the schools’ role in facilitating and cultivating a socialist culture among British working-class communities in the twentieth century. It is the aim of my dissertation to contribute to the overall history of the movement and address existing gaps within the historiography of the SSSs. In doing so, it will examine; the aims of the movement, how these shaped the movement’s educational methods and how these were applied to both children and adults; the movement’s activity within the wider community and how this influenced community life; and popular opinion of the movement, at both a national and local level.
The bursary generously provided by the SSLH allowed me to carry out a two-day research trip to the Labour History Archive (LHA) located at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. At the archive, I was able to examine the promotional literature of the movement such as pamphlets and postcards, as well as reports and minutes. These documents have been critical in giving a wider understanding of the movement’s aims and objectives, how these informed the educational methods used within the schools and, furthermore, how these were shaped over the course of the SSS movement’s history. My research trip to the LHA also allowed me to extensively analyse the yearly annuals of The Young Socialist Magazine. This has been invaluable as it gives insight into the plethora of teaching methods used within the SSSs, the propaganda disseminated by the movement and, crucial to my research, reports on the Schools’ activities within the community.
The bursary given to me has, additionally, allowed me to access the collections held online at the British Newspaper Archive which has been key to exploring popular opinion of the movement and provided further insight into the extent in which the movement was able to integrate itself into British working-class communities and community life. The financial support from the SSLH has been invaluable, not only in allowing me to undertake the extensive research required for my MA dissertation, but in providing me with the opportunity to further my archival research experience.