A.W Todd: “The Intellectuals”

Whilst the topic of education isn’t on Todd’s agenda during the writing of his memoir, he does allude to the role of intellect in the working-class work place. “If a lad was intellectually inclined, his ambition was to get into the Drawing Office,” Todd tells us. Though, as he explains, “an opportunity only occurred more by luck than judgment.”

As fate would have it, the stars aligned and Todd’s luck was in, being called by his manager and given the opportunity. As established, Todd’s life as represented in his memoir is intrinsically linked to his working life and so when promotion and progression came about he was, as you would probably expect, elated. Turning up to work wearing a smart suit, being celebrated by his old apprentice friends and being responsible for some architecture on a church that he still walked past forty years later were a great source of pride for the hard-working stonemason. Disappointingly, the suited stonemason didn’t enjoy his tenure for very long as the man he replaced returned to work after fracturing his arm. Still, a nice addition to his portfolio in the meantime.

Whilst Todd doesn’t allude directly to education, it is latent in his observations of the men he worked with being of a particular intellect. His detailing of a man’s theory that the definition of noise is a vibration on the ear drum and therefore if a bomb was to be dropped in the middle of the desert it would not make any noise because there would be no ear drums is not only an early version of the old “If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?” riddle but it also somewhat presents the thinking, intellectual working class worker.

The idea present in Todd’s chapter on “The Intellectuals” shows us the way that even working-class work can be and was divided based on education and intellect. This doesn’t necessarily incite a class division, however. Todd’s memoir, even throughout his promotion, retains its working-class identity.


‘A.W. Todd’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:1030

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.