Albert Mansbridge (1876-1952): Habits, Culture & Belief

Most of us are aware of Mansbridge as the man who co-formed the Worker’s Education Association (WEA) and, as a result, are aware of his belief and desire for the equal academic opportunity for everyone. However, few of us are aware of any of his other beliefs, his habits outside of the WEA and even the cultures with which he was associated. In order to fully understand Mansbridge as a person we must further investigate who he was outside of his working life.

Mansbridge explains that, as a young boy he enjoyed cricket and often participated in the local school games. Though he was critical of his abilities, he was not unskilled:

‘I was never a first-rate cricketer, but I kept wicket in our matches […] As a bowler I was indifferent. Once, before a county match, I bowled to W. G. Grace. He said to me: “Give the ball to someone who can bowl decent stuff.” […] On Saturdays, when we were not playing, there was the famous Battersea team to watch’ (Mansbridge, 1940, 18).

Mansbridge reveals his youthful joy in this passage and we see the more human side of him. As someone of such immense accomplishment, things such as his beliefs and hobbies can be shadowed by his achievements. This Joyful description of his boyhood sportsmanship reveals his more relatable side and allows us to see who he was outside of his working life.

With regards to his beliefs and his religion, it is rare to find works in which he discusses the topic aside from in his memoirs. In The Trodden Road Mansbridge goes to great effort in order to explain his beliefs, his religion, and also, his reflections on what caused and developed them. Before he begins to discuss his beliefs, Mansbridge philosophically declares that:

It is thus in his late years that a man may rightly consider his beliefs in the light of his experience. He recognizes increasingly that all that he has been or done has depended upon great forces, natural or spiritual, working in him, not generated by his own volition, but rising out of the reality of things (1940, 215).

We can see from this passage that, despite being a heavily religious man, Mansbridge is (and has always been) a man of reality. Even as a child he was aware of the difficulties of educating working class men and boys (see ‘Education and Schooling’) and sought alternative routes through academia as opposed to putting strain on his father by continuing down a much more straightforward road to university. It appears to suggest that Mansbridge is unsure what to believe about fate, ‘great forces’ spirituality and nature. This is because everything that he has been through has caused him to question everything – religion, fate, life etc.

Mansbridge’s beliefs and culture had moulded him into the successful academic that he is eternally known as. His Politics and Protest were heavily embedded with his beliefs and, in a less secular society, it is easy to see why they flourished – As Bernard Jennings notes:

Mansbridge’s religious idiom appealed not only to church leaders anxious to do something practical to help the workers, but also to socialists who lambasted capitalism with quotations from the sermon on the mount (Jennings, 2004, n.pag).

Here we see that Mansbridge’s beliefs and culture were not only deeply rooted in his religion and experience, but were also firmly planted into all of his work and projects. Mansbridge was more than just an academic who fought for the equal educational opportunity for the working classes, he was a keen cricketer and a devout believer in God. When looking at a man of such massive accomplishment, it is always refreshing to see the more human side to them.


 

Bibliography:

Jennings, Bernard.  ‘Mansbridge, Albert (1876–1952)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 2004. Web. Accessed 20/12/2015.

Mansbridge, Albert. The Trodden Road. London: Temple, 1940.

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