Albert Mansbridge was very active in the realm of politics. As well as having a heavy influence on the Labour Party, he repeatedly challenged the British government over class inequality in the education system. Mansbridge would come to form and participate in some of the most influential and important political and educational associations and committees of the 20th century.
In The Trodden Road Mansbridge explains the crisis which Britain faced:
My wife and I, together with our immediate friends, were convinced that the future of England would depend largely upon the development of education in the widest possible sense among working men and women, who constitute by far the largest proportion of the population (Mansbridge, 1940, 48).
His own schooling having been ended at the age of 14, Mansbridge was determined to prevent this injustice happening to people in the future. In an article recognizing his political accomplishment, David Thompson stated that ‘it is noticeable that in later life his severest criticisms were reserved for a social system that allowed children’s education to suffer because of material deprivation’ (1989, 8). Mansbridge was clearly inspired by his struggles as a boy and was thus motivated to protest against the policies which had caused such difficulty for him and many others.
Mansbridge participated in a number of organizations which he used to help fuel and support his opposition to the oppressive educational system of the time. As mentioned in War and Memory, he served on the Board of Education for nine months consecutively. Both before and after this time he spent trying to better the education policies for the working classes of Britain in the 20th century.
‘A major breakthrough occurred in 1907 when the WEA and Oxford University held a conference on, ‘What Oxford Can Do for the Work People’. The subsequent report, ‘Oxford and Working-Class Education’, outlined a plan to raise university standards and to open up its recruitment’ (Simpson, 1994, 4).
The result of this report led to the creation of the Central Joint Advisory Committee on Tutorial Classes (Fig. 1), selected group consisting of 7 nominated members from Oxford along with 7 members of the WEA. By opening up university recruitment, Mansbridge had begun to break the barrier between class and education. What had once been an impossible task was now possible thanks to the political movements of Albert and Frances Mansbridge, the WEA and many other organizations.
Following a brief economic struggle in 1916, Mansbridge founded: ‘the Church Tutorial Classes Association in 1918, the World Association for Adult Education in 1919, the Seafarers Education Service in 1920, and the British Institute of Adult Education in 1921’ (1940, 93). From this brief, and in no way exhaustive, list of organizations we can see the massive impact that Mansbridge had. In an attempt to protest the twisted system and its classist education, Mansbridge formed a number of groups to lobby government and solve the lack of adult education that festered in the early 20th century.
‘Central Joint Advisory Committee on Tutorial Classes, 1909’. Union History. N. d. Accessed 12/1/2016
Mansbridge, Albert. The Trodden Road. London: Temple, 1940.
Simpson, T. A. ‘The Relevance of Early Educators’ Ideas for Modern Teacher Educators’, Eric. Web. 1994. Accessed 12/10/2015
Thompson, D. ‘Albert Mansbridge and a fresh coat of paint’. History Today, 39. 8 (1989): 7-8