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Doing critical qualitative and ethnographic work across an academised educational landscape
Christy Kulz, Ruth McGinity, and Kirsty Morrin

This introduction explores the evolution and exponential growth of the academies programme as both a policy and social intervention over past 12 years. The chapter covers the development of the Multi-Academy Trust framework and how Local Authorities are remade. Through this process, historical moral panics around education provision and Thatcherite reforms are revisited and tied to an increasingly authoritarian present. The rationales used to support academisation are fluctuating and highly contingent, as the chapter explores how academisation ties to neoliberalism as it relocates schools from the public sphere to a less accessible patchwork of privatised spaces while also claiming to promote social justice. England displays a hyper-realised version of a wider international policy reform movement, whereby this reform strategy relies on evidencing continual progress through comparable quantifiable data presented as objective and neutral. This chapter emphasises how the book steers away from reductive quantitative measures to train its focus on a careful qualitative attention to the everyday life of academy schools across England. The chapter interrogates how knowledge is produced and attempts to destabilise dominant narratives by highlighting how critical qualitative and ethnographic methodologies can yield crucial insights into the project of academisation.

in Inside the English education lab
Ester Lo Biundo

This chapter investigates relations between the Italian broadcasters and British government institutions. It focuses on three aspects: their internment in British camps in June 1940, when Italy entered the war; the Free Italy movement, founded by Italian anti-fascists in Britain; and the problems encountered by some of them in 1943 when, after the Allied landings in Sicily, they wanted to return to Italy, where they felt they were needed for the liberation cause.

While many Italian refugees wrote memoirs about a very positive experience at the BBC, they also encountered serious political issues in Britain. By analysing some correspondence between Italian refugees, the Foreign Office and the international department of the British Labour Party, the chapter reflects on how the relations between these Italians and Britain’s ‘enemy-friend’ government were not always easy.

When Italy entered the war in June 1940, some of the Italian exiles, including Uberto Limentani and the Treves brothers, were already working for the BBC. And yet they were interned as ‘enemy aliens’.

Another interesting fact that emerges from the Labour Party documents is that some of the Italian broadcasters at the BBC had an ambiguous political past.

Clearly, the anti-fascist cause itself was not among the priorities of the British government. Winning the war was far more important. While these data are not surprising at all in a war context, they are evidently in contrast with the myth of the BBC as the guarantor of anti-fascism and resistance.

in London calling Italy
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Ester Lo Biundo

This chapter concentrates on the Italian Service by mainly focusing on primary sources, including pamphlets published by the BBC, the BBC’s internal correspondence, letters between members of the BBC and the Manchester Guardian, and Foreign Office directives for the BBC Italian Service.

The first section explains when the service was set up, who were the first people involved in the project and what political agenda was followed. It also focuses on the profiles and careers of three important figures at the BBC Italian Service: the two wartime editors Cecil Jackson Squire Sprigge and Cecil Frederick Whittal, and the broadcaster Colonel Harold Raphael Stevens.

The second part gives an overview of programme titles and themes. This section also refers to translation issues experienced during the early months of the service as well as the use of music as a tool to successfully engage with the Italian population.

The third and last section analyses some Political Warfare Executive (PWE) guidelines for the BBC Italian Service to show how a typical directive from the Foreign Office was structured.

Again, in this case, ordinary Italians were at the centre of the BBC’s interest.

The dual nature of the BBC Italian Service also emerges from this chapter. While elaborating ideas to entertain and inform the Italians, the propagandists ultimately aimed at Italy’s defeat.

in London calling Italy
Natalia Aleksiun

In this chapter, Natalia Aleksiun offers a collective biography of a cluster of Jewish medical students from eastern Europe studying in interwar Vienna, many of whom left Europe altogether in the postwar period. As Aleksiun demonstrates, the Holocaust and the Cold War are two watershed moments that lie, so to speak, between the object of study (students in interwar Vienna) and the memories, localities and narratives of the protagonists. The global language of the medical profession was the madeleine that transposed and connected these former students’ postwar selves with their past. In this way, Aleksiun not only argues that it was the universality of medical knowledge that allowed her protagonists to bridge and translate ruptures of time, such as the Holocaust; she also explores how their memories of the Holocaust and of their pre-Holocaust lives were shaped by their actual locality, thus showing that global processes, such as the breakdown of the Habsburg Empire and the Cold War, were co-constituent of a memory-formation that is often understood solely in relation to the Holocaust.

in Global biographies
Ismay Milford

In Ismay Milford’s study of the Zambian nationalist Munukayumbwa Sipalo, she unpacks the observation, made by a fellow activist, that Sipalo was ‘just an African radical’. Milford establishes that Sipalo was part of both the project of Zambian nationalism and the global Third World project, while also being marginal to both projects at various times. Milford traces Sipalo’s uneasy engagement with Zambian nationalism and his largely unsuccessful attempts to participate in the large-scale Third World project of decolonization and independence. This move allows Milford to suggest that we need to recognize the Third World project and its agents as ‘more complex, more conflict-ridden, less state-centric, and less heroic than [suggested by] the conventional narrative’. Indeed, what appears exceptional about Sipalo, Milford concludes, may be normal in terms of how political struggles unfolded for many activists of and in the Third World. In this chapter, the notion of the exceptional normal works to generate important insights into the exclusive elements of the Third World project.

in Global biographies
BBC broadcasts during the Second World War
Author: Ester Lo Biundo

During the Second World War the BBC established many of its foreign services.

The ambiguity of Radio Londra, as the BBC was known in Italy, is clearly reflected in the broadcasts of the BBC Italian Service. The British station was both the voice of an occupier and a liberator of Italy from Nazi fascism. Despite this, the radio is mainly remembered as the authentic voice of anti-fascism and resistance.

By analysing, from a transnational perspective, archive material collected in Italy and the UK, this book aims to understand why the BBC programmes have become one of the myths of Italian cultural heritage of the Second World War. To what extent were the Italian exiles at the BBC independent from the government? How did the programmes engage with ordinary Italians, and how did Italian civilians receive them?

The book also investigates the role played by transnational broadcasts in offering ordinary people a window onto a foreign world, and the contribution of foreign refugees living in the UK to the war effort and the development of the BBC. The book claims that the Corporation did play an ambiguous role, but it was the reception of the programmes in Italy at the time that created the myth of the BBC as an authentic supporter of Italian anti-fascism. It also argues that one of the key reasons for the success of the Italian Service was its ability to engage with ordinary people and address their concerns during the difficult years of the war.

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Hester Barron

The limited horizons of children brought up in the capital city of empire was a frequent lament among educationalists, and the general importance of a geographical awareness was increasingly promoted in the years after the First World War. This chapter examines the ways that children learnt about the world around them, whether local, national or global. In London, local civic pride was important and, indeed, could provide the basis on which a deeper sense of imperial and global positioning could be built. The chapter examines the different ways in which geography was taught, including through the new medium of film; the opportunities provided by school journeys which enabled children to experience different landscapes; and the teacher-exchange or pen-pal schemes through which children might hear of life in other countries. Some schools also had foreign children on the roll, and there was a significant number of Jewish pupils in many of London’s schools. Of course, London schools did not exist in a bubble. They were geographically situated in a crowded capital city whose residents and businesses encompassed a host of varied interests. Even if children missed the classroom messaging, the grounding of schools in their local community meant that the school experience was always going to be bound up in the world around them.

in The social world of the school
Experiencing and negotiating the socialist project in Iceland
Rósa Magnúsdóttir

The year 1956 was not easy for Icelandic admirers of the Soviet Union, we learn from Rósa Magnúsdóttir’s analysis of Þóra Vigfúsdóttir and Kristinn E. Andrésson’s long love-affair with Soviet Communism. By examining the writings of two dedicated Icelandic socialist intellectuals during the early Cold War and their reactions to important developments in the Soviet Union and in socialism as such, the chapter studies the couple’s ideological belief system, which was firmly grounded in both anti-Americanism (the two were exasperated by the strong US presence in Iceland) and Soviet socialism, and their unwavering mission to expose Icelandic audiences to Soviet culture and artists. As Magnúsdóttir argues, Þóra and Kristinn – as part of a global network of socialist intellectuals who met regularly for conferences and events in Eastern Europe and Soviet Russia – were intensely convinced of the superiority and the promise of the Soviet project. ‘1956’ – a global watershed moment in Communist history – became a marker of continuity for Þóra and Kristinn, reaffirming their stubborn belief in the promises of Soviet Communism in the face of increasing evidence of its faults.

in Global biographies
A taxonomy of ice in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America
Jonathan Rees

Boston merchant Frederic Tudor became the first person to sell ice commercially in 1806. Over the course of the nineteenth century American entrepreneurs developed a great variety of uses for that product. Those uses benefited greatly from a remarkable variety of available ice. Clear or opaque, in blocks or in cubes, natural or artificial, dirty or clean, Americans both harvested and manufactured different kinds of ice for different markets. Some of this variety was the result of nature. Different quality water produced different quality ice. In fact, different parts of the same pond generally went for different prices because some parts of an ice block were cleaner than others. Similarly, water with a current produced cleaner ice than water from a lake or pond because it repelled the kinds of sediment that would stay in people’s glasses when they were done with their drinks. Some of this variety was the result of deliberate decisions by the American ice industry. Ice harvesters would drill holes in ponds and push them down to promote nature creating larger blocks. The first artificial ice manufacturers realized that stirring water as it froze produced clearer ice, for which customers were willing to pay a higher price. Yet none of these changes mattered quite so much in those many instances when their buyers only cared about price.

in Ice humanities
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Ice, culture, and economy in northern and northwestern Russia
Alexei Kraikovski

The chapter considers the role of ice in the economic life of northwest Russian modern coastal and maritime communities. It aims to discuss the link between multilevel understanding of ice on the one hand and the everyday economic strategies of the urban and coastal population on the other. In the period under study the scientific research of the ice developed alongside traditional knowledge of peasant communities. The interaction between educated society and traditional communities offers intriguing insights into the history of the ice in one of the most frozen parts of the planet. Evidence for practices of water biota exploitation in the Russian North reveals ice as a powerful actor in the life of the coastal communities, which in turn became a key factor in the development of those northerly communities. The environmental history of St Petersburg provides a counterpoint in terms of how the interaction between the growing capital city and ice offered up a spectrum of opportunities for activities while interfering with the city’s dependence on water-based transportation.

in Ice humanities