Written with my colleagues Sue Anderson-Faithful, Alys Blakeway and Stephanie Spencer the chapter on Life Histories in volume 5 of A Cultural History of Education in the Age of Empire explores educational life history through Cremin’s view of educational biography as a “life history prepared with educational matters uppermost in mind” (1980: 588). It uses Cremin’s view of life history to examine aspects of the educational lives of three women whose educational activism during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries spanned homes, schools and voluntary organisations: Charlotte Yonge (1823–1901), Mary Sumner (1828-1921) and Charlotte Mason (1842-1923). Cremin maintains that individuals bring their histories to their interactions with “configurations” of educational institutions, which he describes as “the multiplicity of individuals and institutions that educate” and which include parents, peers, siblings, friends, families, churches, synagogues, libraries, museums, settlement houses etc. “Each configuration”, writes Cremin, “interacts with the others and within the larger society that sustains it and that is in turn affected by it” (Cremin 1976: 30-36). As a result, argues Cremin, life histories demonstrate commonalities but also “variegations” and variegations as they play out in the women’s lives in different ways with different outcomes. It argues that Cremin’s notion of configurations resonates with Goodson’s (1995: 12) attention to “genealogies of context”. Following Tamboukou (2008) it concludes that the meaning that life histories generate is only accessible to the tellers and listeners of the stories, not to their protagonists, at least in the moment of action
Sue Anderson Faithful, Alys Blakeway and Stephanie Spencer, Life Histories, in A Cultural History of Education in the Age of Empire, edited by Heather Ellis (Bloomsbury, 2020), 155-175.