Where Lesser Angels Might Have Feared to Tread: The Social Science Research Council and Transmitted Deprivation

Welshman, John (2009) Where Lesser Angels Might Have Feared to Tread: The Social Science Research Council and Transmitted Deprivation. Contemporary British History, 23 (2). pp. 199-219. ISSN 1361-9462

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The histories of the relationship between government policy and the direction of social science research, and of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), have begun to attract attention in recent years. In this work, the SSRC's research programme on transmitted deprivation (1974–82) has generally had a minor role. Most often, it has been argued that it was the disappointment of Sir Keith Joseph with the research programme that fuelled his contempt for social science and his attempt, as Secretary of State for Education and Science, to abolish the Research Council. However, while the programme has recently been investigated in relation to other themes, the significance of the SSRC's involvement has neither been fully drawn out, nor integrated with the broader secondary literature on the history of social science research. The argument of this paper is that there is very little hard evidence that it was Joseph's dissatisfaction with the research programme that led to his attack on the SSRC. More interesting is the way the episode provides insights into the SSRC and the outlook of a generation of social scientists. The Research Council took the programme on for political reasons, it remained embarrassed about its ideological origins and it faced difficulties in promoting multidisciplinary research. Thus, this study shows the problems that can emerge when social scientists engage in research commissioned by their political masters.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Contemporary British History
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? deprivationesrc keith joseph social science ssrc transmittedhistorydevelopmenthistorypolitical science and international relationssafety researchcultural studiesda great britain ??
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Deposited On:
25 May 2012 12:49
Last Modified:
15 Jul 2024 12:51