1st Edition

The Development of the Mechanics’ Institute Movement in Britain and Beyond Supporting further education for the adult working classes

By Martyn Walker Copyright 2017
    194 Pages
    by Routledge

    194 Pages
    by Routledge

    The Development of the Mechanics’ Institute Movement in Britain and Beyond questions the prevailing view that mechanics’ institutes made little contribution to adult working-class education from their foundation in the 1820s to 1890. The book traces the historical development of several mechanics’ institutes across Britain and reveals that many institutes supported both male and female working-class membership before state intervention at the end of the nineteenth century resulted in the development of further education for all.

    This book presents evidence to suggest that the movement remained active and continued to expand until the end of the nineteenth century. Drawing on historical accounts, Walker describes the developments which shaped the movement and emphasises the institutes’ provision for scientific and technical education. He also considers the impact that the British movement had on the overseas development of mechanics’ institutes – particularly in Canada, America, Australia and New Zealand. The book concludes with a discussion of the legacy of the movement and its contribution to twentieth-century adult education.

    The Development of the Mechanics’ Institute Movement advances the argument that the movement made a substantial contribution to adult education for the working classes and provided a firm foundation for further education in Britain and beyond. It will appeal to academics, researchers and postgraduate students in the areas of education, history and sociology, as well as the philosophy of education, technical and vocational education, and post-compulsory education.

    1. Introduction  2. A Brief History of the Mechanics’ Institute Movement  3. Scientific Education offered up to 1850  4. Scientific and Technical Education 1851 – 1900  5. Social Class and Membership  6. Mechanics’ Institutes and Female Membership  7. From Rented Accommodation to Civic Pride  8. Mechanics’ Institute Libraries and the Contribution to a Public Readership  9. Analysis of Three Clusters of Mechanics’ Institutes and Their Impact on Their Local Communities  10. Expansion of the Mechanics’ Institute Movement beyond Britain  11. Conclusion and Legacy of the Mechanics’ Institute Movement


    Martyn Walker is a Principal Lecturer and researcher at the University of Huddersfield. He is a member of the Policy Research Group in the School of Education and Professional Development and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Educational Administration and History. Martyn is a member of the Royal Society of Arts and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. His work, based on the history of adult education, has been widely published in scholarly journals.

    Walker is to the congratulated for providing a solution to the problem of how further
    education for the working classes was introduced in Britain during the century but
    in addition for posing a question as to the degree that similar, or different, methods
    were used to promote this further education for the working classes in these other locations.
    Reading Walker’s book may provide some interesting further research for those
    in the “other locations” mentioned in the book.

    Barrie Brennan, Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia, Adult Education Quarterly