© 2014

A Social History of Student Volunteering

Britain and Beyond, 1880–1980

  • Authors

Part of the Historical Studies in Education book series (HSE)

About this book


Using a wide range of student testimony and oral history, Georgina Brewis sets in international, comparative context a one-hundred year history of student voluntarism and social action at UK colleges and universities, including such causes as relief for victims of fascism in the 1930s and international development in the 1960s.


fascism Nation nationalism Privileg service social change social history university

About the authors

Georgina Brewis is Senior Lecturer in the History of Education at UCL Institute of Education, University College London, UK.

Bibliographic information


“Georgina Brewis’s study of volunteering by students in the long twentieth century is a very welcome, timely and engaging addition to both the history of education and the history of voluntary action. … Brewis’s book provides rich insight into the evolution of student volunteering over a long twentieth century, and into the shifts in British history more broadly; it deserves to be read by a wide range of historians, not just those interested in education or social policy.” (Kate Bradley, The English Historical Journal, Vol. 131 (553), December, 2016)

“The book is clearly structured. The argument in each chapter is signposted with detailed headings and illustrated with well-chosen images. The book deserves to be widely read not only by historians of education and voluntary action but also by historians of politics and society in twentieth-century Britain. It will be of particular interest to historians of activism, gender, social policy and transnationalism, who will find that student volunteering is pertinent to the study of each of these fields.” (David Ellis, Twentieth Century British History, March, 2016)

“This book is an important contribution to an emerging field focusing on students, the student experience and student actions. … Brewis has done an excellent job of searching out and using a variety of student sources and demonstrating how rich and useful they can be both for histories of students and for a wide variety of issues and phenomena across twentieth-century British history.” (Jodi Burkett, Cultural and Social History, February, 2016)

“Georgina Brewis’s lively and thorough exploration of student volunteering is a particularly fresh contribution to our understanding of the history of higher education in Britain, focusing as it does on a range of activities that students undertook alongside, but largely independent of, their formal studies. … This is a book that is full of new material and insights. … This is an essential resource for anyone interested in the history of higher education and its wider social impact.” (John Field, History of Education, Vol. 45 (6), 2016)

“Georgina Brewis’ new book … makes an important contribution to the under-researched role of students in university history. … a highly detailed and engaging account of the hidden history of student volunteers and their activities in British universities. … Those interested in the history of women students will find A Social History of Student Volunteering a highly valuable text. … Brewis’ work is a perfect starting point from which cross-disciplinary work exploring student political and social engagement can be developed.” (Sarah Webster, Contemporary British History, Vol. 29 (4), 2015)

"Brewis' meticulous study of the history of student volunteering over a hundred-year period from the 1880s onwards does an awful lot to debunk the myth that the present day is an exceptional time for student volunteering. Focusing primarily, although not exclusively, on the experiences of student volunteering in the UK, the book explores different phases and practices of student volunteering and how this activity has developed in relationship to the expansion of higher education over the century. The book is structured chronologically and considers how different historical periods were associated with distinctive practices of student volunteering. The overarching theme of the book is that the history of student volunteering cannot be separated from the wider history of higher education, student experience and key social, political and economic events. The book will be of considerable interest to a range of scholars including historians of higher education and voluntarism but also to those working with student volunteers in the present day as it emphasises the need to locate student engagement within wider political and social debates and to understand how current practices are influenced by previous modes of engagement." - Voluntary Sector Review

"This book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history of voluntary action or the history of higher education. Georgina Brewis' book provides us with a huge amount of detail and creates a much 'thicker' history and nuanced understanding of student voluntarism. Researchers in this ?eld will be able to mine it for a wide range of useful information and insights. A very worthwhile read." - Economic History Review