Margaret Cole (1893–1980): Following the Road of Educational and Social Progress
Soon after the Second World War, Margaret Cole, historian of the Labour movement, journalist and author, wrote a single volume of autobiography entitled Growing Up Into Revolution. In the preface, the reader is invited to accept that in writing it her ‘intention is not merely to recount the events of one not particularly important life, but to present a picture, as seen through the lens of one mind and one set of experiences, of the revolution of our times’ (1949, p. v). The life is described in some detail but it is interwoven with reflection on major shifts in early twentieth-century Britain. Margaret Cole’s writing suggests she was influenced by Beatrice Webb’s autobiography, My Apprenticeship, published in 1938. In her biography of the Fabian sociologist who became her close friend and research mentor, Cole makes a case for My Apprenticeship as ‘an autobiography of a remarkable kind’. First and foremost it shows no personal malice, has a historian’s eye for narrative and a sociologist’s experience of presenting the individual as a social being. For these reasons, it ‘is far from being a book of simple reminiscence’ (Cole, 1945, p. 153). Emulation of this exemplar aside, it follows that Margaret Cole’s generic labelling of her own 1949 autobiography as ‘reminiscence’ is significant.
KeywordsLabour Movement Labour Party Political Space Woman Writer Religious Doubt
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