Geographies of Selection: Academic Appointments in the British Academic World, 1850–1939
This chapter considers the changing appointment practices of universities in late nineteenth century Britain and its empire. It shows that their reliance on the private knowledge of key men in Britain worked to extend the networks of British scholarship far beyond the British Isles. However, as the chapter goes on to show, this reliance also meant that universities’ measures of expertise were contingent upon cultures of academic sociability that were heavily raced and gendered. It suggests that the technologies of selection used by settler universities helped to create a British academic world that was both expansive and exclusionary, and points to the way the boundaries and contours of this world were mapped, not just by mileage, but also by the density and reach of personal connections.
KeywordsAppointments Trust Sociability Networks Connections Gender Race Professors Universities
The middle decades of the nineteenth century were a period that witnessed the establishment and expansion of universities throughout the British Empire. While in 1880 the number of universities in England, Scotland, and Ireland was just 11, by that date there were already 26 degree-granting institutions located in the British colonies (Pietsch, 2013, pp. 202–209). Most of these were located in the “settler colonies” of British North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, where they had been founded by self-confident colonial elites, who—although they looked to Britain—saw these institutions as symbols of the maturity of colonial societies and independent and autochthonous members within a wider British community. These “settler” universities therefore differed to those established in other parts of the “dependent” empire—in India and South East Asia and later in Africa—where educational institutions were established by British officials and were more explicitly associated with the imposition of foreign rule, language, and culture.
In their early years these settler universities offered a classical and liberal (and often religious) education that was designed to cultivate both the morals and the minds of the young men who would lead the economically successful colonial societies of the mid-nineteenth century. But by the 1870s these educational institutions were coming under increasing pressure to demonstrate their relevance to the socially diverse and rapidly expanding communities in which they were located, and their connection to the new forms of scientific and technical knowledge that was changing life for so many people. They responded to these demands in two ways. First, they expanded their local educational franchise, opening their curricula to include science, law,medicine, and engineering, and admitting women; and second, they established new links with international scholarship, investing in libraries and in mechanisms such as traveling scholarships and professorial leave-of-absence programs that were designed to carry their students and staff abroad.
But if importing books and facilitating scholarly mobility were some of the ways in which settler universities strove to reposition themselves, then attracting professors was another. “[I]t all depends on the man,” declared Sir William Ramsay, professor of chemistry at University College, London, at the Allied Colonial Universities Conference in 1903; “[i]f we had … [great] men the students would come” (Official Report, 1904, p. 112). But in their efforts to recruit “great men,” settler universities faced a number of difficulties. First, there was the problem of distance: How were colonial institutions to conduct the business of recruitment from afar? Second, there was the problem of selection itself. How should the merits of a potential candidate be assessed? For settler universities these two problems were intimately linked. The question of who could be trusted became especially important in the context of changing measures of expertise.
In the context of the British sphere, the academic appointment process has been neglected by imperial and educational historians alike. Institutional histories, memoirs, and biographies invariably speak of academic appointments in the passive voice, but behind such phrases lay a power-laden, historically contingent, and largely unexamined world of access and exclusion that had a significant influence on the workings of British and imperial academia. Relying heavily on personal systems of trust, the appointment practices of settler universities worked to extend the networks of British scholarship beyond the British Isles, creating an expansive but uneven and exclusive terrain that mapped the borders and shaped the contours of what we might think of as the “British academic world.”
Steven Shapin (1994) has argued that the “recognition of trustworthy persons is a necessary component in building and maintaining systems of knowledge, while [the] bases of that trustworthiness are historically and contextually variable” (p. xxv). In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, gentlemanly codes of civility were fundamental to the constitution of scientific truth in Britain. But according to Niklas Luhmann (1988, p. 97) and Anthony Giddens (1991, pp. 29–34), in the nineteenth century this began to change. The complex conditions of modern life meant that trust formerly placed in individuals began instead to be placed in institutions (Collini, 2006, p. 475). As part of this shift, systems that valued meritand expertise increasingly came in Britain—as they had since the eighteenth century in continental universities such as Göttingen—to replace personal patronage as the basis of appointment (Meusburger & Schuch, 2010, p. 82). The introduction of the written examination as a form of assessment in the middle of the century is often considered to have been particularly significant (Hoskin, 1982; Rothblatt, 1968, pp. 182–183; 1997, pp. 148–176; Stray, 2005b). As Phillipa Levine (1986) writes, it meant that the “criteria by which to judge quality and competence were gradually standardised” (p. 158). Bound up with the process of academic specialization, by the second half of the nineteenth century it was the credentials of universities and professional societies, rather than the word of gentleman amateurs, that served as the guarantors of reliable knowledge.
At the start of the nineteenth century, professorial chairs in British universities had been filled by various forms of political and religious patronage, while college fellowships at Oxford and Cambridge were bestowed at the discretion of governing bodies and restricted to those who met certain regional, religious, and educational qualifications. But in the middle of the nineteenth century this system of patronage came under attack. In the early 1850s the Oxford and Cambridge Royal Commissions abolished closed college fellowships, which instead began to be awarded on the basis of examination performance. Meanwhile, charges of nepotism in the 1830s instituted what might be seen as an analogous process of open competition for professorial appointments. University chairs began to be advertised, and candidates were required to present to the electors (who ranged from the Crown to all the members of a lay council or convocation) public testimonials from a wide range of figures both inside and outside academe. Ambitious to attract the very best candidates, settler universities also used this practice to select their original professors. The pages of Nature and The Athenaeum contain notifications of vacant chairs in the universities of Toronto and Sydney alongside those of University College, London, and the books of testimonials deposited in the Bodleian Library contain copies of applications to positions in Australia, Ireland, and South Africa bound with those to Edinburgh and Oxford (Testimonials, 1851, 1882).
However, the traditional story of a nineteenth-century transition from patronage to merit only partially explains the changes in academic appointments procedures that took place in this period. Older forms of privileged selection persisted. Not only was the process of presenting testimonials largely a codification of earlier patronage relationships, but it was also one that rested upon elaborate forms of covert canvassing in which candidates would race to solicit the support of the individuals they considered most influential. Under this system the election of a candidate was as dependent upon the various collegiate, religious, political, and personal loyalties he could command as it was upon considerations of expertise or merit (Stray, 2005a, pp. 1–12). In the 1850s, for example, University College, Toronto, placed advertisements in the London papers, and candidates—many of whom had been approached by friends of the university in England—sent their written applications and testimonials to Canada. But the new constitution of 1853 stipulated that all appointments required government approval, and this had a discernible effect upon the selections made. The rejection of the biologist and future president of the Royal Society, Thomas Henry Huxley, in favor of the nearly 60-year-old Reverend William Hincks, professor of natural history in Cork and brother of the provincial premier, stands out only as the most egregious of these interventions (Friedland, 2002, pp. 48–49). Forms of patronage thus remained active in both settler and U.K. institutions into the twentieth century.
The Australian and New Zealand universities presented a further complication. With the journey to Sydney or Melbourne taking 3 months, it was impractical for these universities’ foundation councils to receive candidates’ written applications and testimonials, as occurred in Canada. The Australian universities solved this problem by vesting their trust in representatives and appointing selection committees that met in London. To serve on such committees these universities wanted two kinds of people. First, they wanted individuals living in Britain who were familiar with colonial conditions, and second, they wanted the advice of what Canterbury College in New Zealand called “commissions of eminent scholars” (Hight & Candy, 1927, p. 24). The membership of Sydney’s and Melbourne’s first London committees attests to this. Both universities chose John Herschel (the prominent English scientist who in the 1830s had spent time in Cape Town), George Airy (the Astronomer Royal), and Henry Malden (the professor of Greek in London) to represent British science and scholarship, while the former secretary to Governor Fitzroy served as a local voice for Sydney, and Robert Lowe, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council and Liberal member of parliament (MP) in Britain, spoke for Melbourne. Although Australian university councils wanted the selectors on these London committees to be men distinguished by their scholarship, they were far less concerned about specific expertise: Herschel, Airy, Malden, Fitzroy, and Lowe selected men to fill a range of disciplinary positions. London committees were, however, expected to be able to act as good judges of character; a quality that, as Stefan Collini (1985) has shown, underpinned so many Victorian educational ideals. Melbourne’s first chancellor, Sir Redmond Barry, made clear that he wanted the selection committee to find professors who had “such habits and manners as to stamp on their future pupils the character of the loyal, well-bred, English gentleman,” while Otago University in New Zealand looked for a man “of irreproachable moral character” (as cited in Selleck, 2003, p. 31). And if Otago expressed a preference for candidates from the Scottish universities, both Australian universities sought first-class candidates from Oxford and Cambridge. Therefore, although they employed the technology of open competition, early Australian and New Zealand universities both delegated their recruitment to men who had scholarly connections in Britain, and emphasized that gentlemanly character should be a criterion for selection.
Assessing Specialized Knowledge
However, in the context of increasing disciplinary specialization and academic professionalization, the principles for what constituted a good professor began to change. As settler universities expanded their curricula to include the professions and the applied (and later social) sciences, a gentlemanly character and a first-class examination performance in the universal liberal curriculum of Oxford or Cambridge were no longer seen as sufficient. Instead, disciplinary knowledge, together with competence in the methods by which it was acquired, became important. The old public modes of selection and the lay and generalist committees central to them did not lend themselves easily to the assessment of these qualities, and from the 1870s on they came under intense criticism. Although no exponent of twentieth-century research, in 1868 Mark Pattison, the Oxford scholar and rector of Lincoln College, condemned the fellowship examination as “a wholly inadequate test of scientific merit” and called the presentation of testimonials, the “least defensible” “of all the modes of appointment” (p. 213). Specialized practical experience was taken to be a better index of ability in many of the new scientific disciplines.
From the turn of the century, private knowledge and specialized expertise underpinned academic appointment in Britain’s newer universities.
when the list of available candidates is before them, the members of such a Committee will pay little attention to formal testimonials, but will form their judgment on special inquiries widely pursued; and their knowledge of the learned world will enable them to judge the value and character of the evidence they thus obtain; they will also interview likely candidates in an intimate and informal way. (Hunter, Laby, & von Zedlitz, 1911, p. 49)
Yet personalized systems of trust were something settler universities had been using since the 1880s as a way of confronting the problem of distance. For junior posts, colonial “God-professors” were frequently given unilateral powers of selection (Gardner, 1979, pp. 56–67). On the one hand this enabled individuals such as Sydney’s professor of medicine, T. H. Anderson Stuart, and Toronto’s professor of history, G. Murray Wrong, to bring out from Britain men they knew personally. In the 1880s Anderson Stuart populated virtually his entire department with medical graduates from his old university, Edinburgh, while in the early 1900s Wrong did much the same withOxford historians. But on the other hand such practices also facilitated the appointment of local or on-the-spot candidates. Such appointments were frequently expedient. In the 1880s and 1890s the best men that could be found by the colleges of the University of the Cape of Good Hope, which still provided prematriculation education, were usually graduates of British universities (most often from Scotland) who were already in South Africa. Local appointments could be opportunistic; for example, the future Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frederick Soddy was made senior demonstrator (a non-tenured but sometimes senior position approximately equivalent to lecturer) at McGill University because he happened to visit its chemistry department when passing through Montreal (Yaffe, 1978, p. 15). Yet the process was also open to abuse. In Melbourne in 1884 the local newspaper leveled charges of nepotism at the university because one of the medical professors was assisted by his son, while another professor was in the process of trying to get his appointed (Selleck, 2003, p. 206).
For more senior posts, however, the established settler universities contacted disciplinary specialists and asked for their private assessment or recommendation. Using this method, the Canadian universities had from the 1880s operated what effectively were search committees. Officially, the power of appointment remained with a university’s governing body, to which recommendations would be made. But these were lay rather than academic bodies, and in practice (and sometimes also in statute) a great deal of power came to be vested in the principal or vice-chancellor who, in combination perhaps with the head of department and one or two other faculty members, conducted recruitment. Each time an appointment came up, the committee or governing body either would “invite [applications from] candidates or would proceed by method of calling someone already favorably known to them” (Peterson, W., Peterson to J. Davidson, October 10, 1900). The private recommendation of an applicant’s colleague, supervisor, or head of department was taken to be more trustworthy than their public testimonials. By writing privately both to their friends in Britain and their colleagues in the United States, Canadian university principals looked both east and south, seeking out appropriately qualified men from England or Scotland, or Canadian graduates who since the 1870s had been undertaking graduate work in the universities of the United States.
University principals were central to this process and their archives overflow with voluminous private correspondence regarding appointments. Letters to friends and colleagues—both in Britain and the US—show them soliciting the names of likely candidates, inviting applications, checking endorsements and organizing meetings. These archives point to the largely informal filtering process that preceded a recommendation to an appointment committee or governing body. In fact, on a number of occasions, McGill’s Principal Peterson expedited this process by “borrowing” the appointment lists of universities in Britain: “There have been so many elections to Chairs on the other side of the water of late,” he wrote to Professor E. B. Titchener of Cornell in 1903, “that it is altogether unnecessary to make inquiries there, as I think we are well informed as to possible candidates” (Peterson, W., Peterson to E. B. Titchener, May 1, 1903). Often official advertisements were little more than fronts, as the letter in 1901 from Principal Peterson to the University of Manchester’s Alfred Flux regarding the chair of political economy at McGill reveals. Flux and Peterson had been corresponding about the position for some time, and Flux had agreed to accept it. But “it was felt,” wrote Peterson, “that it might be more satisfactory to those who have endowed the Chair, and who do not know how much has been accomplished already by private correspondence, if we followed the usual course of throwing the Chair open to all candidates” (Peterson, W., Peterson to A. Flux, March 18, 1901). Those who responded to the advertisement in good faith must have been disappointed when Flux was eventually officially selected.
The consequence of this process was that a powerful principal could exercise significant sway in the making of appointments. But by the same token, an uninterested or poorly connected one could cause serious disruption, failing to act as a directing force on the powers of the governing body (Drummond, 1983, pp. 18–19; Friedland, 2002, pp. 234–235). Indeed, it was perhaps the lack of interest in academic matters of Arthur Currie, McGill’s principal between 1920 and 1933, that led the university to put in place statutory arrangements stipulating a board of selection for filling vacant chairs (McGill University, 1936). By contrast, Robert Falconer (principal from 1907 until 1932) was of great value to the University of Toronto because of his extensive network of contacts both in Britain and the United States. George Parkin, the first secretary of the RhodesTrust, was an old friend of his and served as something of an “agent” in Oxford, as did William Osler until his death in 1919 (on agents, see Pietsch, 2013, pp. 109–114). But Falconer’s connections also extended to America. Sitting on the board of the Carnegie Foundation, Falconer had reason to travel frequently to New York, where he came into contact with many of the leading American university men. Yet it is clear from the tone of their correspondence that the presidents and principals of the Canadian universities were far less familiar with the university world in the United States than they were with that in Britain. In this period at least, their letters to Edinburgh or Oxford—to men with whom they had studied or worked—were full of a kind of intimacy absent from those exchanged with their southern neighbors.
London Selection Committees
Australian universities also made specialized personal knowledge much more central to their appointment processes after 1880. Although their governing bodies technically retained the power of final selection, they continued to rely on London selection committees whose recommendations carried enormous weight. But the ways in which these committees worked began to change. Instead of the old generalist panels, subject-specific selectors began to be appointed. Having some connection to these selectors gave candidates an enormous advantage, as the case of W. H. Bragg shows. When Horace Lamb, the foundation professor of pure mathematics at Adelaide, resigned to take up the chair at Owens College in 1885, the South Australian agent-general, Sir Arthur Blyth, asked Lamb to join the director of the Cavendish Laboratory, J. J. Thomson, and himself on a selection committee (Jenkin, 2008, p. 64). Bragg, who at the time held an assistant lectureship at Thomson’s college in Cambridge, was on his way to attend one of Thomson’s lectures when he was overtaken by the director himself, canvassing for the Adelaide post. Thomson asked Bragg if William Sheppard, the Senior Wrangler and an Australian, was applying for the position (Wranglers are the 12 highest-scoring final year undergraduates in mathematics at the University of Cambridge; the Senior Wrangler is highest). Bragg did not know, but asked Thomson if he might himself have a chance. Thomson, much to Bragg’s surprise, replied that he would. This coincidence led Bragg to submit an application, and he was invited to attend an interview in London in December. From a field of 23 candidates, 15 from Cambridge and 14 of whom were Wranglers, Bragg was selected, and he leftEngland to take up the chair of mathematics and experimental physics at Adelaide in 1886. In much the same way as the Canadian principals, the disciplinary experts appointed to the Australian selection committees engaged in an informal process of solicitation and encouragement, making judgments based on their personal knowledge of candidates. Such was the power of these London committees that a canny candidate working in an Australian university would not send his application across the hall to the registrar, but instead forward it all the way to London (e.g., Wilson, 1889).
Bragg’s story highlights two further innovations introduced by the Australian universities in this period. First, although an Australian representative was retained on London committees, by the end of the century the return migration of some professors and the introduction of leave-of-absence schemes had helped create a growing pool in Britain of academic men who had themselves worked or studied in the colony. This meant that the Australian universities now had a group of willing and—more importantly—trustworthy representatives in Britain on whom they could depend. Indeed, as the twentieth century progressed, a growing number of these men themselves became leading figures in British scholarship. The London committee for the University of Sydney’s chair of physics in 1923 stands as an example. It included two Nobel Prize winners familiar with Australia (Professor Sir William Bragg and Professor Sir Ernest Rutherford), a former holder of the vacated Sydney chair (Sir Richard Threlfall), and a former professor of anatomy at Sydney and frequent member of its selection committees (Professor J. T. Wilson) (University of Sydney, 1923, p. 818). Increasingly, Australian universities were able to count on their own faculty and alumni to help make appointments from London.
Second, Bragg’s selection for the Adelaide chair points to the emergence in the late nineteenth century of the interview as an authenticating tool that introduced a new and even more personal method of assessment. Employed since the mid-nineteenth century in the recruitment of men for the Indian Civil Service and developing as a feature of celebrity journalism in the 1880s, the history of the interview remains unwritten. In the academic world of the late nineteenth century it was as likely to take the form of a fireside chat as anything more formal, and it was seen by selectors as something that was only necessary in the absence of other forms of personal knowledge. In 1911, the agent-general for Victoria, who was responsible for organizing the selection for a new chair of English for the University of Melbourne, made this clear. He reported that “it was not thought necessary to ask [the short-listed candidates] to attend” an interview, because the members of the committee felt they knew all the gentlemen short-listed (Agent General for Victoria, 1911). While the university sector remained small, such a coincidence was likely, but as the numbers of universities expanded in the early twentieth century, selectors could less frequently claim acquaintance with all the applicants. In this context the interview was adopted as a substitute for direct personal knowledge. For example, acting in 1919 on the advisory committee for the chair of physics at the University of Cape Town, Ernest Rutherford was led by the “impossibility of forming a personal judgment on the large majority of the candidates” to suggest that the University in South Africa should employ the Australian system of an interview in London (Rutherford, E., Rutherford to High Commissioner, April 13, 1919).
By limiting the committee—and the British applicants—to a judgment based only on the provision of written materials, the University of Cape Town reserved for itself the ability to override the London committee’s recommendations. Yet the university’s attempt to maintain local control of appointments was only partially successful, and in the interwar period the English-speaking South African universities used London selection committees with increasing frequency (Ritchie, 1918, pp. 416, 428).
you will not forget that the appointment will be made by the University itself after it has the valued aid of the Committee’s report and recommendations, and of course as far as candidates already in South Africa are concerned the University authorities may be assumed to have more personal knowledge than the Committee could possibly have (High Commissioner, High Commissioner to Rutherford, March 7, 1919).
This, the reformers thought, was “the worst method which could be devised” (Hunter, Laby, & von Zedlitz, 1911, p. 50) in appointing candidates to university posts. Instead they pressed for the institution of the method that the newer civic universities in England were beginning to use. Although they recognized that such a system was not immediately replicable in New Zealand given its “geographical circumstances,” the reformers suggested that its virtues could be maintained by appointing “a committee of selection in Great Britain.” The main drawback of such committees, they acknowledged, was that their “members [we]re not deeply enough concerned in the matter to insure [sic] the exhaustive and thorough investigation of individual cases”; with sufficient care of selection, however, this was something they believed could be overcome (p. 50).
The Council will go through the testimonials, many of its members knowing nothing of the men who testify, and being quite unable to evaluate their testimony or to make allowance for, or go behind, the notoriously misleading phraseology of these unreal documents . . . In such circumstances the decision is bound to be determined partly by paper qualifications, degrees and the like, which are always misleading, and partly by quite irrelevant considerations. (Hunter, Laby, & von Zedlitz, 1911, p. 48)
Personalized Trust Versus Government Recruitment
In their different ways, Canadian and Australian universities had in the last decades of the nineteenth century developed many of the features advocated by the New Zealand reformers in 1911. Moving away from a reliance on testimonials and generalist selectors, they had placed their faith in the private, personal recommendations of disciplinary specialists. While the Canadian universities did this through extensive search procedures that drew upon the connections of university principals and faculty members, the Australian institutions were able to depute their own former staff to act on their behalf. In doing so they overcame both of the difficulties identified by the New Zealand reformers. These expansive systems of personalized trust underpinned academic appointment procedures in most of the settler colonies up until World War II.
By contrast, in India and South East Asia a wholly other system of selection was in operation. There it was civil servants rather than universities or academics that undertook the recruitment of professors. The colleges of the Indian universities had originally been staffed by British-born teachers. Under pressure from Indian nationalists, from the 1880s they were replaced by an increasing number of Indian graduates. But a British presence was retained in the form of a “superior” graded Indian Educational Service (IES) comprising 92 members. This had been established by the Government of India in 1897 and its members were recruited through a committee of the India Office in London. Positions were advertised and selection was based upon assessment of a candidate’s written application, formal testimonials and—finally—an interview. Although the India Office endeavored to stay in close touch with the English universities and the elite public schools, the civil servants who staffed its committees continued to place great weight on teaching capacity and manly character rather than research ability or specialized expertise (Whitehead, 2003, p. 17). As far as the India Office was concerned, the Indian universities—like the African institutions after them—remained closely tied to the civilizing project, and a degree from Oxbridge together with good form on the river were ample qualifications for those who taught in them. Prizing administration over teaching (most of which was left to underpaid Indians), largely ignoring research, and rewarding longevity of tenure rather than quality of performance, the conditions of tenure in the IES further worked to discourage the best scholars from applying to these posts. Attracting British recruits to the Indian Educational Service—which was less prestigious than the Indian Civil Service and less well remunerated—became even harder in the years after 1900, when the new civic universities in England provided opportunities at home for many who formerly would have applied (Whitehead, 2003, pp. 11–18). As Calcutta’s Professor C. V. Ramen commented in 1921, “in the matter of the quality of the men sent out to us, we have been sadly disillusioned, and we have had painfully to learn the lesson of self-reliance” (Hill, 1921, p. 367). In World War I, Indian teachers began to replace IES men, and from the 1920s the universities in South Asia were effectively Indianized. Although frequently required to have a British degree, these professors were selected locally rather than in Britain, and the private recommendations of British scholars were far less important in their recruitment.
Therefore, if the period after 1880 was one in which settler universities instituted appointment procedures that relied heavily on the personal recommendations of expert British academics, it was one in which the Indian universities moved in the opposite direction. The bureaucratic management of recruitment, the hierarchical imperial cultures that shaped selection criteria, and the rise of an Indian nationalist movement that contested the institutions of imperial rule meant that the systems of personalized trust, so crucial to appointment in the settler universities, played a minimal role in India.
Geographies of Selection
By extending British academic networks to the settler colonies, these appointment practices helped create an expansive academic community in which forms of proximity and distance were measured by personal relationships as well as by accumulated mileage. At a primary level the selection practices of settler universities reinscribed the “global colour line” championed by late-Victorian writers such as J. R. Seeley, Charles Dilke, and Charles Pearson (Lake & Reynolds, 2008). Students from Africa, India, and the West Indies often found it difficult to even gain admission to British universities. “If I were a head of an Oxford College,” wrote one Colonial Office official in 1928, “possessing my present knowledge of West African students, nothing on earth would persuade me to receive one of them”; “[w]ith Indian applications,” explained one of the tutors at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, “we do not consider anybody who is not backed by the India Office” (Fiddian, 1928; Pickthorn, K., Pickthorn to the Educational Officer for West Africa, May 8, 1928). Although Indians were employed in the colleges of South East Asia and a small number of Africans found places on the staff at the South African Native College at Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape, it is difficult to find any trace of Indians or Africans applying for positions in settler universities and hard to imagine they would have been considered favorably if they had (Kerr, 1968, pp. 275–277). The exchange in 1900 between the India Office and Dadabhai Naoroji, the United Kingdom’s first Indian MP and friend to many Indian scholars in Britain, highlighted just how difficult it was for “Her Majesty’s Indians subjects” to secure senior academic appointments even in India. While Naoroji was “thankful to read” that, so long as they were “distinguished graduates of Universities of United Kingdom, . . . there [wa]s nothing to prevent the selection of the natives of India” for the Indian Educational Service, he nonetheless queried the lack of recognition accorded to Indian degrees, and perceptively noted that there remained a large question over “how this eligibility of the Indian [wa]s to be practically given effect” (Naoroji, D., Naoroji to the Under Secretary of State, June 29, 1900).
Origin and Nationality
Yet the boundaries of the British academic world were not just racial. European- or American-born applicants were only infrequently appointed to positions in settler universities. Although some Europeans did win chairs in the colleges of South and East Asia and to an extent also in South Africa and Canada, where they were prominent in disciplines such as languages and music, they were frequently confined to junior positions in the academic hierarchy. Americans were even fewer in number. Instead the professoriate at English-speaking settler universities was overwhelmingly “British” in an expansive sense. Between 1880 and 1930, 90 % of professorial appointments at Toronto, 95 % of those at Cape Town and all of those at Sydney were born either in Britain or in the colonies (Pietsch, 2010, 2013, p. 86, fn. 49). This is not to say that scholarly collaboration and exchange with European and American scholars did not take place. In the late nineteenth century significant numbers of Europeans made research trips to the settler colonies, while settler academics frequently traveled to laboratories and libraries in Europe, and in Canada’s case also the United States. The University of Sydney’s investment in German-language journals alone attests the rich trade in international publications and the influence they carried. But for the most part these intellectual exchanges did not translate into employment.
Given language differences, it is perhaps not surprising that the numbers of European-born appointments to settler institutions were not high. However, this was an obstacle that did not apply to candidates from the United States. English-speaking and from a robust university sector, American candidates might have seemed good contenders for positions in settler universities. Australian chairs in disciplines that did not have a strong presence in British universities were frequently advertised in the United States and received significant numbers of American applicants; of the 34 candidates who put their names forward for the chair of dental science at the University of Melbourne in 1924, 17 were from the United States (University of Melbourne, 1909, 1924b). But Americans were virtually never appointed to these positions, and American experience figured only marginally in the careers of Australian appointees.
In Canada, American experience was looked upon more favorably. But, as in Australia, few Americans were appointed to positions in Canadian universities. In the shadow of the cultural and economic, not to mention military, might of the United States, Canadian universities asserted their British loyalty when it came to professorial appointments. In their search for new professors, for example, Toronto and McGill sought British-born candidates on the one hand, and American-trained Canadians on the other. It was thought that both would be more “likely [than Americans] to understand the methods and needs of a Canadian University” (Harkness, J. Harkness to Peterson, March 14, 1903) But the preference for Canadian-born candidates also reflected a specifically local colonial politics. Led by James Loudon—the University of Toronto’s first “home-grown” professor, and between 1892 and 1906 also its president—the self-styled “nativist” movement that emerged in the 1870s had by the 1880s translated into a decisive shift in the balance between British- and Canadian-born professorial appointments at that university. With Loudon as president, and the government still officially controlling appointments, 75 % of those selected for permanent positions at University College between 1889 and 1911 were not just Canadians but Toronto graduates (Friedland, 2002, pp. 113–115). Although the percentage of locally born appointments dropped following Loudon’s departure, British-born professors would never again outstrip Canadians on the staff at Toronto. At the University of Sydney the same shift occurred in the 1920s when the surge in national pride attendant with Australia’s wartime contributions led to calls for “native sons” of the university to come into their own and displace their British-born “foster fathers” who were to recede appropriately into the background (Morison, 1997, p. 325). By contrast, up until World War II, the professoriate of the University of Cape Town remained dominated by British-born recruits (over 65 %), with South Africans only constituting 10 to 20 % of all new appointments (Pietsch, 2013, p. 86, fn. 54).
This predominance of colonial-born professors at Toronto and Sydney might seem to signal a localization of the trust systems fundamental to appointments procedures. But focusing only on birthplace hides the extent to which most of these “native” professors had spent an extended period of time abroad, either as students or in employment. After studying or working in Britain or the United States, they were drafted back to their country of origin by the personal processes detailed above. On the one hand, the Toronto selection processes recruited a good number of Canadians with American experience (30 %) and a significant number with European experience as well (until 1918 it also was 30 %, dropping to 15 % in the 1920s) (Pietsch, 2010). But on the other hand, Toronto’s informal search procedure recruited a professoriate that was characterized by significant British experience: 30–45 % of the professors appointed in the period 1900–1930 had spent time in Britain. Indeed, from the turn of the century there was a positive preference for British degrees, with the Canadian Universities Conference in 1911 “strongly express[ing]” its opinion that the universities “would greatly prefer to have professors who had pursued their post-graduate work in the United Kingdom rather than in the United States” (Roberts, 1911, June 6). At Sydney, meanwhile, reliance on London selection committees led to a professoriate that until 1940 was dominated by men with British experience: throughout the period over 70 % of all those appointed at Sydney had undertaken some work or study in the United Kingdom. And at Cape Town all of the professors had experience abroad, with 85 % per cent having worked or studied in Britain. Indeed, at Cape Town Scottish experience was particularly important, and it is striking that in the decade before World War II, half of those appointed had spent time in Scotland (Pietsch, 2013, p. 86, fn. 57). Therefore, despite the predominance of the “native-born” in places such as Toronto and Sydney, throughout the period all these settler universities continued to appoint large numbers of academics with British experience.
German Universities catered to us [Americans] at little cost, welcomed us with open hands and brought us into close contact with their greatest Professors. They acknowledged our credentials, initiated us into research and, with the exception of a few notorious Universities, made us work for our degrees, and sent us home with a measure of devotion to the Fatherland. Some of us caught a glimpse of the charms of the British Universities as we passed by, but no one beckoned us in. (Hill, 1921, p. 415)
Although after 1901 Rhodes scholarships brought up to 32 American students annually to Oxford, reports from 1911 suggest that, unlike their settler contemporaries, these Americans remained on the edges of Oxford life. “[T]hey live a good deal apart,” reported one college don, “and have never identified themselves with the life of the college as the colonists have.” They “have not the same incentive to work as a colonist scholar,” pointed out another; the “latter knows that honors gained at an English university will be of some help to him in after life,” whereas “[the American] feels that his future career does not depend in any appreciable degree upon our examinations” (The Carnegie Foundation, 1910, p. 58). Despite Rhodes’s intentions, the universities of the United States operated as part of a separate academic world.
The case of Edinburgh-born Thorburn Brailsford Robertson makes this clear. In 1884 Robertson migrated to South Australia as a child with his parents. He attended the University of Adelaide where he studied physiology under Professor E. C. Stirling and mathematics under W. H. Bragg. Although Robertson initially considered becoming a mathematical physicist, he was unable to find a position in Australia and without a traveling scholarship he could not go to Britain. So in 1905 he accepted a position as assistant lecturer to the leading German-born American physiologist, Jacques Loeb, in the physiology department at the University of California at Berkeley (Robertson, T. B., Robertson to Laby, September 23, 1919). Under Loeb, Robertson developed research skills and an interest in physiochemistry that would influence him for the rest of his career. He obtained a PhD, married his former Adelaide professor’s daughter, Jane Stirling, and was appointed assistant professor of physiological chemistry and pharmacology on the departure of Loeb in 1910 and full professor in 1917 (Rogers, 2006). At the end of that year Robertson accepted an invitation to lecture at the University of Toronto and this in turn led to an offer of appointment there. Pulled by the lure of British connections as well as a generous salary, he accepted the chair of biochemistry and moved to Toronto in 1918 (University of Toronto, 1918). But Robertson wanted to return to Australia. As he told T. H. Laby in 1919, despite receiving at Toronto “much larger funds for research” . . . “after fourteen years of absence, I would rather accept a moderate opportunity to do good work in Australia than any sort of opportunity whatever in America or Canada” (Robertson, T. B., Robertson to T. H. Laby, September 23. 1919). Before writing to Laby, Robertson had applied for a position at the newly founded Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Pathology in Melbourne. Yet despite his qualifications, he was “not very sanguine of obtaining the appointment.” This was because he had learnt that “the choice [was] to be made in London, where experiences of the American School [were] not viewed with favour.” Robertson lamented the system that excluded scholars like him: “I am,” he wrote, “handicapped by the comparative lack of development of my special subject in England,” and by the “system of application & selection by London committees which . . . throws all Australian appointments into the hands of a few men” who, though they may be very good men, have an outlook “necessarily . . . limited in directions which chance to be foreign to them.” “In British circles,” Robertson concluded, his “long association with America” hampered his chances of employment (Robertson, T. B., Robertson to T. H. Laby, September 23, 1919). Cut off from British disciplinary networks, he had to rely on old family connections to obtain appointment in Australia: he finally took over his father-in-law’s chair at Adelaide.
Built upon long-distance personal connections, the selection practices of British and settler universities drew the boundaries of a British academic world that included the settler colonies but that, for the most part, did not extend to Europe, India, or the United States.
Social Proximity and Distance
This British academic world had an uneven topography. The role played by personalized systems of trust in the making of appointments facilitated access for those with the right connections. It meant that particular schools and the recommendation of certain individuals could come to acquire especial weight, and well-connected candidates possessed significant advantages. The monopolization of physics and mathematics appointments by Cambridge graduates provides only one example. As early as 1885 the Earl of Carnarvon and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland wrote complaining to the agent-general for South Australia: “Irish Candidates for Educational posts have been frequently overlooked by the Colonial authorities, in mathematics especially, as these appointments are practically in the hands of Cambridge men” (as cited in Jenkin, 1985, p. 85). In physics a word from J. J. Thomson carried weight well into the twentieth century, and a recommendation from the New Zealand-born Ernest Rutherford could make or break a career. Indeed, between 1890 and 1930 these two men had a hand in virtually every physics appointment in the British settler world. Similarly, Scottish ties exercised a particular influence at Cape Town, Otago, and Queen’s University. When the Scottish-born philosopher, John Clark Murray, left Queen’s for McGill in 1872, the recommendation of Glasgow’s Edward Caird was enough to secure his student, John Watson, the post. In Canada, Watson maintained close connections not only with colleagues in Scotland but also with his Scottish contemporaries who had gone to work in the United States, and he employed these connections extensively when looking for an assistant professor in 1912 (Watson, 1912). As these examples show, networks of personal connection became associated with particular institutions, investing each with an authority that conditioned recruitment and selection.
Settler universities were acutely conscious of the value of British scholarly ties and actively sought to recruit academics from within those circles. For example, weighing the merits of the British-born, Australian-educated, and Chicago-employed Thomas Griffith Taylor as a possible head for Toronto’s new department of geography in 1929, the professor of political economy, Harold Innes, felt that “[Griffith Taylor’s] international reputation and strong connections in the United States, England (Cambridge) and Australia, Toronto and Canada [meant that he] would be placed at one stroke in a position to develop the subject under most favourable circumstances” (Innes, 1929). Similarly at Melbourne, the 1924 selection committee for the chair of dental science recommended the appointment of F. C. Wilkinson, a graduate of and lecturer at the University of Liverpool, above the only “suitable” Australian applicant—the Melbourne-trained James Monahan Lewis—on the grounds that “[Wilkinson’s] medical education and associations [in Britain] would serve to influence dental education more along the lines of medical education” (Barrett, 1924). From this angle, the preference of settler universities for British candidates does not just signal their lack of faith in the merits of their own degrees: instead it was another mechanism by which they sought to connect themselves to scholarship in Britain (Selleck, 2003, p. 504).
When the civic universities began to institute appointment practices that also relied on personalized systems of trust (in fact, their committees were often staffed by the same people who advised settler universities) the expansive nature of British academic networks also helped facilitate the movement of professors working in settler universities back to posts in Britain. The careers of the holders of the Sydney chair of chemistry provide a good example. Beginning with Archibald Liversidge (professor at Sydney from 1874 to 1907), four successive professors of organic chemistry proceeded from Sydney to British universities (MacLeod, 2010, p. 388). The story of their appointment is complicated, but shows just how entwined—and how important—expansive academic networks could be. Before his departure for the Davy-Faraday laboratory at the Royal Institution in London in 1907, Liversidge had been instrumental in organizing the 1914 Australian meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. It was at this conference that the British-born and trained Robert Robinson, who had been appointed to the newly created chair of organic chemistry in Sydney in 1912, met the leading British chemists of the day. The following year they supported him in his application for the newly created chair at Liverpool. Meanwhile, John Read—who was working under W. J. Pope at the Municipal School of Technology in Manchester, and then in Cambridge—was appointed Robinson’s successor in Sydney (Hirst, 1963). In 1921 Robinson moved to St. Andrews, but when his old student friend Arthur Lapworth took over as head of the Manchester department, Robinson moved to assume the position Lapworth had vacated—the Manchester chair of organic chemistry. On his departure from St. Andrews, Robinson recommended as his replacement John Read—his successor at Sydney. The University of Sydney appointed to the empty chair John Kenner, from the University of Sheffield. His candidature had been supported by, among others, Professor J. F. Thorpe (who had been Robinson’s former colleague at Owens College, Manchester, before his move to Imperial College) (University of Melbourne, 1924a, p. 826). When in 1927 the Manchester College of Technology was looking for a replacement for its chair of technological chemistry, Robinson’s head of department, Lapworth—then occupying the chair of chemistry—invited Kenner in Sydney to take up the role (Todd, 1979). To fill Kenner’s empty chair, the University of Sydney appointed a London committee that consisted of Robinson and Read and W. J. Pope (now at Cambridge) (University of Sydney, 1927). The man they recommended for the post was J. C. Earl, an Australian who had studied chemistry in Adelaide before serving in World War I and then transferring to complete a PhD under Robinson at St. Andrews. Since 1922 he had been lecturer at Sydney, under first Read and then Kenner. Robinson went on to hold the Waynflete Chair of Chemistry at Oxford and to receive in 1947 the Nobel Prize. As this extensive network of connection and appointment shows, although distance and institutional location always mattered, the settler universities could and often did operate as an integral part of the British academic sphere.
The possibilities opened up by these selection practices, in combination with the reduced time and cost of travel, created an academic population that—even outside the trips facilitated by temporary leave-of-absence schemes—was much more mobile than it had previously been. No longer was migration merely unidirectional: rather, return and circulatory migration increasingly also characterized the lives of academics working in settler universities. This was particularly the case for academics who went to Australia, where, contrary to the assessment of Donald Fleming and others, a ticket to Sydney was not a one-way trip but rather just one move of the series of moves that constituted an academic life (Auchmuty, 1963, p. 34; Fleming, 1964, pp. 183–184). By the interwar period most professors at Sydney had, on average, relocated overseas two or more times (not including relocations within Britain or Australia). This figure is striking. It means that for every British-born and trained professor who moved permanently to Sydney (one relocation), there was another who had moved three times, and for every professor born and trained in Australia who remained there (no relocations), there was another who had moved four times. Movement along the Britain–Australia axis was much more common than movement between the universities of the new Australian nation (Pietsch, 2010, p. 386). Sydney professors, therefore, had significantly more experience of British universities than they had of other Australian institutions.
As the examples above suggest, academics moved along migratory axes that were particular to both their discipline and their country of origin. The age and position of the ancient English universities frequently made them important sites in multiple disciplinary networks, but in medicine and the sciences the Scottish institutions continued to exert a pull. At such places as Cape Town, Otago, and Queen’s, Scottish ties were particularly important. And if Australia, New Zealand, and English-speaking South Africa looked predominantly to the United Kingdom, the Canadian universities came to function as something of a hinge between the otherwise largely distinct British and American systems. Brailsford Robertson was not the only one to move along this route; R. M. MacIver, Griffith Taylor, and Jacob Gould Shurmann were others who used Canada to move between Britain and America (Blackburn, 1989, p. 73).
Cultures of Academic Sociability
Although the priority that universities gave to personal knowledge facilitated the participation of some academics working in the universities of the settler empire, it also created a highly uneven and unequal terrain that excluded many others. The informal connections that underpinned academic appointments were forged by cultures of academic sociability that were not only raced, but gendered and classed as well.
By the end of the nineteenth century the opening up of the academic franchise had resulted in an increasing number of women graduates in the settler colonies, and some of these began to find academic employment as demonstrators or assistant lecturers in settler universities. Some traveling scholarships also took women abroad: to the women’s colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, to Scotland, to the University of London, and in some cases to the United States (Goodman, Jacobs, Kisby, & Loader, 2011; Selleck, 2003, p. 319). Unforeseen vacancies and World War I opened up still more opportunities, and as the 1920s progressed, women began to be appointed at the level of lecturer (an entry-level, usually tenured post).
Despite these growing opportunities, for women the barriers to an academic career remained severe. In 1932, the percentage of professors who were women in Australian universities was zero. In Canada it was under one per cent. In Britain, New Zealand, and South Africa the figures were only marginally higher, at 1.5, 3.8, and 1.4 %, respectively (Ainley, 2005, pp. 251–258; Perrone, 1993). For those who did find academic work, employment conditions were far from equal. At the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, for example, women were paid 15 % less than men at all levels of the university hierarchy, and faced compulsory retirement upon marriage or reaching the age of 55 (Murray, 1982, p. 328). In 1924 Margaret Hodgson—a lecturer in history—had contested these pay scales, but in the council debate that followed, Alexander Aiken’s opinion that “the work of women is not equal to that of men” won out and the provisions remained in force (Murray, 1982, p. 329). Hodgson was again defeated in her attempts to secure change in 1934 when she wished to marry. Despite waging a campaign that involved an appeal to the minister of education and resulted in the abolition of the unequal pay provisions, she was nonetheless forced to resign. Across the British academic world perceptions about the gendered character of different branches of knowledge, in combination with theories of innate sexual difference and expectations about gender roles, restricted women’s participation in academic life (Dyhouse, 1976; Pickles, 2001; Watts, 2007, pp. 142–143, 154–148).
Settler universities, like their cousins in Britain, were environments that fostered and rewarded masculine cultures of sociability (Gillet, 1981, p. 371; Pickles, 2001, pp. 273, 275; Watts, 2005; Whitehead, 1999). Geoffrey Sherrington and Julia Horne have argued that in the 1880s Australian universities witnessed a “re-affirmation of the almost ‘aristocratic’ ideal of character formation focused on the emergence of the male ideology of athleticism and celebration of the body and physical endeavour rather than the mind” (Sherington, 1983; Sherington & Horne, 2009, p. 134). The students imported this ethic from their schools and the early professors encouraged it by playing alongside them on the sports field. By the turn of the century it was being championed more broadly as a means of strengthening the bonds of empire. In the settler university these forms of sociability were reinforced by the high incidence of British experience among the male academic staff. Looking back on his time as a young history lecturer at the University of Melbourne between the wars, Norman Harper attested to this when he talked about departmental parties at which he “was often depressed by all those people who had been to Oxford or Cambridge, Athens or Thebes, London or Rome, who conducted in-conversations which left outsiders feeling like barbarians” (Goodman, 2004, p. 7).
Women operated on the edges of these spaces. They were officially barred from membership of many professional and disciplinary societies: the British Physiological Society excluded them until 1915, and the Royal Society until 1945 (Pickles, 2001, p. 275). Thought to be financially supported by their husbands and therefore less deserving of the positions, laboratory time and research money accorded to their brothers, they worked on the margins of both the formal and the informal structures that facilitated academic connection. Those who did manage to secure traveling scholarships found themselves either in the parallel realm of the women’s colleges or in the homosocial cultures that dominated seminar, library, and laboratory (Squier, 1997; Watts, 2007, pp. 142, 144; Zuckerman, Cole, & Bruer, 1991, p. 17). Women working in settler universities thus found it especially difficult to make the kinds of relationships that were so important for an academic career.
To navigate the highly gendered terrain of early twentieth-century academia, female scholars frequently required the backing of male colleagues. Baldwin Spencer at Melbourne and Edgeworth David at Sydney were particularly open to offering women opportunities, employing several in their departments. But as scholars such as Helena Pycior, Nancy Slack, and Pnina Abir-Am have pointed out, it was a supportive marriage that most often enhanced a women’s chance of doing academic work (MacLeod, 1979; Morantz-Sanchez, 1987; Pycior, Slack, & Abir-Am, 1996). It was not uncommon for women students or assistants to marry their professors, and some formed “collaborative” relationships that gave them space to work. Marriage to the Canadian astronomer Frank Scott Hogg, for example, enabled Helen Hogg to pursue her own research, while Edith Osborn not only helped her husband establish a department at Adelaide, but served as lecturer and demonstrator in the department of botany at Sydney following his appointment there as professor (Ainley, 1996).
Yet the example of Hogg—who worked in a junior capacity until her husband’s death—also shows that even in such relationships women were rarely accorded full credit for the work they undertook (Dyhouse, 1995, p. 471). More usually women were vital components of what Hannah Gay has called the “underground economy” of academia (Dyhouse, 1995, p. 471; Gay, 1996). “[T]he function of a wife, my lad,” wrote Donald Hunter, director of the (British) Medical Research Council’s Department for Research into Industrial Medicine, to the South African medic, J. F. Brock, “is to help you to get that [manuscript] into print” (Hunter, D., Hunter to J. F. Brock, February 27, 1933). Women transcribed articles, ordered research, and conducted experiments for their husbands, brothers, and fathers in ways that went largely unacknowledged. They maintained and facilitated male sociability, conducting personal and professional correspondences and organizing the afternoon teas, dinner parties, and excursions to the country that fostered connections between academic men. As with Noel Annan’s (2001) “intellectual aristocracy,” marriage played a central role in knitting together the affective relations of the British academic world. Two of J. T. Wilson’s daughters married Australians studying under him in Cambridge, while Rutherford’s only daughter also married one of his students, Ralph Fowler, who would himself later hold the chair of theoretical physics at the Cavendish Laboratory. In these ways women joined Europeans in what we might think of as “the shadow networks” of the British academic world. Although they were frequently enmeshed in long-distance ties, these were not of a kind that earned them a significant place inside settler institutions. Even as they participated in the scholarly project, women provided the poorly paid, under-recognized, and often locally based labor that both supported and enabled the mobility of the white, male, and largely middle-class Britons appointed to senior posts (Collins, 2009; Goodman & Martin, 2002; Hall, 1992; Theobald, 1996).
The expansive networks of the British academic world played an important role in shaping, policing, and extending these racial, gendered, and gentlemanly geographies. Unofficial information traveling along these networks determined who was and who was not admitted to them. One of the candidates who applied for the chair of physics in Adelaide in 1885 was passed over because it had been heard that he was considered “not safe with the bottle” (cited in Jenkin, 1985, p. 84). In 1905 Mr. Price (of Harvard) appeared to Toronto’s James Mavor to be “too jeuvenile looking [sic] to take affective control of Toronto’s large classes,” (Mavor, J., Mavor to Loudon, October 31, 1905) and in Melbourne Esmonde Higgin’s affiliation with the Communist Party meant he was, according to one of his supporters, “regarded with deep suspicion” (cited in Anderson, 2005, p. 75). Similarly, “while not knowing him personally,” the members of the 1919 advisory committee for the Cape Town chair of physics “felt [they] ought to mention” that they had “heard somewhat conflicting reports of [Lewis Simons’s] personality and his ability to get on with students” (Chair of Physics Advisory Committee, 1919).
This continuing emphasis upon character and the informal means by which it was assessed also created space for more insidious forms of discrimination, as the case of the Polish-born Lewis Berstein Naymier (later Namier) at the University of Toronto shows. While some anglicized Jews were able to find academic appointments in Australia, Canada, and South Africa, those who did not obviously conform to British cultural expectations met a very different experience (Friedland, 2002, pp. 342–348; Gibson, 1983, pp. 199–202; Horn, 1999, pp. 34–35, 136–138, 165–136; Zimmerman, 2007). Naymier—whom the Master of Balliol College, A. L. Smith, described as “the ablest man we have had in economics and history for some years” (as quoted in Friedland, 2002, p. 235)—had been recommended by Smith in 1911 for a junior appointment in Toronto’s department of political economy. But Godfrey Lloyd, a member of the department who was in England meeting candidates and who interviewed Naymier, seemed to take against him, preferring Gilbert Jackson who had a second-class degree from Cambridge as the “safer choice”. “Of course,” wrote Lloyd of Naymier, “he is not in the least British,” and the “one definite drawback, about which opinions vary, is the extent to which his foreign accent affects his intelligibility” (Lloyd, G., Lloyd to J. Mavor, 1911). The head of department, James Mavor, was similarly minded (Mavor, J., Mavor to Falconer, July 20, 1911). In the end Jackson was awarded the position. But the same year the Toronto history department wanted to appoint a lecturer and Naymier’s name was again put forward. Although he was strongly favored by the outgoing post-holder Kenneth Bell, and in the face of Falconer’s assertions that “the fact of his being a Jew has not influence one way or another with us,” once again Naymier’s Jewishness—often discussed in terms of his “difficult” accent—proved an obstacle (as quoted in Friedland, 2002, p. 235). In particular, Joseph Flavelle, a member of the board of governors, “did not like the choice of a Polish Jew as an interpreter of history . . . who by his broken accent constantly proclaims it,” (p. 235) and Naymier was again passed over. Despite his evident ability and good Oxford connections, the combination of anti-Semitism, British race patriotism, and the weight given to personal assessments led Toronto to reject Naymier’s application (Cannon, 2004).
The racial, gendered and—although not discussed in detail here—classed cultures of British academia were thus intimately bound up in the same processes that extended British networks to settler universities. In concert with, but also often in the face of, stated university policies, expansive personal networks shaped the composition and character of academic bodies.
This practice of “writing to friends” was a crucial aspect of the making of appointments in settler universities. Personal relationships developed in such sites as common rooms and laboratories were carried with academics when they migrated. These trusted long-distance ties then become the channels that settler universities relied on when weighing the merits of potential candidates. As I have shown in this chapter, the official institutional practice of universities was premised upon the private knowledge and the personal relationships of their staff and students.
[S]upposing a Professor of Geology, or some other branch of science, is wanted, it is very difficult to know where such a man is likely to be found. One cannot possibly know all the staffs of the various Universities in England, and one has to do the best one can by writing to friends. (Hill, 1912, p. 318)
Yet the place universities accorded to private knowledge meant that their measures of expertise were contingent upon the cultures of academic sociability in which the friendships of their staff were formed. Not only were these cultures that were racially exclusive, they were also heavily gendered. Even as women were marginalized from the formal structures of academia, as correspondents, assistants, and marriage partners they provided much of the “affective labour” (Hardt & Negri, 2004, p. 108) on which the maintenance of academic relationships depended. The technologies of selection used by settler universities therefore helped to shape a British academic world that was both expansive and exclusionary. They point to the role that social systems play—as Peter Meusburger has shown elsewhere in this series—in conditioning the recognition, acceptance, and movement of knowledge and in contributing to its “spatial disparities” (Meusburger, 2013, pp. 22, 16).
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