Service learning in Britain between the wars: university students and unemployed camps

Field, John


Volume Issue Pages DOI / ISBN / ISSN
41 2 195-212 DOI: 10.1080/0046760X.2011.582047


Language Country
English United Kingdom


This article considers the role of university staff and students in camps for the unemployed in interwar Britain. These ventures can be seen as showing continuities both with nineteenth-century social service initiatives like the educational settlements, but also with contemporary concerns with service learning. The article explores three camping movements: the camps for unemployed men organised by the Universities Council for Unemployed Camps, the Durham women’s camps organised by students from Girton College, and the camps for unemployed workers and students organised by the English nationalist Rolf Gardiner. Despite the obvious dissimilarities, the three movements showed a common concern with creating community and bridging class divisions; they were also intended to develop a new approach to leadership among the students. However, they also had unintended consequences: many student volunteers developed left-of-centre views, some shifting radically to the Left, and others committing to a lifetime of public service.


higher education; service learning; citizenship; leadership; voluntary

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