April 2015

A sociology without sociologists? Britain's search for a discipline (1904-2014)

This website was initally created to gather information & sources on the history of British sociology. Below is a couple of papers I wrote on the topic, one of them being my Masters thesis. My Ph.D. extended the period and focused on the history of British sociology between 1904-2014.

Feel free to browse through and/or download a copy of it in PDF. If, by any chance, you have any (unpublished) paper on British sociology you would like to see appear here, please let me know. Enjoy your stay, Baudry Rocquin.

* Read my chapter published in the Palgrave Handbook of Sociology in Britain (2014) !

I recently wrote a piece on "The current state of French and British sociology" published in BSA Network, Spring Issue 2015

PhD in Sociology.
 You can find an abstract of my PhD in Sociology at the University of Bordeaux in French here.
 You can also find the complete bibliography I used for my thesis here.

It is a history of British sociology between 1904 and 2014 and is entitled "A sociology without sociologists? Britain's search for a discipline (1904-2014)". The viva was succesfully taken on 12th December 2014.

'The floating discipline' : British sociology and the failure of institutional attachment (1911-1938).


Before WWI, the budding sociology in Britain suffered from the lack of a clear definition of its topic and field, and as a result of an impossible scientific compromise the Sociological Society collapsed by 1914. The creation of the Institute of Sociology in 1930 eventually reversed the inchoate state of the three "branches" of sociology. With the cooperation of the LSE (with Morris Ginsberg) and the University of Liverpool (with A. Carr-Saunders), the Institute of Sociology, led by Alexander Farquharson, saw a scientific sociology emerge. However, if not an intellectual failure, at least sociology failed to secure any institutional attachment in universities in the 1930s, owing to a fierce competition with other disciplines, and to the sociologists’ lack of academic connections.


1911-26 – The Rise and Fall of the Sociological Society

1927-34 – The Foundation of the Institute of Sociology

1935-38 – The Great Disillusions : Sociologists and the Universities

Conclusion & Bibliography

Quote: "Rocquin, Baudry. ''The Floating discipline': British sociology and the failure of institutional attachment (1911-1938)', Unpublished M.St. Thesis (Oxford University, 2006)."

 Download a pdf copy of the full thesis.

If you are interested in the archives I used about British sociology:
    > See a list of archives.

Would you like to quote any of these works? Please let me know.
    > baudry.du at gmail.com.

Other papers related to the same topic you might find of interest:

Competition, contribution and incomprehension: British and French sociologists in the inter-war period (1904-1936)


    This paper deals with the emergence of a British sociology in the inter-war period in a context of international competition to carry over the budding definition of sociology. Sociology only emerged in 1904 in Britain at a time when German, American and French sociology were already thriving. In a tense context of competition, The Sociological Society split over the issue of Durkheimian sociology: those who would favour the 'French' interpretation of Le Play, following Patrick Geddes, and those who decided to found a brand new definition sociology, following L. T. Hobhouse at the London School of Economics. The paper show how these independent attempts were quite close in their methods and results although little contribution emerged before the 1930s.

    > See the paper.

Two sciences and a common concern: a comparative perspective on the emergence of sociology in France and Britain (1895-1935)


    This paper deals with the so-called absence of academic sociology in Britain in the early 20th century. Continental historians usually assume that it was a failure, whereas British historians usually argue that sociology was unnecessary. It appears that the two conceptions coexist : sociologists were supporters of a party in Britain, and thinkers of a system on the continent. Classical sociology emerged earlier in France and in Germany in the 1890s in order to recreate a social and moral stability under new regimes. It was not until the 1930s that a specific British version of sociology eventually emerged British universities as a branch of Anthropology, focused on the Empire’s needs. In spite of many differences, including a chronological gap, both French and British sociologies remained similarly concerned by modernity.

    > See the paper.

David Evans' (1986), 'Le Play House and the Regional Survey Movement in British Sociology 1920-1955' work is available at www.dfte.co.uk/ios.

Baudry Rocquin.