“Not an institution, but a little community”: T.F. Tout and the ‘Manchester School’

This morning I am contemplating my ‘teaching philosophy’. How’s this for a teaching philosophy?

Perhaps his happiest trait was his firm belief, almost an instinctive belief, that what he did was worth doing. He believed in the place, in his work as a teacher, and in his students. Sometimes people speak of the Manchester history school as though it were a piece of deliberate invention, finished and shaped in all its parts, imposed from without by a powerful personality and achieving results which can only be described as surprising. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The department of history grew gradually; a conscious tradition was but slowly realised. The school was not an institution, but a little community, led by two fine teachers, and dominated by a strong, but very human, personality. Its success was the outcome of this companionship, in which every member had the opportunity of feeling that he had a share. The young people of the north who read history were taken seriously. Tout and his colleague assumed that they meant business. That they might not be worth guidance never occurred to them. If Manchester could produce physicians, chemists, and engineers, it could produce historians. Indeed, it had already done so. Lancashire people respond to this sort of treatment. I imagine that the irresponsive could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Nearly all in various ways gave the response expected of them and found something which they never forgot. In course of time the school became conscious of a living tradition. It had never been a mechanical society, but had grown and changed from decade to decade. It is still a living witness to Tout’s administrative skill but yet more to his confidence in his work and his pupils.

F.M. Powicke, Modern Historians and the Study of History: Essays and Papers (London: Odhams Press, 1955), p.29.

You can find out more about Tout, his student Powicke, and the ‘Manchester School’ in these pages I contributed to several moons ago. Their simple, but still not often realised, ideas inspire me every day.

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1 Response to “Not an institution, but a little community”: T.F. Tout and the ‘Manchester School’

  1. Pingback: What We’re Reading: Week of Dec. 29 | JHIBlog

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