In 2018 the Department of Social Work at Edinburgh University celebrated its centenary. It began as the Edinburgh of School of Social Study and Training which held its first lecture on 8th January 1918; a mere 4 years later students at the school were entitled to a University Diploma and in 1928 the School was officially taken over by the University.
On the back of research work carried out as part of the centenary celebrations, funding was secured from the Wellcome Trust to catalogue and re-house several archival collections all relating to Social Studies at Edinburgh.
In addition to departmental records such as early student admissions and course programmes, the project aims to catalogue, re-house and make available a range of archival material associated with the department and the university’s involvement with social work. This includes records of the University Settlement founded in 1905 by, among others, Richard Lodge, Professor of History, with the express purpose of carrying on social work in the poorer quarters of the city.
Two other major parts of the collection are the records of a vast mental health survey carried out in Dumfries-shire following the Second World War and a fascinating housing survey undertaken within the communities of North Edinburgh in the 1960s. These studies were conducted by members of staff associated with the department either while at Edinburgh or before embarking on a career with the University.
Finally, the project will also incorporate the personal papers of significant individuals associated with the Department, in particular Tom Burns, Research Lecturer with the University’s Social Sciences Research Centre and latterly Professor of Sociology 1965-1981, and John C Spencer, Professor of Social Administration and Director of School of Social Study 1967-1978 whose career took him from London and Manchester to Toronto and finally to Edinburgh.
You can find more information about the history of social work education and practice at the university and beyond at www.socialwork.ed.ac.uk/centenary.