Higher Education and Opinion Making in Twentieth-Century England

By Harold Silver | Go to book overview

4

'TRUSCOT': 'THE UNIVERSITIES' SPEAKING CONSCIENCE'

'TRUSCOT'

Redbrick University1 was published in 1943 under a pseudonym. It was the century's first book about English higher education to have a popular appeal, except, as Margaret Cole suggested in a review, 'for a few murder stories'. 2 Although the writers we have discussed reached out to some audiences, nothing had prepared the world of and beyond higher education for Truscot's outspoken, sometimes idiosyncratic but always vivid presentation of some of its innermost secrets. It was a profile and an expose, a portrait and a programme. It was unprecedented, and wartime debate, in the view of Moberly writing only six years later, had been 'vigorously stimulated' by Bruce Truscot. 3 H.C. Dent talked of Truscot having 'dropped the equivalent of a high-explosive bomb into the academic world (and its blast stunned many outside it)'. 4 Truscot's Redbrick and These Vital Days followed in 1945, and First Year at the University in 1946. Redbrick University in 1943 had a dramatic appeal that the later books did not have, though the 1945 volume also won a response beyond the universities themselves. The derivation of the ideas and the reception of Redbrick suggest a relationship of writer and audiences, against a background of university history, experience and advocacy of change, different from any that we have previously discussed. Although its focus was on the inner life of these universities it shared the prevailing mood of addressing reforms needed for the post-war world.

The owner of the 'Bruce Truscot' pseudonym was E. Allison Peers, Gilmour Professor of Spanish at the University of Liverpool, who died in 1952 aged 61. The mystery of the pseudonym was not revealed until his death, the secret having been well kept by the half dozen people who had been party to it. It had been the subject of enormous, fruitless speculation. Reviews and

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