Chapter 1

A brief history of citizenship educationin England and Wales1

John Beck

FORMERLY UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

Introduction: the strange absence of citizenship education in Britain

Britain is exceptional among modern Western democracies in having had, until recently, very little direct provision of citizenship education in state schools. One reason for this absence may be that between 1925 and 1988 there was, in England and Wales, almost no direct central government control of curriculum content. Another reason for this neglect is the character of citizenship itself in Britain. Many writers have argued that the British are ‘subjects’ rather than citizens. Historian David Cannadine contrasts the USA ‘where the inhabitants are citizens’ with ...

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