Scottish settlement houses from 1886 – 1934.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis examines the history of Scottish settlement houses from 1886 until 1934. The
Scottish settlements have attracted little attention from academics and no overarching
study of these organisations has previously been done. This thesis seeks to address this
lacuna and situate their achievements within the wider context of the changing role of
voluntary organisations in this period. Using archival resources, it argues that settlements
made important contributions to Scottish society through social work, training courses and
adult education. They pioneered new methods, explored new areas of work and provided
their local communities with access to services that they may not otherwise have received.
This thesis demonstrates the way in which voluntary bodies evolved in response to local
and national pressures and changing social attitudes in order to remain successful and
relevant in a period during which their role was changing. There were six settlements in
Scotland, each with their own agenda and areas of interest. The settlements remained
distinct and independent organisations and there was a limited amount of cooperation
between them. This diversity in both location and aims of the settlements gives rise to a
range of themes that will be examined in the thesis. The original settlement ideal focused
on ameliorating class differences by reforming the characters of working-class individuals
through personal connection between them and middle-class settlers. The thesis will
examine how this evolved over time. As the state at both a local and national level
assumed more responsibility for social services, the role of settlements adapted to
encompass training for professional social workers and as the working classes gained more
political power the settlements sought to make them ‘fit for citizenship’. Likewise, as the
original settlement ideal had denied the legitimacy of working-class culture and
community, this attitude also evolved and settlements began to focus on developing strong
communities within working-class areas.
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