SCHOOLS OF EMPIRE
An award-winning research project exploring the historical intersection between schools, class and colonialism.
About the Schools of Empire Project
British public schools were intrinsically connected to empire: they educated the sons of British colonial administrators, soldiers, and politicians and served as training grounds for empire through the classroom curriculum, competition on the playing fields, and hierarchical cultures of the boarding house. In various ways, it is hard to separate the fortunes of British public schools from the empire and its development. Sir Ralph Furse, Director of Colonial Service recruitment, stated in 1960 that: “As to the Public Schools, they are vital: we could not have run the show without them.” These connections are multifaceted and complex, and need to be drawn out and analysed in a careful and nuanced manner.
Schools of Empire: Class and Colonialism, c.1750–c.1945 is a 5-year project that seeks to explore the historical intersection of education and empire, focusing on the themes of class, colonialism, gender, and race. The direction of the Schools of Empire project is overseen by an independent academic advisory board.
Simultaneously drawing on the rich resources of the Rugby School Archives and bringing together a network of partner schools, their archives, and universities, one of the central aims of the project is to facilitate and support independent research. Internship programmes are at the heart of the project, and contribute to Rugby School’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. In collaboration with the AHRC and the Crankstart Foundation at the University of Oxford, Schools of Empire provides opportunities for doctoral researchers and undergraduate students to access the archives of Rugby and other public schools. Interns’ independent research projects employ intersectional approaches to class, gender and race, and the school provides on-site training in digitisation, archival handling and preservation. Pupils also get involved in this research as part of their community outreach programme.
The project has been recognised in the Highlights of The National Archives’ Year in Archives 2021, won the Boarding Schools’ Association Award for Best New INDEX (Inclusivity and Diversity Excellence) Initiative 2022, and has been selected as a Finalist in the Independent School of the Year award for Outstanding New Initiative, 2023.
Winner - Boarding Schools' Association Award for Best New Index (Inclusion and Diversity Excellence) Initiative, 2022.
Finalist - Independent School of the Year award for Outstanding New Initiative, 2023.
“As to the Public Schools, they are vital: we could not have run the show without them.”
Sir Ralph Furse, Director of Colonial Service recruitment, 1960