ABSTRACT

The 'Great Tradition' describes a uniquely English fonn of adult education. According to Wiltshire, it is humane, socially purposive, non-vocational, free from intellectual means-testing and based on the tutorial group, and its incentive is the pure love of learning. More than anyone else, Albert Mansbridge was responsible for popularizing this type of adult liberal education (quoted in Shaw 1959: 187). Bom in 1876, the fourth son of a carpenter and leaving school at the age of 14 to work in a succession of clerical jobs in London, Mansbridge succeeded in constructing a unique 'educational alliance' - the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) - between the working-class movement and university extension, between labour and learning, and rose to that social and educational eminence symbolized by the award of the Companion of Honour and a number of honorary doctorates.