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A study in institutionalism – the Jewish children's orphanage at Norwood

Cohen, Lawrence (2010) A study in institutionalism – the Jewish children's orphanage at Norwood University of Southampton, School of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis , 415pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)


The thesis is a study in child institutionalism focussed on the Jewish orphanage at Norwood. The chronology of institutionalism is divided into three phases. The phases correspond to periods of growth, consolidation and decline. The introductory chapter provides a brief history of Norwood as a background to the study. The sources available - archives, recollections and published works - are reviewed to reveal a significant gap in Anglo-Jewish history. A Study in Institutionalism is outlined in chapter 1 as a prelude to the analysis undertaken in the following chapters.

The institutional theme is initially examined by analysing the names used for Norwood in chapter 2. It is argued names are not merely external labels but are also linked with ‘internal forces’ that make the institution’s ‘personality’. This connection provides the basis for the linguistic study of name changing covering the years 1807 to 1961. In chapter 3 the expansion phase is examined as a Jewish template of institutionalism at Norwood. In chapter 4 the template of the institution is broadened to include national and international developments. The wider perspective include the new continental ideas on residential care, the parallel institution of the Poor Law system, the residential solutions of the evangelical charities sceptical of the large institution, and in America the institution’s progressive transformation into one that was more child-centred.

The second phase of institutionalism during the inter-war period is studied in chapter 5. At Norwood, on the one hand, liberal reforms were introduced to improve the lives of the children and, on the other hand, there was structural stagnation. It was a phase marked by institutional self-doubt that in American Jewish orphanages saw a movement towards the ‘child developing institution’ in which the child rather than the institution took precedence, whereas this was less developed in Britain. The theme of counter- institutionalism is examined in chapter 6. The focus is on the children and the way they adapted to institutional life. Rebelliousness was one extreme form and expressed itself in the exceptional Norwood Rebellion of 1921 as well as ongoing resistance to corporal punishment.

The penultimate chapter concludes the historical trajectory of the child institution at Norwood with its downfall and closure. The post-war period was marked by the findings of the Curtis Committee on the workings of such institutions. At Norwood the impact was seen in the structural reforms of the 1950s carried out under Edward Conway leading ultimately to the closure of the orphanage in 1961 and its replacement by family homes. The ideological transformation from institutionalism to one based on the paramount importance of the child concludes the study relating to the third phase of institutionalism.

The concluding chapter provides a judgment on institutionalism – whether Norwood was a ‘good enough’ institution for the children, and more broadly whether Norwood was ahead or behind in its outlook compared with other examples in Britain and beyond.

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Published date: September 2010
Organisations: University of Southampton, History


Local EPrints ID: 344631
PURE UUID: baab17ed-f49b-4d36-90bc-08d9ba1f85f5

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Date deposited: 25 Oct 2012 11:32
Last modified: 19 Jul 2017 04:01

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Author: Lawrence Cohen
Thesis advisor: Antony Kushner

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