History of Sociology at Keele

Sociology at Keele has a long and distinguished history. The Department was formed in the 1960s by the social anthropologist Professor Ronnie Frankenberg who famously wrote ‘Village on the Border’ on decision making processes in a Welsh village and ‘Communities in Britain’.

Book cover of village on the border Frankenberg was a member of the Manchester School of Social Anthropology and a student of Max Gluckman who is most famous for his work, ‘Custom and Conflict in Africa’, and his contribution to conflict theory. On the basis of this foundation, Keele Sociology has always had a strong tradition of inter-disciplinary and a particular interest in the fields of anthropology, community and family studies, and cultural sociology. This history informs the focus of the current Sociology group, which is centrally concerned with charting contemporary cultural social change through a range of theoretical approaches. Apart from its anthropological and cultural focus, Sociology at Keele has historically adopted an innovative, student-centred, approach to learning and teaching. In the 1970s the Department adopted an elective system that entailed students designing their own option modules which tutors would then lead. The philosophy behind this approach to teaching and learning, which ensured that course content was in line with student interest and concerned with cutting edge concerns in the discipline, still informs the design of the Sociology programme at Keele today. Centrally, we are concerned with understanding contemporary social events through cutting edge research and upholding the tradition of innovation that is embedded in the history of Sociology at Keele.  

Keele University also hosts the prestigious journal, The Sociological Review, one of the longest running Sociology journals in the world, and holds the Foundations of British Sociology archive. This is a unique resource held in Keele University Library’s Special Collections and Archives. The material dates from the 1880s to the 1950s and consists of papers from the Sociological Society, LePlay House, the Institute of Sociology and several smaller subsidiary groups - all part of the early sociology movement in Britain.