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Social Work History Network


The Social Work History Network exists to explore the nature and growth of social work in order to inform contemporary policy and practice. Founded in 2000 in the UK, it is an informal network of social workers, historians, archivists, researchers, educators, students, and social work policy makers. The Network meets three or four times a year to discuss papers given by invited speakers. Meetings are open to all.

The Network is chaired by David N Jones and co-ordinated by Sarah Vicary. If you would like to join the Network's mailing list please contact: Stephen Martineau. The SWHN website is hosted by the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce: Unit researchers Carl Purcell and Stephen Martineau sit on the Steering Group of the Network. The Network is also supported by The Open University, the University of Chester, and the British Association of Social Workers.

Next meeting

Wednesday 24 April 2024, 8.30am: Contested values of social work in time and place. Exploring ‘origins of social care and social work’ with Mark Henrickson (Auckland). Live panel discussion including Prospera Tedam (Dublin), Sarah Banks (Durham) and Linda Harms-Smith (Pretoria).

Coming up

Monday 17 June 2024, 2pm: Social work and neglect 1948-today: From 'the cruelty man' and 'the problem family' via 'prevention' to 'safeguarding' with June Thoburn, Michael Lambert and Marian Brandon.

Join the mailing list if you would like to be kept up to date: contact Stephen Martineau.


20 June 2023: June Thoburn & David N Jones receive lifetime achievement awards at BASW AGM (BASW news item)

Recent meetings

6 November 2023: Social work with older people – a hidden history (Hybrid event - slides available)

29 June 2023: Peering into historical reviews of social work: Qualitative research and autobiography. (Hybrid event)

5 June 2023: Uncovering the history of social work and social welfare – challenges and sources. This was a Social Welfare History Group (US) and Social Work History Network (UK) webinar. Recording and slides are available on the event page.

The 8 March 2023 meeting of the SWHN was The Uncertain Place of ‘Community’ in Social Work, a hybrid event at King's College London. We hope to post a recording of the event.

Presentations from the October 2022 meeting, "Knowledge for Practice: Changing ideas and influences on children and family social work", held on 26 October 2022 are available on the event page.

Go to the Social Work History Network event series page to see all upcoming and recent events.

Banner photo at the top of this page: A detail from 'The Almoner of the Great Northern Hospital at work'. The Hospital and health review, 1921. Credit:  Wellcome Collection.

Bulletin of the Social Work History Network

Bulletin of the Social Work History Network 2023 vol9 iss1

February 2023

Comparative histories of the development of social work across the Commonwealth (PDF)


March 2022

Viennese social workers in British exile. Children's social work. Almoners. Ann Oakley. (PDF)


December 2020

Settlements & social reform. Teaching social work history. History of social work research. (PDF)


June 2019

NHS and Community Care Act 1990. Ministry of Health. Neoliberalism. Joyce Rimmer. (PDF)


May 2018

Service user involvement. Marianne Mason. Clement Attlee. Elizabeth Macadam. (PDF)


July 2017

Clement Attlee and the social service idea. Women's mental health activism. (PDF)


December 2016

Bob Holman. Attlee, Toynbee Hall. BJSW. Social work and received ideas. (PDF)


June 2016

A century of child care law. Historic lessons from Serious Case Reviews. Edith Emily Mudd. (PDF)


October 2015

Women and girls in World War I. History from below. Tina Goldberg. Rupert Hughes. (PDF)


February 2015

On writing social work history. Olive Stevenson. Sybil Clement Brown. (PDF)


August 2014

(First issue) WISEArchive Cohen interviews with social work pioneers. Charlotte Towle. (PDF)