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CPAG Research

Child Poverty Action Group: the first 50 years

CPAG representatives on a demo in London with bannerCPAG representatives on a demo in London. Image (c) Simon Oosterman, used with permission



ICBH is delighted that Professor Pat Thane of the Institute of Contemporary British History has been awarded an AHRC grant to write a history of the first fifty years of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), 1965-2015. The project will run until summer 2016.

CPAG was founded in 1965 to alert politicians and public to the surprisingly high levels of child poverty found in the research of Brian Abel-Smith and Peter Townsend, and to work with government on policies to alleviate this. The project will look at how they set about meeting these objectives, how successful they have been and how CPAG was funded. The 1960s saw the emergence of a new wave of radical, media-aware, NGOs, and this study will shed light on this new wave and its links with 1960s radicalism, along with their relative professionalism compared with some older NGOs. The study will examine how CPAG's sources of support, objectives and strategies changed over time and evaluate the outcomes. Its significance will lie in contributing to the growing body of work which is increasing our understanding of the considerable extent, roles and importance of voluntary action in British society in the recent past.

The project has already begun with a small grant from the British Academy, and the AHRC funding will enable its completion. Outputs will include a short accessible survey of the project’s findings, and a scholarly study of CPAG’s history.

Professor Thane is a leading historian of the politics and social context of social welfare, and her wide range of publications includes studies of old age and ageing, gender, unmarried motherhood, and the history of voluntary action and its contemporary relationship with state welfare. Her recent publications include Reassessing 1970s Britain (co-edited with Lawrence Black and Hugh Pemberton, 2013) and Sinners? Scroungers? Saints? Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth Century Britain (with Tanya Evans, 2012).

Dr Ruth Davidson has joined the project as Research Associate.

ICBH has held four witness seminars on the history of the Child Poverty Action Group from the 1960s to the 2000s - click the link for more information.

For more information on the project please email

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