Boris Ford and the Army Bureau of Current Affairs


Cover of Bureau of Current Affairs

Guest blogger Colin Waugh, Editor, Post-16 Educator writes about his recent research in the TUC Library.

I’m involved in an oral history-type project where, since 2013, we have interviewed 50 people who taught Liberal and General Studies in FE colleges between 1960 and about 1990. The conclusions we can draw from analysing these interviews will depend in part on what we can establish about how this element came to be attached to vocational courses for day- and block-releases students in the first place.

A key document here is a report, Liberal Education in a Technical Age (1955). This was produced by a National Institute for Adult Education (NIAE) working party. The paid secretary to this working party – and hence the likely architect of the report’s recommendations – was Boris Ford.

I needed to identify relevant aspects of Ford’s experience. In particular what, if any, involvement did he have with the Army Bureau of Current Affairs (ABCA) during World War 2, and precisely what role did he play in its civilian successor, the Bureau of Current Affairs (BCA), which existed from 1946-1952?

In 2009 I had been told by Chris Coates, at that time curator of the TUC Library Collections at London Metropolitan University, that these contained ABCA-related material, and when she reminded me of this more recently, I applied to look in the Collections for information about Ford, eventually coming to the library, which by this time had moved to Goulston Street, on 22 August this year.

Both before this visit and during it I received outstanding advice and support from Jeff Howarth and Lucy Bradley, and as a result we were able to locate two key documents. The first of these, written in 1947 by the radical general Sir Ronald Adam, shows the links between ABCA and the BCA, and the second, a pamphlet written by Ford in 1952, in which he gave a retrospective account of the BCA, both shows the role he played in that (initially as Editor in Chief, then as Director) and establishes the connection that those founding it intended to build between the BCA and further education.