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Pioneering British academic, Richard Hoggart (1918-2014), was in kinship care as a child.

Richard Herbert Hoggart was born in Leeds, Yorkshire into an impoverished family. His father, a house painter and former soldier, died when Richard was only one-year-old. His mother died when he was eight. The family of three children was then separated and Richard was taken to live with his grandmother… 

…in an overcrowded Hunslet cottage which had one pretension – the only mains-connected bathroom in the street. The household’s driving force was his fierce Aunt Ethel, a tailor who, when a headteacher picked him out as a promising pupil, began to realise he might break out of their class (Ezard). 

Aided by scholarships, Richard (and his older brother, Tom) was able to go to a grammar or university preparatory school. He then won “one of forty-seven Leeds University scholarships available to his generation of 8,000 eighteen-year-olds” (Ezard). At Leeds, Richard was mentored by Bonamy Dobree.

Richard had not completed his Masters thesis before he was called up to serve in the Royal Artillery during the second world war. In the post-war years, Hoggart taught at Hull University for thirteen years. He published his first book, a study of WH Auden’s poetry, in 1951 and then, after the publication of his much-acclaimed work, The Uses of Literacy, he taught English at the University of Leicester. 

The publication of The Uses of Literacy in 1957 propelled Richard Hoggart…to the forefront of the changes that swept British culture from the sclerotic 1950s into the swinging 60s. The book was a groundbreaking study of working-class culture…Not only did it anticipate the opening-up of the cultural landscape, it also contributed to a critical and popular climate far more receptive to the subsequent explosion of books, films and art and working-class subjects by working-class artists (Wroe).

In 1962, Hoggart was the founder and first director of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. The Centre’s focus on mass culture rather than ‘high’ culture was revolutionary, going very much “against the grain of conventional academic practice.” 

Michael Green, a Colleague of Hoggart and [Stuart] Hall’s at the Centre, remembered Hoggart as an unusually caring Professor who would bring soup to the homes of junior colleagues with flu (University of Birmingham).

Despite numerous prestigious offers, including in Australia, Richard Hoggart chose to conclude his academic career as warden at Goldsmiths College in London. The main building of the college has been named in his honour. 

He never forgot his working-class upbringing and deeply-held socialist beliefs, rejecting a peerage and a knighthood in the 1970s, and is the author of twenty-seven books (Goldsmiths).

Richard Hoggart’s motivation for his work, he said, was his childhood.

…but not in the sense of becoming a millionaire or anything like that. The ambition was to do something useful and interesting and somehow involving my writing. And I did have an impulse to criticise because there was a lot to criticise. I was brought up in a world where just about everyone assumed they would stay there all their lives and I resented that deeply (Wroe).


Connell, Kieran and Hilton, Matthew. “Richard Hoggart.” University of Birmingham, 2014. 

Ezard, John. ‘Richard Hoggart obituary’. The Guardian, 11 April 2014.  

“Richard Hoggart.” Goldsmiths University of London. 

“Richard Hoggart.” British History, Sparticus Educational.

Wroe, Nicholas. “The Uses of Decency.” The Guardian, 7 February 2004.,do%20a%20PhD%20at%20Cambridge. 

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