Ilya Neustadt, Norbert Elias, and the Leicester Department: personal correspondence and the history of sociology in Britain.
journal contributionposted on 2012-10-24, 08:53 authored by John Goodwin, Jason Hughes
The central aims of this paper are: (1) to explore the utility of using personal correspondence as a source of data for sociological investigations into the history of sociology in the UK; (2) in relation to this undertaking, to advance the beginnings of a figurational analysis of epistolary forms; and (3), to provide an empirically-grounded discussion of the historical significance of the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester (a University largely ignored in 'standard histories' of the subject) at a formative phase in the development of the discipline within the UK. The correspondence drawn upon in the paper is between Norbert Elias and Ilya Neustadt between 1962 and 1964 when Elias was Professor of Sociology at the University of Ghana and Ilya Neustadt was Professor of Sociology and Head of the Sociology Department at the University of Leicester. From an analysis of this correspondence, we elucidate an emergent dynamic to the relationship between Neustadt and Elias, one which, we argue, undergirds the development of sociology at Leicester and the distinctive character of the intellectual climate that prevailed there during the 1960s. The paper concludes with a consideration of whether it was a collapse of this dynamic that led to a total breakdown in the relationship between Neustadt and Elias, and by extension, an important phase in the expansion of sociology at Leicester.