What is ‘Jephcottian”?

Trying to find a single word that best encapsulates the research that Pearl Jephcott undertook, and her research ‘style’, has been quite hard. Variously we have described it as ‘innovative’ and even ‘Millsian’. However neither of these terms do the work justice. Pearl’s work is, of course, innovative and she was a methodological innovator in the true sense of the word. She used a wide range of methods within and across her various research projects seemingly testing, adapting and refining as she went along. If one method did not work she moved onto the next. Yet innovation is only one aspect.  Millsian does not quite do it either. We have used Millsian as Pearl, as Mills advocates in The Sociological Imagination (1958) ‘kept files’ and her archived materials are as detailed as they are extensive. We have also argued in this blog that her work was ‘Millsian’ in the sense through her research ‘speak the politics of truth to power’ (see Mills 2008[c1944]). Jephcott’s concerns were fundamentally for the individuals who she had researched and portrayed in her writings. Yet again these are only aspects of her research.  More broadly it is impossible to delineate Pearl’s work tightly in terms of ‘theme’ – she writes about youth but is not a youth studies scholar in the strict sense of word. She cannot be confined to a single thematic strand as she had such a wide range of interests and preoccupations.

So we came up with JEPHCOTTIAN – the features of which we outline in the slide below and which seem central to her sociological pratice.



Jephcott’s A Troubled Area: Notes on Notting Hill


John Goodwin

jeFor many the area of Notting Hill has become synonymous with urban gentrification, the ‘romantic comedy’ as well as the internationally renowned annual August carnival. Yet long before the London riots of 2011, or the inner city riots of the early 1980s, this area of North Kensington became synonymous with the race riots of 1958. Local ‘teddy boys’, inspired not least by a resurgent whiff of fascism, attacked members of the expanding black community. The riots themselves have been well documented and subject to much discussion (see below) yet one now largely forgotten exploration of the causes of these riots is well worth revisiting. Pearl Jephcott’s  ‘A Troubled Area: Notes on Notting Hill’ is a detailed consideration of ‘the causes of the general malaise of North Kensington’ (Jephcott 1964:18). Jephcott worked on the research from 1st May 1962 to November 1963. The City Parochial Fund funded the…

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Leicester and Married Women Working:


John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor

2013-10-10 14.55.49As we have suggested (Goodwin and O’Connor 2013b) our first encounter with Pearl Jephcott was not a direct one. We were not aware of her books, beyond the occasional citation, and we were certainly unaware of the sheer breadth and depth of Jephcott’s contribution to British social science. We became interested in Jephcott be cause of her apparent links to Leicester via the Married Women Working research or what in Leicester became to be known locally as ‘the married women project’. Although not a well-known research collaboration there are tantalising references to this research in the literature. For example, as Smith (1961) reports:

The social science Dept. of the London School of Economics and the Sociology Dept. of the University of Leicester have together been collecting data designed among other things to test the stereotypes in industrial situations….Ours in Bermondsey at first based itself on…

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Homes in High Flats


Henrietta O’Connor

mapOne of the striking aspects of Pearl Jephcott’s archive in the University of Glasgow Library is the breadth and depth of her research activity. For her seminal study on high-rise living, ‘Homes in High Flats’, Pearl carried out extensive research on the development of tower blocks in the UK and overseas. Her archive contains numerous folders filled with articles, photographs and maps of high rise living ‘from places such as far apart as Melbourne, Philadelphia, Caracas, Prague and Moscow’ (Jephcott, 1971:2).  Maps are a regular feature of her work and it is no surprise that as part of her study of high-rise flats in Glasgow Pearl began by carrying out a mapping exercise illustrating the locations of the new housing developments. The map featured in this blog is taken from her archive and shows how she used the city map to indicate new housing developments that…

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Second Hand Books – Jephcott


For anyone interested  in marginalia the secondhand/used book market has to be an untapped source of material. The joy of buying used books is often more than just being able to get hold of an obscure text, a now deleted classic or whatever, its about the annotations, markings and notes that others add to the text that make those books interesting. For our research on Pearl Jephcott we, like others, have had to scour the secondhand book sellers to obtain copies of her works and we now have a fairly complete set of her books. Remarkably these books are quite ‘clean’ in terms of marginalia  – with two surprising exceptions. The version of the book A Troubled Area we have appears to be the version Pearl herself donated to the University of Glasgow library in 1964. We can tell this given her signature, date plus the GUL book plate on…

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About Pearl Jephcott

Pearl Jephcott (1900-1980), in a research career spanning some forty years, made an outstanding contribution to British social science research. Her key works, including Girls Growing Up (1942), Rising Twenty (1948), Some Young People (1954), Married Women Working (1962), A Troubled Area: Notes on Notting Hill (1964), Time of One’s Own (1967) and Homes in High Flats (1971), alongside other reports and articles, paved the way for many of the subsequent developments that were to come in the sociology of gender, women’s’ studies, urban sociology, leisure studies and the sociology of youth. Moreover her work is fascinating as it is very detailed, extensive, methodologically sophisticated and is replete with originality, innovation and sociological imagination. Yet despite this Jephcott’s work has become neglected and relegated to second hand booksellers and ‘studies from the past’. Her legacy deserves more attention and should be more widely celebrated.