ISA Past Presidents

T.H. [Thomas] Marshall

President 1959-62

1893 | 1981

Nationality English

His papers are available in the London School of Economics archives.



  • 1918 BA Cambridge (History).[1]
  • [1919 dissertation on 17th century guilds submitted for Trinity fellowship].

Posts held

  • [1914-18 Civilian prisoner of war, Ruhleben prison camp in Germany].
  • 1919-25 Prize Fellow in History, Trinity College, Cambridge.
  • 1925- Lecturer, London School of Economics; 1930, Reader in Sociology. 
  • 1930-39 Head, German Section, Foreign Office Research Department [part-time].
  • 1939-44 Deputy Director, Foreign Office Research Department.
  • 1944-50 Head, Social Science Department [which trained social workers], London School of Economics.
  • 1949-50 Educational Adviser to the High Commissioner in the British Zone of Germany.
  • 1954-56 Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics.
  • 1956-60 Director, Social Science Department, UNESCO.
  • 1960-62 [post-retirement part-time Lecturer, Cambridge.]

ISA participation, main roles

  • 1956 World Congress, gave introductory paper to session on changes in social stratification.
  • 1959-62, President.

Participation in other settings

  • British Sociological Association, EC member 1951-55, 1961-64.
  • British Sociological Association, Chairman, 1955-56.
  • British Sociological Association, President. 1964-69.
  • Member, UK Committee for UNESCO; UK delegate to UNESCO General Conference. 1952.

Intellectual and ISA career

Marshall came from a prosperous and cultivated upper-middle class family, and started life as was conventionally expected there. Halsey (1984) has written of his social background and milieu and its consequences for his style of sociology. He had been sent to Weimar in 1914 to learn German – which he did; as an enemy alien he became a civilian prisoner of war, which enlarged his experience and changed his life considerably. This laid the foundations of his international orientation and his knowledge of other social classes in Britain.[2]

On his return, after some years in Cambridge teaching as a historian he went to LSE, still an economic historian, and drew on that training as he gradually became a sociologist. His initial appointment was formally to teach social-work students; in 1929 he moved to the Sociology department, recruited to teach ‘comparative institutions’ after the death of Hobhouse. In 1922 he had stood for Parliament as a Labour candidate, in a constituency with a strong Conservative majority, and was defeated; he decided that he was not well suited to political campaigning, and stayed in academic life. His work throughout his career on the sociology of welfare policy issues (usefully reviewed in Pinker 1981) reflects his political concerns. He has a strong reputation in what in Britain is called ‘social policy and administration’ and treated as a discipline separate from sociology, as well as a sociological one which rests particularly on his seminal work on the idea of citizenship (Marshall 1950) and on issues of stratification.

He wrote clearly and without jargon and, although a less copious publisher than some colleagues – in part due to his heavy administrative tasks – he was extremely well respected. Halsey (1984: 7-8) describes his style thus:
‘Marshall never acquired the driving puritanical dedication to research and writing which might have been possible... Teaching was at least as important as research. Administrative duty, burdensome as he found it... was a compelling duty. Public service, though never sought, was always felt as an obligation to be unstintingly answered... beyond both professional and public duty there remained the constant pull of a highly civilised private life of music and friendship... So it was that as a professional sociologist he somehow remained deceptively amateur... characteristically delivering his written work, even the excellent best of it, as a pièce d’occasion.’

Thus of his books only his post-retirement textbook was written as such, rather than collecting shorter pieces previously written.

As the list of posts he held shows, Marshall came to have extensive international experience, based mainly in Europe, and largely concerned with issues in higher education. In his 1960 Hobhouse lecture he describes his role in UNESCO as calling for involvement in planning conferences of social scientists from a variety of disciplines and countries all over the world, with many cultural misunderstandings that needed to be negotiated. He was, thus, thoroughly familiar with some of the demands made of the President of the ISA at that period, and had been in positions where he was familiar with many of those involved with it, despite no previous membership of its executive. In addition, of course, the other professors of sociology at LSE had been closely involved in ISA from its foundation, with Ginsberg one of the Vice-Presidents until 1956, and the BSA (whose executive he was on) was a national member of ISA.

Marshall’s ‘presidential address’ had some characteristics more like an address of welcome, but we report it here. In it he discussed progress towards true internationalism, and what was needed to achieve that. Initially it had been important to bring in American sociologists, to avert the risk of ISA becoming a purely European body. In relation to the US the need was to see the unity of science in fundamental similarities of similar cultures, while in relation to Asia, Africa and the Middle East the need was to grasp cultural difference under superficial westernization. The third barrier is to the communist east, and there is hope that common ground can be found between marxist and non-marxist. Mutual adjustment will make possible 'the development of a truly universal science of society'. However, it is desirable not to get rid of differences too soon, so that sociologists may learn from each other and enrich the whole. The discipline as a whole is not producing well-founded solutions to social problems fast enough, and it is hoped that the Congress discussions may help in this, even though it seems that sociologists do not yet have an agreed central body of guiding theory. Perhaps this draws on his administrative experience as much as on his personal intellectual interests?

References, other sources of information, related work

  • Bulmer, Martin and Anthony M. Rees eds. (1996), Citizenship Today: The Contemporary Relevance of T.H. Marshall.
  • Halsey, A. H. (1984) ‘T. H. Marshall, past and present: 1893-1981’, Sociology 18: 1-18.
  • Marshall, T. H. ed. (1938) Class Conflict and Social Stratification.
  • Marshall, T. H. (1960) ‘International comprehension in and through social science’ [Hobhouse Memorial Trust Lecture 29.]
  • Marshall, T. H. (1964) ‘Presidential address’, pp. 9-15 in Transactions of the Fifth World Congress of Sociology, vol. IV.
  • Marshall, T. H. (1967) untitled review of J. Davidson Ketchum, Ruhleben – a Prison Camp Society (1965), Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Marshall, T. H. (1973) ‘A British sociological career’, International Social Science Journal 25: 88-99.
  • Pinker, Robert (1981) ‘Introduction’, pp. 1-28 in T. H. Marshall, The Right to Welfare [collected papers].

Presidential address

None quite in the usual sense given, but what he gave is this:
Marshall, T. H. (1964) pdf ‘Presidential address’, pp. 9-15 in Transactions of the Fifth World Congress of Sociology, vol. IV.

[1]  Marshall entered Trinity College Cambridge in 1912, and was awarded a first class in part I of the History Tripos [degree course examination] in 1914. Under emergency regulations after the War, which allowed men to proceed to the degree of BA by using some of their military service in lieu of residence, he qualified for a BA in 1918 despite not having taken part 2. (Thanks to Jonathan Smith, archivist of Trinity College, for informing me of these details.)

[2]  At the University of Leeds there are records of his activities during these years. See the entry for Marshall at URL:, and his review of Ketchum's book on the camp. (Thanks to Martin Bulmer for this information.)