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Byram, M. (2021). Stanley Leathes and his influence on ‘The Leathes Report’. Language & History 64(2): 113-128.

Author(s) from Durham


Described as the magna carta of language teaching, the
‘Report of the Committee appointed by the Prime Minister
to enquire into the Position of Modern Languages in the
Educational System of Great Britain (28 August 1916)’ is
known as ‘the Leathes Report’ after the committee’s chairman, Stanley Leathes, the First Commissioner of the British
civil service. Leathes was not just a civil servant but also an
author on education matters, including language education.
His views had appeared in several publications over the
previous decade, and many of those views are echoed in
the report. This article analyses Leathes’s texts and the parallels in the Leathes Report, especially his vision of ‘Modern
Studies’, which linked the teaching of history and modern
languages. In doing so, it reveals the origins and gives more
detail of the meanings of some of the concepts in the Report.
It has been argued that the Report is elitist. Leathes’s own
education took place in elite institutions as did that of many
other civil servants of the time, but this article shows that it is
a misinterpretation to say this led to elitism in the Report
when it has in fact a meritocratic view of education, also
present in Leathes’s own writings.