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Basil Bernstein archive: Context

Guide to the archive collection of Professor Basil Bernstein


(Bernard) Basil Bernstein (1924-2000) was educated at Christ's College, Finchley, London. After War Service in the RAF, he went on to study Sociology at the London School of Economics, graduating in 1951. Whilst at university he also undertook social work, and from 1947-1949, was a resident Settlement worker at the Bernard Baron Settlement, Berner Street, Stepney, London. During his time at the Settlement he undertook family case work, youth club work, community organisation and participated in 'delinquent camps'. 

After university he went on to train as a teacher at Westminster Training College (1953-1954) and then taught a range of subjects at the City Day College, Golden Lane (1954-1960), becoming a Research Assistant at the University College London (1960-1963) and obtaining a PhD from the University of London in 1963.

From 1963 to 1991 Bernstein worked at the University of London Institute of Education. During this time he held positions as:

  • Reader in the Sociology of Education
  • Head of the Sociological Research Unit 
  • Professor in the Sociology of Education
  • Karl Mannheim Professor in the Sociology of Education
  • Senior Pro-Director and Pro-Director Research
  • Emeritus Professor (post retirement).

Bernstein was particlarly influential in the field of socio-linguistics. His published works, in particular the five volumes of the series on Class, Codes and Control, have become classics in the field.

The collection

The archive comprises papers from Bernstein's work from the 1950-1990s. Papers dating from the 1950s and 1960s include lecture notes; published and unpublished papers; research grant applications; correspondence; and personalia. Later papers (from c1980 onwards) consist of correspondence with colleagues and students worldwide about research and other matters; files relating to research proposals and the administration of research and teaching at the Institute of Education; and unpublished papers by Bernstein and others.


The collection has not been catalogued but a draft list is available. Please contact the archives ( for further information.