Michael Young

Michael Young is Director of the Institute of Community Studies, situated in Bethnal Green. Among his books is Family and Class in a London Suburb (1960). He has recently published a history of time, The Metronomic Society, which will be reviewed here by David Landes. Having founded the Open University, he has now founded the Open College of the Arts – an extension of the principle.

Poem: ‘The Metronomic Moon’

Michael Young, 9 January 1992

In other years I would say, how pretty they are, The cherries outside our house. This autumn I see the first leaves Writhe from the green into the yellow and From the yellow into what seems a frantic red Before they corkscrew to their conclusion When the morning wipers scrape them from the windscreens To drop them in the dog shit on the pavement. Their beauty has not brought them mercy.


Down with Age

Michael Young, 25 October 1990

What has happened to ageing cannot be understood without comparing how things are with how things were before industrialisation, when society was to a considerable extent no more than the family writ large, and the family straddled all ages. The family was responsible for the production of food, for education, a good deal of religious practice, for such entertainment as there was and for controlling those members of all ages who stayed within its fold. As the economy was based on agriculture, and as most people were at the margin of subsistence (or below it when the harvest was bad), outside the landowning classes everybody who could work had to work, irrespective of age. Who would not toil should not eat.

Scarlet Woman

Michael Young, 1 September 1988

I do not see how Professor Fishman could do more than he has done to convince us that he was there in 1888, qualified as only an eyewitness can be to guide us 1988ers through the streets of Tower Hamlets as they were, and are, to him. We can walk with him downwind and eastwards from the Mansion House and are soon slowed by the all-pervading smell of poverty and filth as we traverse streets with the same names – Great Alie Street, Flower and Dean Street, Bethnal Green Road. Can he be right when he says of the crowds around us that the men and women stepping through the midden are too poor to afford underclothes? Can this angular man see where we can’t among the organ-grinders, the kerb acrobats and the fire-swallowers? He reads out a letter to the Times which refers to an event of November 1888:’

Fisherman’s Friend

David Landes, 27 October 1988

Michael Young is a rarity among sociologists: he has a feel for the people he writes about, and he writes well. When he takes us into a Merseyside factory and walks us around in the company of...

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Geoffrey Hawthorn, 15 November 1984

As yet, the Social Democrats have no historian. There have been a few breathless attempts to recall the more obvious events. Roy Jenkins’s memorable (and memorably pronounced) announcement...

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Utopia Limited

David Cannadine, 15 July 1982

The Road to Utopia was trodden by many star-struck pilgrims before Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour made their celluloid expedition there in the 1940s. Sir Thomas More, who first wrote of...

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