Saturday, 8 February 2014

Dr J. A. Langford (1823-1903): A Self-Taught Working Man and the Sale of American Degrees in Victorian Britain

In the next few weeks, I will be publishing under my imprint Authoring History  a short pamphlet on John Alfred Langford (1823-1903) written by Stephen Roberts.  This is my first venture into publishing another author’s work and it is a pleasure to take what is well-researched and written and original material into print. 

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Langford was a man much like Thomas Cooper--whom he knew well.  He was an autodidact and the author of much poetry.  He also wrote a lot of local history, notably the compendiums A Century of Birmingham Life and Modern Birmingham (1868-73)  that are still regularly consulted  by local historians.  Unlike Cooper, Langford did not get involved in Chartism but worked closely with middle-class radicals like George Dawson in promoting Birmingham's famous ‘Civic Gospel’.  Most interestingly, he acquired a doctorate from a little-known American college--a little digging has discovered that this particular institution was selling degrees in mid-Victorian Britain--more than 50 men acquired them according to his research and there was much controversy in the newspapers.

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