Who we are

The dummy is on the right

Dan Weinbren is the History Of The Open University Project Research Fellow. He has published extensively about the development of mutual aid, fraternal associations and the Labour Party. Generating Socialism: recollections of life in the Labour Party, Sutton, Stroud, 1997 was made ‘book of the month’ by the New Statesman and described as ‘fresh and entertaining’ (The Times Higher) ‘a tremendously important piece of work both historically and politically’ (Professor Paul Thompson) and ‘absolutely wonderful’ (Professor Jerry White). He has also written a number of businesses including an account of the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield (right).  His study of the most influential friendly society in the world was published in 2010. It is reviewed here. Of The Oddfellows. 200 years of making friends and helping people, Carnegie, Lancaster, 2010 reviewers wrote:

‘A comprehensive study… There is a wealth of detail … important topics set out clearly in their own boxes on the page. The book is well illustrated, tables and figures used to good effect and there is a useful glossary and excellent footnotes (Family and Community History)

‘fills an important and neglected aspect of our social and economic life … an invaluable source of information’ (Journal of Co-operative Studies)

‘accessible… a thoroughly good read… Academically the book has clearly been meticulously researched’ (Foresters’ Heritage Trust)

‘a rich text… detailed and important history [with] a significance beyond the Order….an admirable work of history…. The Oddfellows offers a contextually rich, historiographically complex picture … superbly illustrated … an excellent summary of the current state of the fraternal history and an indicator of its future potential. (Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism)

‘well written [and] well researched … full of illustrations… evokes a strong sense of the society and its appeal’ (North West Labour History).

He has written teaching material about the First World War for BBC Education. His contributions to OU course materials include CDs for DA301, and most recently a chapter about the roles of families for A825 and material about virtual heritage for AD281. In 2010 his work on fraternity in Europe over 700 years and on British female friendly societies was published. The review in the Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism stated: ‘the volume is highly interesting, presenting predominantly significant recent research’. His work on William Beveridge’s Voluntary Action, was published in January 2011. It is ‘convincing‘. His forthcoming chapter is in a ‘historically grounded, internationally informed, and multidisciplinary analysis of the Big Society policies’. A chapter on Freemasonry is expected later in the year. That will make seven chapters and a book since taking on an academic post in 2010. Webpage. Publications information: here

He has been the recipient of 14 grants from a variety of bodies including the British Academy and the Nuffield Foundation. He is the founder and chair of the international Friendly Societies Research Group and he set up and ran the Labour Oral History Project for over a decade.

‘The establishment and success of the OU will be remembered as one of the greatest achievements of this century… It is a difficult task to evaluate its contribution to British Higher Education… the book which can do this is still to be written’. David Hencke (of the THES) in Studies in Higher Education 1, 1, 1976, p. 91.

Rachel Garnham was the Project Manager for the History of The Open University Project from its inception until February 2012. The post is now held by Kirsten Dwight.

To contact us email history-of-the-ou@open.ac.uk