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50 Years of Sociology

At the University of Cambridge
This anniversary conference celebrated 50 years since the establishment of sociology as an integral part of the Cambridge curriculum with the creation of the Social and Political Sciences Committee in 1968.

On 29 May 1968 the University recommended the establishment of the Social and Political Sciences Committee, and this recommendation was formally approved two months later. Under the chairmanship of Philip Abrams, the Committee was charged with the responsibility of developing a teaching programme in social and political sciences – what was to become known as the Social and Political Sciences Tripos, or SPS for short. The original SPS Tripos was designed as a Part II (students had to take another subject first and they could then transfer to SPS in their second or third year) and it was made up of four disciplines: sociology, social anthropology, social psychology and political science. Teaching for the SPS Tripos began in Michaelmas Term 1969. Although a number of distinguished sociologists were working in Cambridge before 1968, this was the year when the University formally established a framework that would enable sociology to be taught as an integral part of a multidisciplinary social sciences degree. In 1968 the University also appointed its first Professor of Sociology, a position that was held by Professor J.A. Barnes until his retirement in the early 1980s. In 1988 the Social and Political Sciences Committee was replaced by the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, and the SPS Tripos was expanded into a full three-year Tripos with a one-year Part I and a two-year Part II. The formal establishment of the Department of Sociology as a seperate entity came later, in 2004, when the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences was divided into three constituent departments.

Text by Professor John Thompson.