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Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Politics at St John's

St John’s and its students have a long and distinguished record in politics in Britain as well as abroad. Such major nineteenth-century figures as the Prime Ministers Castlereagh and Palmerston studied at the College.

So too did William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson, the leading campaigners for the abolition of the slave trade. Currently Johnians are to be found in both Houses of Parliament, as well as in the European Parliament, and the Prime Minister of India, Dr S Manmohan Singh, studied at St John’s.

The College’s contribution to the development of the social and behavioural sciences has also been significant. Alfred Marshall, one the great founders of modern economics studied here. William Rivers, one of the earliest scholars to focus on, and indeed help to establish, Social Anthropology, held a Fellowship at St John’s. A major contributor also to the development of psychiatry, he identified and treated World War One “shell shock”, now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Sir Frederick Bartlett, the influential Psychologist, was also a Fellow of the College.

More recently, Peter Townsend, who prepared a classic study of poverty in Britain, was an undergraduate member of St John’s. Likewise Sir Anthony Atkinson, arguably the most influential economist recently advising Government on welfare aspects of public policy, especially relating to income inequality and social exclusion, studied at the College. The present Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, is also a Johnian economist; as is, in the world of business, Lord John Browne, until 2007 The Chairman of BP and President of the Royal Academy of Engineering as well as Chairman of the board of Apax Partners.

St John’s was among the first Cambridge Colleges to elect a sociologist to a Fellowship. David Lockwood, a leading figure in the expansion of the subject in British universities in the post-war period held a Fellowship during the 1960s. During that time he made major contributions to the study of social inequality and the social and political implications of economic change. John Barnes, the first Professor of Sociology in Cambridge studied at St John’s as an undergraduate. He made a seminal contribution to the theory and empirical study of social networks that help shape both Sociology and Social Anthropology. There has been recent renewed interest in his work insofar as it informs understanding of the nature and formation of “social capital”. A current Fellow, Sir Jack Goody, is another Johnian with an international reputation who has influenced the development of these two closely related disciplines. Professor Goody’s work has enhanced our understanding of the emergence of literacy in widely differing societies, as well as a number of other important aspects of comparative social analysis. Professor Robert Hinde, one time Master of the College, contributed significantly to Social Psychology and Behavioural Science more generally, is prominent in the scientific study of human conflict and its resolution. Earlier in his career he led the University’s world famous Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour, pioneering experimental and field studies of primate behaviour.

Former students of the Social and Political Sciences at St John's have gone on to highly successful careers in a wide variety of fields. Johnian graduates are to be found in academia, the arts, media, publishing, public service, business, the armed forces, NGOs, politics, the legal profession, and so on. There are three Teaching Fellows who devote themselves to supervision in Politics, Psychology, Sociology & International Studies and other Fellows of St John’s assist in specialist subjects.

St John’s has an excellent library and good student computing facilities. Apart from Scholarships and Prizes awarded for academic distinction, special book grants and funds for travel and courses and conferences are also available. These combine to make St John’s an excellent setting for undergraduate studies.