Charles Brian Cox (1928-2008) was a gifted teacher, a superb editor, a skilled administrator and a considerable poet.[i] He co-founded and edited of the literary journal ‘Critical Quarterly’ whose Black Papers sparked debates on education. Known as CB Cox in his roles as professor, editor and activist, as Brian Cox in his post-academic and creative career, and as a former Professor of English at the University of Manchester, a collection of his papers and select books were donated to the University of Manchester library to complement our existing archive holdings.

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By permission of the estate of Charles Brian Cox

The recently catalogued printed book collection is in two parts. The first, reflecting his interest in poetry from all over the world, contains a mixture of 20th and 21st century monographs and periodicals from luminaries such as Alfred Tennyson, Andrew Motion, Ted Hughes, Alan Ginsberg, Seamus Heaney, John Betjeman, Bertolt Brecht, Dylan Thomas, W.H. Auden, William Blake and Rupert Brooke, as well as books printed by small, private presses such as Aralia Press, Greville Press, The Keepsake Press and The Mandeville Press.

Permission granted by Michael Peich/Aralia Press, West Chester, PA.

The second part demonstrates his interest in education. He was committed to the reforming of English teaching and championed structured teaching alongside the teaching and encouragement of pupils’ creative writing. He rose to national prominence through the Black Papers, first published in 1969, which initiated a major debate in education which still rages today, and in the Cox Report of 1989. Fight for Education, the first of the Black Papers, declared, “an attack on the excesses of progressive education and the introduction by the Labour Party of a system of 11-18 comprehensives to replace the grammar school” – ten years later the Black Paper proposals were at the root of mainstream Labour and Tory policy.[ii] It was said that in another life he might have been a vice-chancellor or perhaps a junior minister for education: instead his commitment to the teaching of English meant that much of his working life was devoted to raising the standard of debate about education in general and the teaching of English in particular.[iii]

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Judy Simons, Emeritus Professor

The collection also contains material published close to his death, showing that age did not diminish his enthusiasm for poetry or life in general. He published the final two of his four volumes of poetry: Emeritus (2001) and My Eightieth Year to Heaven (2007), and upon retiring from the University of Manchester, chaired the Arvon Foundation (1994-97), the North West Arts Board (1994-2000), including two years as a member of the Arts Council (1996-98).[iv]

Charles Brian Cox is survived by his wife Jean (née Willmer), whom he married in 1954, and one son and two daughters.

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By permission of the estate of Charles Brian Cox

[i] MacCabe, Colin (2008). Professor Brian Cox: ‘English scholar, poet and editor of ‘Critical Quarterly’ whose Black Papers sparked debate on education. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/professor-brian-cox-english-scholar-poet-and-editor-of-critical-quarterly-whose-black-papers-sparked-debate-on-education-817250.html, (Accessed: 6 July 2015).

[ii] Schmidt, Michael. (2008). Brian Cox. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/apr/28/culture.obituaries, (Accessed: 18 November 2015).

[iii] MacCabe, Colin (2008). Professor Brian Cox: ‘English scholar, poet and editor of ‘Critical Quarterly’ whose Black Papers sparked debate on education. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/professor-brian-cox-english-scholar-poet-and-editor-of-critical-quarterly-whose-black-papers-sparked-debate-on-education-817250.html, (Accessed: 6 July 2015).

[iv] Schmidt, Michael. (2008). Brian Cox. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/apr/28/culture.obituaries, (Accessed: 6 July 2015).