In his Introduction, Simon During establishes the background for the collection of essays in Cultural Studies Reader by giving a detailed, though condensed, history of the development of cultural studies beginning from the 1950s in post-World War II England, in which the "social-democratic power bloc" was being developed, during which time F. R. Leavis was of critical influence. Leavis, who leant his name to the Leavisism of the Leavisites, originated the movement that educationalized the "cannon" of England's "classical" literature as an integral part of curriculum for teaching works noted for imparting moral sensibilities within the "great tradition" for the purpose of "forming mature individuals with a concrete and balanced sense of" how to live life. Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, authors of The Uses of Literacy and Culture and Society, 1780–1950, respectively, began as English working-class children who experienced Leavisism directly in their own educations and who then led Leavisism into the burgeoning of English cultural studies. Hoggart used his own personal experience to show that culture cannot be segmented but that the experiences of culture, the changes within culture--like the changes within his working class culture in post-war England--were part of an integrated network of experience. Williams provided a critique of the dangers and consequences of "uncoupling" cultural life, e.g., the culture developed around working class laborers of pre- and then post-war England, from the more academic concepts of society and culture (i.e., "high culture"). During sets these three early influences as the beginnings of cultural studies while pointing out that Hoggart's and Williams' concepts of cultural studies grew out of Leavis' introduction of canonized English literature into schools' curriculum (During, Introduction).
Part I of During's collection of essays on the various topics within the development of cultural studies, presents six essays that discuss the development of theory and method in cultural studies. For example, the first essay, which was published in the mid-1940s by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, presents the theory that industrialized (and war-mechanized) society had divested itself of the ability to "nourish true freedom and individuality" because it had fostered what Adorno and Horkheimer denounced as the "culture of industry." The second essay, which was published in 1957 by Roland Barthes, presents the cultural theory that "literature" (the classics of any society, such as English or French society) is not a separate entity that is unintegrated with the "power-flows" and activities of everyday life. Using a trial in which a French laborer called Dominic is condemned, Barthes examines how the judges and reporters perceived, analyzed, understood then condemned Dominic based upon the experience of reading and knowing literature and upon the writing defined by literature. The discourse between the laborer and the judges and reporters (and by extension, society at large) was, as Barthes analysis shows, "profoundly literary": his motives are described in language borrowed from literary devices; they express their sense of human superiority over him through and because of their superior language; the trial is reported in the style and language of literature (During, Editor's Introduction).
The other four essays continue to develop theories and methods that shaped the beginnings of cultural studies, drawing upon the original contributors from English, French and American contributors to early cultural studies, such as American Carolyn Steedman who introduces questions about the historicalicity of cultural studies: can it use historical methods of research; is it more focused on "consciousness raising" than on "truth telling"; can it extend beyond texts into documents; does it or does it not stand on equal footing with economic, social and political history (During, Editor's Introduction)? This essay, which introduces early questions as to method in cultural studies research, helps set the objective of Part I, which is the exploration of the development of theory and method in cultural studies.