About this Archive
History Workshop was a popular movement for the democratisation of History which flourished in Britain from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s (with sporadic activity continuing into the 1990s). It emerged from Ruskin College Oxford where Raphael Samuel, the movement’s initiator and presiding spirit, taught history for many decades.
In the course of the 1970s, History Workshop spread across Britain, spawning dozens of regional and local initiatives, publishing many books, pamphlets and journals (including the still-extant History Workshop Journal), and acquiring influence throughout intellectual and educational circles. During these years the movement also went international, spawning sister workshops in Germany, France, Italy, South Africa, and America.
Its high point was reached in the late 1970s, and thereafter it went into a slow decline, although many of the developments it helped to foster (such as oral history and women’s history) continue to flourish today. The early workshops were Ruskin-based, participant-led events that drew on what Raphael Samuel described as a "fluid coalition of worker-students from Ruskin and other socialist historians". The first one, "A Day with the Chartists", held in 1967, was a modest affair with about 50 in attendance. But five years later a workshop on "Workers’ Control" attracted over 700 and by the mid 1970s the workshops had become major festivals of history, attracting up to a thousand participants.
While the themes explored varied widely, the events were primarily a showcase for history seen from a non-elite perspective, "people’s history" as it was labelled. In the early years this meant primarily working-class history but over time, after some controversy, it expanded to include the new women’s history, for which the History Workshops were the primary seedbed.
Scope and Content
Audio archive of recordings at History Workshop events or of oral histories gathered in research for History Workshop publications, including: Audio recordings of talks given at History Workshop 11, "Rank and File Movements", Ruskin College, 1977; Audio recording of the concluding session of History Workshop 12 "In Our Time, Britain, 1945-1978", Ruskin College, 1978; Audio recordings of talks and discussions at History Workshop 13, "People's History and Socialist Theory", Ruskin College, 1979; Audio recordings of talks, discussions and oral histories compiled at the Miners' Dispute Weekend, Ruskin College, 1985; Audio recordings of talks and discussions at a History Workshop Centre for Social History summer school at Ruskin College on "Aspects of Social History", 1985; Audio recordings of talks and discussions for the History Workshop Journal Teach-In on History, the Nation and the Schools, 1989; Audio recordings of talks and discussions at the History Workshop Recall Conference on "History, the Nation and Schools", 1990; Audio recordings of talks and discussions at the third History Workshop conference on "History, the Nation and Schools" on "The Future of English", 1991; Oral history recordings undertaken in research for History Workshop publications, including interviews with Arthur Exell regarding work at Morris Motors, Oxford; and life interviews with Charles Mann, Winifred Stephenson, Len Hart and Sheila Rowbotham, 1978-1991.
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