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
Papers regarding History Workshop events, including: Papers regarding the general administration of History Workshop events, including: correspondence between Ruskin College and History Workshop; minutes and papers of the History Workshop Collective, the History Workshop Housing Group, the Federation of History Workshops and the History Workshop Memory and Myth Working Group; press and publicity sheets from History Workshop events, 1968-1989; Papers, draft papers, correspondence, programmes, press cuttings, lists of attendees, financial papers, notes, and publicity material from all of the History Workshops held at Ruskin College and elsewhere, 1966-1995; Correspondence, minutes, papers, programmes, publicity materials, and notes from local and specialist History Workshops, including material from the Co-operative History Workshop, Television History Workshop, Language and Class Workshop, Massachusetts History Workshop, East London History Workshop, and History Workshops from around the UK, 1974-1993.