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 publications of the History Workshop Movement, including: Correspondence, typescripts, drafts, reviews, promotional material, financial papers, and research materials regarding the thirteen pamphlets published by History Workshop between 1970 and 1973, along with transcripts, drafts, correspondence and other material regarding suggested but unpublished titles, 1967-1994; Papers regarding the writing, research, editing and publication of all the books in the History Workshop Series, published by Routledge and Kegan Paul, including: correspondence between Routledge and Kegan Paul and the History Workshop Collective; correspondence, research materials, manuscripts and other materials regarding books in the History Workshop Series, most notably "Village Life and Labour", "Miners, Quarrymen and Saltworkers", "People's History and Socialist Theory", "East End Underworld", "Theatres of the Left", "The Enemy Within", "Patriotism" and "History Workshop: a Collectanea", 1968-1993; Typescripts, manuscripts, cuttings, notes and other material regarding unpublished volumes in the History Workshop Series, 1968-1996.