About this Archive
Raphael Elkan Samuel (1934 - 1996) was a British Marxist historian, described by Stuart Hall as "one of the most outstanding, original intellectuals of his generation". He was Professor of History at the University of East London at the time of his death and also taught at Ruskin College from 1962 until his death.
Samuel was born into a Jewish family in London. His father, Barnett Samuel, was a solicitor and his mother, Minna Nerenstein, was a composer and partner in Jewish publishers Shapiro, Valentine. Samuel joined the Communist Party of Great Britain when he was a teenager and left following the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary in 1956.
Samuel was awarded a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford where he became a member of the Communist Party Historians Group, alongside Christopher Hill, E. P. Thompson and others.
He co-founded the journal Past and Present in 1952, and pioneered the study of working-class history. He founded the Partisan Coffee House in 1956 in Soho, London, as a meeting place for the British New Left. He took a leading part in founding the History Workshop movement at trade union connected Ruskin College, Oxford.
Samuel and the History Workshop movement powerfully influenced the development of the approach to historical research and writing commonly called "history from below".
Starting in 1967, the 1970s, and early 1980s, saw the History Workshop movement grow in popularity, leading to the formation of a number of local History Workshops and the publication of a series of pamphlets, books and journals, including the History Workshop Journal in 1976. The British movement also inspired several international History Workshops in Europe, South Africa and America.
In 1987 Samuel married the writer and critic Alison Light. After Samuel's death in 1996, the East London History Centre of the University of East London was renamed the Raphael Samuel History Centre, in honour of his role in creating it.
Scope and Content
Research materials, cuttings, extracts, articles, copies notes and drafts compiled in the preparation of all of Samuel’s major works including: Theatres of Memory: Volume 1 and 2, East End Underworld (and material for the proposed unpublished second volume), People’s History and Socialist Theory, Culture, Ideology and Politics, Patriotism: Volume 1 and 2, The Enemy Within, The Myths We Live By, along with research materials for essays, lectures, and articles, including The Lost World of British Communism, British Marxist Historians, Puritanism, the Tory Interpretation of History, History, Nation and the Schools and others; general research notes on oral history, local history and London History, c1950-1997.