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 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.
Samuel’s selected publications and edited volumes include: Village Life and Labour (1975), Miners, Quarrymen and Saltworkers (1977), People's History and Socialist Theory (1981), East End Underworld (1981), Culture, Ideology and Politics (1983), Theatres of the Left: 1880–1935 (1985), The Lost World of Communism (1986), The Enemy Within: The Miners' Strike of 1984 (1987), Patriotism: The Making and Unmaking of British National Identity (1989), Patriotism (Volume 2): Minorities and Outsiders (1989), The Myths We Live By (1990), Theatres of Memory: Volume 1: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture (1994), Theatres of Memory: Volume 2: Island Stories: Unravelling Britain (1997), The Lost World of British Communism (2006).
Scope and Content
Papers, correspondence and other material maintained by Raphael Samuel in his office at Ruskin College, Oxford, including: miscellaneous correspondence files regarding general matters, Ruskin, publications and conferences, 1971-1995; correspondence and paper files regarding publications, appearances in the media and other non-History Workshop related matters, 1969-1994; Articles, drafts, articles, papers, press cuttings and correspondence gathered by Samuel for his research and writing on the Social Democratic Party (SDP), 1972-1983; Correspondence, typescripts, notes and other material regarding Frank McKenna's "The Railway Workers, 1840-1970", 1980-1983; Papers, minutes, agendas, correspondence, programmes and other material collected by Samuel from his membership and activities with various organisations, including the Society for the Study of Labour History, LLAFUR, the Irish Labour History Society, the Oral History Society, the London Labour Parties History Group. Forum Histoire, Communist Party Library & History Group, the Marx Memorial Library, Spitalfields Trust, Lipman Trust and other organisations and groups, 1972-1993.