Merilyn Moos has been in touch to remind those interested in the history of refugees of her three important books, all published in the last 5/6 years, which all relate in different forms to her being the child of political refugees from Nazism. The first is a semi-autobiographical novel: ‘The Language of Silence’, then came the biography of her father Siegi Moos: ‘Beaten but not defeated’ (he was a highly active anti-Nazi, a well- known if somewhat dissident member of the KPD and a published writer about the role of agit-prop in revolutionary struggle: his life illustrates the little known grass roots anti-Nazi activism of the years between 1929-33), and finally ‘Breaking the Silence’ an ethnographic study of the effects on the ‘second generation’ of being the children of refugees from Nazism, based on in-depth interviews. She would be happy to send out review copies of these books to those interested in reviewing them, and is happy to also speak to interested groups about them or issues relating to refugees and history today.
The Language of Silence, set in London in the early 21st century, provides a remarkable exploration of the personal consequences of political events and resistance, and how these impact across four generations of one family. It is a novel of immense power, shocking in its portrayal of family life, which nevertheless inspires hope for the future.
Siegi Moos, an anti-Nazi and active member of the German Communist Party, escaped Germany in 1933 and, exiled in Britain, sought another route to the transformation of capitalism. This biography charts Siegi’s life, starting in Germany when he witnessed the Bavarian uprisings of 1918/19 and moving to the later rise of the extreme right. We follow his progress in Berlin as a committed Communist and an active anti-Nazi in the well-organised Red Front, before much of the German Communist party (KPD) took the Nazis seriously, and his deep involvement in the Free Thinkers and in agit-prop theatre. The book also describes Siegi’s life as an exile: the loss of family, comrades, his first language and ultimately his earlier political beliefs. Against a background of the loneliness of exile, the political and the personal became indissolubly intertwined when Siegi’s wife, Lotte, had a relationship with an Irish/Soviet spy. Lastly, we look into Siegi’s time as a research worker at the prestigious Oxford Institute of Statistics at Oxford University from 1938, becoming an economic advisor under the Labour Prime Minister, Wilson, 1966-1970, and how, finally, after retirement, he returned to writing.
There has been extensive research into the impact of the Holocaust on the children of survivors who immigrated to the US and Israel. But very little work in this space has looked at children whose parents fled Nazi persecution before the Holocaust. Even less attention has been paid to those who ended up in Britain from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.What was the impact on this second generation? How have the lives of these ordinary people been shaped by their parents’ dislocation? Using a series of interviews with members of the second generation,Breaking the Silenceis a qualitative, interdisciplinary exploration how their lives were shaped by their parents’ escape from persecution. It offers an insight into how the exile and fear of persecution of the parents and the deaths/murder of unknown relatives has left this generation both bereft of memories and haunted by the past.
There is some historical information relating to The Socialist Standard, which has been published by the Socialist Party of Great Britain since 1904, on a new blog that we have been asked to share with LSHG members (for clarification, the LSHG does not have a position on the current factional issue within the SPGB which warrants this new blog itself) - for more on the history of the SPGB see The Monument: The Story of the Socialist Party of Great Britain by Robert Barltrop.
'The Battle of Wood Green’ 40 years on. Assessing the impact of anti-fascism
London Socialist Historians Group Open Forum
Monday 24 April 2017, 5.30pm
Institute of Historical Research
IHR Seminar Room N304, Third Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
All welcome - no need to book in advance
The Battle of Wood Green took place on Saturday 23 April 1977. A National Front march left Ducketts Common to march down Wood Green High Road. They were opposed by 3000 anti-fascists and large numbers of Saturday shoppers. Although there had been street skirmishes before, this was the first serious disruption of an NF march.
All are welcome to attend and discuss the Battle of Wood Green and its effect on the future of anti-fascist struggle leading up to the present day - free / donations welcome
Dr Katrina Navickas
Places and spaces of protest in the early 19th century West Riding
Wednesday 5 April, 7:30pm, Diamond Jubilee Lecture Theatre, University of Huddersfield
Huddersfield Local History Society and the University of Huddersfield History present the fourth in a series of annual lectures focusing on aspects of the history of radicalism in the Huddersfield district.
The 2017 Luddite Memorial Lecture will be given by Dr Katrina Navickas, Reader in History at the University of Hertfordshire. Not only has Dr Navickas written about many different aspects of popular protest and social movements – she provided the keynote lecture for Huddersfield’s bi-centenary Luddite Commemoration in 2012 - but she has also been investigating how digital mapping can reflect and further her research. Dr Navickas grew up in Rochdale and her most recent book, Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1948, just out in paperback, focuses on events in West Yorkshire and Lancashire.
In her Huddersfield lecture Dr Navickas will be exploring the protest spaces of the West Riding and will show how the county’s distinct topography and spaces within its towns shaped the democratic movements of the early nineteenth century.
The lecture will be introduced by historian Professor Tim Thornton, the University’s deputy Vice-Chancellor, who welcomes the way in which this annual lecture series is continuing to develop. He says: ‘Katrina Navickas promises to add a further new dimension to the already rich record of talks that have taken place under the banner of the Annual Luddite Memorial Lecture. Her focus on protest in spaces and places will be of interest to specialists and to a more general audience concerned with the region’s heritage, and is testimony to the continuing and highly productive relationship between Huddersfield Local History Society and the University’.
If you want to find out more about place and protest in the West Riding in the early 19th century, then do come along to Dr Navickas’ lecture at the University of Huddersfield on 5 April.
FREE ADMISSION, ALL WELCOME AND NO BOOKING REQUIRED
THE LABOURS OF ASA:
The contributions of Asa Briggs to Labour History
Lecture Theatre G.02, Maurice Keyworth Building,
Leeds University Business School, Saturday 6 May 2017
10.00 Greeting by Keith Laybourn and Quentin Outram
10.05 Malcolm Chase: ‘ Samuel Smiles (and Asa Briggs) and
10.50 John Belchem: ‘Beyond the Age of Improvement’
11.40 Joan Allen: ‘The progressive tradition & print culture at the fin de
siècle: The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore & Legend 1887-1891’
12.30-1.45 Lunch and EC of SSLH Executive Meeting
1.30 Poster presentations of five minutes each from PhD students
Ethan Hoskings ‘Partnership, Paternalism and Peace’
Hazel Perry – ‘Trades Councils’
John Kimberley – ‘Industrial Relations in Birmingham in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’
1.50 Eileen Yeo: ‘Rival Town Halls in Glasgow: Revisioning Asa Briggs’ work on ‘the urban public sphere’
2.30 Peter Ackers and Alistair Reid: ‘The Pluralist Traditionand civic society’
3.20 Hugh Gault: ‘The BBC, Seebolm Rowntree and social reform’
4.00 Stephen Yeo: ‘Remembering Asa Briggs’
The Asa Briggs conference will be held at G.02 Lecture Theatre in the Maurice Keyworth Building, Leeds University Business School, The University of Leeds, Moorland Road, Leeds, UK
This FREE conference is open to all.
To reserve a place or find out more please send an email to Dr Quentin Outram Q.Outram@lubs.leeds.ac.ukAnnual
Friday 19 May 2017 : On the evening before Levellers Day, John Rees author of 'The Levellers Revolution' will be speaking as part of the Levellers seminar at the CWU training centre at Alvescot Lodge for the Levellers Night seminar talking about ‘Scottish Covenanters, English Levellers, and “Popular” Revolutions in mid-17thC Britain’ with Laura Stewart, author of ‘Rethinking the Scottish Revolution’. Levellers’ Day 2017 will take place in Burford on Saturday 20 May 2017 - see here for more details
The extent of retrospection in culture and politics is a topic
oft-commented upon and lamented. Public engagements with history and heritage
are frequently lumpenly categorised as ‘nostalgia’: sanitised, selective,
reassuring. Yet this obscures the sheer diversity of militant pasts in the present,
and of the contexts and processes that facilitate their re-manifestation. Che
Guevara’s face adorns posters and t-shirts worldwide, while Garibaldi gets
dunked in tea. Historic campaigns for racial and gender equality have been
regularly dramatized, including in the recent films Selma (2014) and Suffragette (2015). Internecine violence is
frequently documented, and its martyrs commemorated, in the fabric of the
physical environments where it occurred, as the murals of Belfast and Derry
testify. Such remembering and half-remembering of histories of divided societies,
of protest, unrest and insurrection, is far from inherently safe, nor easily
This conference seeks to thrust treatments and legacies of the
militant past into the academic spotlight. We seek papers on retrospective
representations of themes including (but not limited to):
· Campaigns for
· Campaigns for
· Campaigns for
religious tolerance and freedom
· Campaigns for
racial and ethnic equality
· Protests, riots
There exists a vast array of models available for unpicking our
individual and social relationships with the past: Freud’s conception of
repeating, remembering and working through; Baudrillard’s of collecting and of
retro; de Certeau’s of memory and place; Hobsbawm’s of invented tradition;
Boym’s of restorative and reflective strains of nostalgia. Following on from
these examples, we seek papers that address the role of format-specific and
contextual dynamics and accompanying motivations in shaping the way militant
pasts are represented and used. When and where are different modes of
representation and appropriation – such as the reproduction of imagery and
motifs, re-narration, preservation of heritage, adaptation, re-enactment,
anniversaries, remembrance and commemoration – employed? How are these shaped
by the contexts in which they appear, whether in popular cultural forms, high
politics, heritage sectors, social movements, educational institutions,
biographies and autobiographies, or the internet? What purposes do they serve:
nostalgia; entertainment; commodification; education; calls to action; warning
or pacifying gestures? How have these narratives, images and artefacts diffuse
across time and space, and across formats and forums? How have their meanings
contested, and by whom?
We welcome proposals for twenty-minute presentations from all
disciplines and concerned with any time-period, including those with a
contemporary focus. Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, along
with a short CV, to conference organisers Ruth Adams, Dion Georgiou and
Andrew Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
by 31 May 2017.
To mark the centenary of the historic Leeds Convention of 3 June 1917, where some 3,500 democrats and socialists pledged solidarity with the Russian Revolution and voted to set up Worker's and Soldiers' Councils in Britain, Leeds Trades Council and the Ford-Maguire Society with the generous support of the Lipman-Miliband Trust are holding a one day event at the Swarthmore Centre in Leeds on Saturday 3 June from 10-4pm. Speakers include Michael Meadowcroft on the Leeds Convention, John Newsinger on the Russian Revolution, Janet Douglas on Arthur Ransome, Leeds and the Russian Revolution, and Jill Liddington on 'Leeds Suffrage Stories: Isabella Ford, Mary Gawthorpe and Leonora Cohen'. There will also be an evening event with American folk singer David Rovics performing.
I’m inviting you to the launch meeting for the new book which John McIlroy and I have edited — 1956: John Saville, EP Thompson and The Reasoner.
It’s on Wednesday, 1 March 2017 at 19.00, at Housman’s Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX.
There is a £3 entry fee, which is redeemable against any purchase.
1956: John Saville, EP Thompson and The Reasoner contains the full text of all three issues of John Saville and EP Thompson’s magazine from 1956, The Reasoner, related Communist Party documents, and an introduction and critical essays by the editors.
The North East Labour History Societyis pleased to announce that it has just published transcripts of the personal memories of sixty people from the North East. You can find these on our website at: http://nelh.net/oral-history/
These oral histories are from people who have spent their lives in the co-operative movement, the mines, other industries, the unions and political activity. We think these transcripts are a valuable permanent record of peoples' recollections of their lifetime experiences.
The material we have here draws on a range of activities undertaken by North East Labour History Society members and others.
Do take a look and tell us what you think. If you have transcripts or notes from interviews with people who have been involved in the labour movement in the North East we would be delighted to provide space for them on our site (email@example.com). As well as the name of the interviewee and a photograph, it would be helpful to have their dates, where they lived and worked, the name of the interviewer and, if applicable, the project or organisation through which the interview was done. It is important to get permission from the person who has been interviewed to put their information on this site.
The LSE Library has a spring exhibition which runs from 9 January to 7 April: 'Glad to be Gay: the struggle for legal
equality'. It draws on the unique Hall-Carpenter Archives and the Women’s Library collection to mark the 50th anniversary of a pivotal piece of legislation: the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. Before that, homosexuality was a criminal offence. With the passing of the Sexual Offences Act, homosexuality in private was decriminalised, but genuine parity still was not achieved. The struggle for legal equality continues and has only made progress by the sustained efforts of committed
activists. See photos from the exhibition here
Dates: Conference 10th-12 April Abstracts by Monday 2oth March Papers by Friday 31stMarch
From 1995 to 2016, Manchester Metropolitan University hosted a series of very successful annual international conferences on 'ALTERNATIVE FUTURES and POPULAR PROTEST'.
We're very happy to announce that the Twenty Second AF&PP Conference will be held between Monday 10th and Wednesday 12th April 2017.
The Conference rubric will remain as in previous years. The aim is to explore the dynamics of popular movements, along with the ideas which animate their activists and supporters and which contribute to shaping their fate.
Reflecting the inherent cross-disciplinary nature of the issues, previous participants (from over 60 countries) have come from such specialisms as sociology, politics, cultural studies, social psychology, economics, history and geography. The Manchester conferences have been notable for discovering a fruitful and friendly meeting ground between activism and academia.
CALL FOR PAPERS
We invite offers of papers relevant to the conference themes. Papers should address such matters as:
* contemporary and historical social movements and popular protests
* social movement theory
* utopias and experiments
* ideologies of collective action
To offer a paper, please contact either of the conference convenors with a brief abstract:
London was the destination for communists and anarchists to
meet and argue over the form that the coming revolution would take.
German anarchists had lived in London since 1848 and came to police
attention after assassination attempts on the Tsar of Russia. Lenin knew
London well, and the final split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks
took place here in November 1903, with tragic consequences for the
Russian Revolution in 1917. The communists had fled police spies in
Brussels to meet in Charlotte St in the guise of an anglers club.
Successive waves of exiles from France, Germany and Russia made
a home in Fitzrovia, close to the British Museum where Marx and Lenin
studied, yet in an area where foreigners ran the bookstores and shops.
On this walk we will find the streets where the leading Communard Louise
Michel lived and established a pioneering Fitrovia school, and revisit
the site of the Autonomie anarchist club, linked by police to the
Greenwich bomb of 1894 which inspired Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent.
Sun 26 February 2017
14:00 – 16:00 GMT
Goodge Street Station
72 Tottenham Court Road
Paul Le Blanc is Professor of History at La Roche College (USA) and
author of works on the labour and socialist movements, including Lenin and
the Revolutionary Party, From Marx to Gramsci, and Leon Trotsky.
An editor of the eight-volume International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and
Protest, he is currently helping to oversee the Verso Books edition of The
Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg.
1917 – workers in power
Published by Merlin Press, Resistance Books
‘This collection, containing both texts by participants and retrospective
historical analyses, defends the achievements of the Revolution while honestly
recognizing its limitations, and will stimulate informed discussion.’ Ian Birchall, socialist historian.
‘This is an important collection celebrating the legacy of the Russian
Revolution in its centenary year. Paul Le Blanc’s Introduction provides
rich historical context for past events. But the book is really about the
future.‘ Tithi Bhattacharya, Professor of History, Purdue University; editorial
board member, International Socialist Review.
‘A fascinating and unexpected collection of material that shines a needed light
on the workers revolution of 1917. All in all, a spirited defence of the
October revolution at a time when many people would like to forget all about
it.’ Lars Lih, author of Lenin Rediscovered: What is to be Done? in
Context, Haymarket 2008.
want to make a few history-related points on the book here. I was indeed there.
I was at the battles of Wood Green and Lewisham, at the Carnivals and on the
streets. I still have a pair of steel toe capped Doc Martens and they weren’t
(mostly) used for industrial purposes. They were, and the book captures this
well, different times.
the late 1970s I did not walk down any street without scrutinising those also
walking to see if they might be fascists who were about to attack me. I don’t
do that now because the current strength of organised fascism is low. Indeed I
moved to my current address in central
Tottenham precisely because it is so difficult to find. Not that difficult
though because the front window still has a bullet hole in it, which I’ve left
as a memoir of different times. I wasn’t in when the bullet was fired, but the
windows are double glazed as a precaution anyway. The times are not so
different though. Racism still needs to be fought, big time in the age of
Farage and Trump. Whether music will be as central remains to be seen perhaps.
the book is essentially an oral history covering Rock Against Racism and the
Anti-Nazi League, Two Tone and Red Wedge. The author has assembled quotes from
a extensive range of people under subject headings in more or less
I’d confess as a professional historian to not being that
enthusiastic about oral history because memory is unreliable and quite
difficult to check. Iwouldn’t bet on every last statement in the
book being accurate but that isn’t really the point. Instead it gives a real
flavour of how culture, music and the left came together to fight fascism,
racism and the right and some idea both of the breadth of the support needed to
do this and the importance of having some coherent political organisation at
its core, whether this was the SWP or the Labour Party or both.
course Red Wedge was not Rock Against Racism and the distinct parts of the book
perhaps don’t have such an automatic follow on. Nor is there an attempt,
understandably it being an oral history, to grapple with what precise longer
term impact something like RAR had.
I was there and know a lot of the people interviewed well the book does read to
me like all my yesterdays. But allowing old socialists to recall the past is
hopefully not what it is meant to be about. It should be read by those who were
NOT there both to get some sense of how movements were built and what is
possible, and hopefully to inspire activity and organisation now.
can always criticise and hopefully there is a positive purpose to that but
beyond that this is a book you should read whether you were there and
particularly if you were not.
From London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter 60 (Spring 2017)
It is twenty years since
the death of one of the most significant socialist historians of the post-1945
era, Raphael Samuel. In the age of post-truth particularly his work, focused as
it was on the recovery of working class and plebeian history and dominated by
the rigour of the carefully researched footnote deserves to be not just
remembered but taken as an exemplar.
Below is an obituary that
appeared in Socialist Review January 1997 by Keith Flett
Samuel (26 Dec 1934- 9 Dec 1996)
Samuel, who has died aged 61, was a youthful member of the Communist Party
Historians’ Group in the 1950s when its leading members included Eric Hobsbawm
and E. P. Thompson. However, he left the CP in 1956 and as a socialist
historian he was very much a child of the `new left’ and the upheavals of the
Samuel studied under Christopher Hill at BalliolCollege,
Oxford, in the
early 1950s, but, unlike the older generation of Marxist historians, Samuel
never sought academic advancement. His published work, usually under the banner
of the History Workshop, was invariably a collaborative exercise, and for more
than 30 years from 1962 he remained a tutor at RuskinCollege, Oxford, encouraging mature trade union
students to take an interest in historical research.
History Workshop collections edited by Samuel, such as Village Life and Labour and Miners, Quarrymen and Saltworkers, opened up a focus on the
history of ordinary working people, and the essays were usually written by
`worker historians’ often students of Samuel at Ruskin.
So thirteen History Workshop pamphlets including Stan
Shipley’s Club Life and Socialism in
were published between 1970 and 1974. Shipley had been an AEU branch secretary in Walthamstow.
Perhaps ironically, shortly before his death Samuel was
persuaded to take a long overdue and much deserved professorship at a new
centre for the study of community in the East End of London at the University of East London.
Samuel was a key figure behind the rise of the History
Workshop movement which began life at Ruskin
in 1966 as an informal seminar on the English countryside in the 19th century.
The principal, Samuel has related, almost closed it down, worried that students
were listening to each other rather than to the lecturers. History Workshop
Journal followed in 1975.
The Workshops in particular brought together large numbers
of rank and file socialist historians committed to recovering the past from the
viewpoint of ordinary people. Early sessions famously included topics such as
`A Day With the Chartists’ which sought to recreate the ideas, experiences and
conditions that the Chartists had encountered.
The Workshop in particular became very much a product, as
Samuel recorded in People’s History and Socialist Theory , of the events
and enthusiasms of 1968. Ruskin was out on strike days before the Paris events of May 1968.
Raphael Samuel was one of the most prominent historians in
the country to support history from below the attempt to actively recover the
history of ordinary people and their movements. In many ways this was a step
forward from the sometimes rather rigid orthodoxies of more mechanical Marxist
histories. It fed in directly, too, to the resurgence of socialist ideas after
1968 and to the birth of the women’s movement in which the History Workshop
Conference of November 1968 played a central organising role.
Samuel could be fiercely critical of socialists with whom
he disagreed. Debate has raged, for example, about whether a series of articles
he wrote about the Communist Party in the 1940s and 1950s in New Left Review
under the title `The Lost World of British Communism’ was an attempt to write
an affectionate history from below of what it had been like to be a CP member
before 1956 or an attack on any kind of left wing political activism.
He was nevertheless a great enthusiast for history and a
great encourager of people engaged in socialist historical research. His energy
and productivity knew no bounds, whether it was in organising meetings or
With his untimely death socialists can make a preliminary
attempt to draw a balance sheet of what Raphael achieved. The History Workshop
movement, of which Samuel published a 25 year history in 1991, has declined and
become, to an extent, sucked into academic respectability.
In recent years it has dropped its masthead describing it
as a journal of `socialist and feminist historians’ as it has reflected the
pessimism of some on the left about the prospects for change after the collapse
of Stalinism. Certainly the early, welcome, focus on working class history and
movements and direct links to political activity in the present have largely
Gone too is the commitment to
`worker historians’. In its place has come a certain attraction to the ideas of
postmodernism. Both the History Workshop where it still functions and History Workshop Journal, however,
remain battlegrounds, in historical terms, for many of the ideas, goodand bad, which are current on the left.
Their influence, and that of Samuel, has been immense.
Groups and publications inspired bythem exist in many countries.
History from below as practised by Samuel and others has
also met its limitations. In many cases it has led towards an interest in
ephemera and detailed micro-
histories which, while of interest to the historian, are
certainly not about changing the world. Samuel himself in recent years became
increasingly interested, as his 1994 collection of articles Theatres of Memory indicates, in
recovering the popular history of culture, cultural objects and artefacts.
Samuel saw this interest in heritage as a real living people’s history,
genuinely democratic and open to all. It is as a people’s historian rather than
as a socialist historian that he would probably wish to be remembered.
Even so socialist history in this country would have been
and will be much the poorer without Raphael. He kept his commitment and his
ability to argue to the end. I came across him at the Bishopsgate Institute,
opposite Liverpool Street station, which
was to be the centre of his new chair, weeks before his death.
Despite being terribly ill he found time not only to
enquire into my own research but to have a spirited debate about whether
Charles Bradlaugh’s National Secular Society, formed in 1866, was a
proto-Labour Party. That was Raphael, argumentative and passionate about his
history to the end. He was and remained a real product of the 1960s with
all the good and bad points that flow from that.
Republished in London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter 60 (Spring 2017).
From London Socialist Historians Group Newsletter 60 (Spring 2017)
Historians and the World of Post-Truth
since Donald Trump won the US
Presidential Election there has been much discussion of ‘post-truth’ and a
related issue, ‘fake news’, the latter being focused on the social media site
Facebook. The general idea is that Trump and his associates said what they felt
like and what they thought would play well to without the slightest regard to
whether or not it was true or had any relationship to reality.
The same approach was apparent during the UK Brexit referendum campaign, from the side of
the political right. Michael Gove denigrated the value of ‘experts’, that is
people who actually know something as opposed to those who just have an opinion
or make it up. More recently hard right Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has told BBC Newsnight that experts are in the same
category as soothsayers. One reaction to this is to revisit the regulation of
the media proposed by the Leveson Report. But the post-truth world of stories,
myths and lies goes far deeper and wider than that. One way, from the left,
that an effective challenge can be built to post-truthers, is through
historical research and publication.
course academia has plenty of both but that is hardly going to reach to many of
those who are inclined to go along with reactionary ideas. This year sees the
40th anniversary of the first publication of History Workshop Journal, which at the recently published issue 82,
leading with new research on the Tolpuddle Martyrs, is still going strong. It
is also the 20th anniversary in December of the untimely death of Raphael
Samuel, a key founding figure behind the History Workshops held at RuskinCollege
in Oxford and the Journal as
well. The first History Workshop day event held at Ruskin in March 1967 was
called a ‘Day with the Chartists’. It heard from socialist academics like
Dorothy Thompson who were researching the subject but the emphasis was on what
the participants could discover themselves. The idea in this case was to look
at what the Chartists had been doing in their own local areas, to check
original sources of evidence, for example in local record offices, and to
understand from their own experience what the Chartist challenge to capital had
been in the 1840s.
The Journal when it was launched placed a
similar emphasis on grassroots research. There were reports about labour
history to be found in archives and perhaps most of all a fascination with what
working people had done politically in previous times and how. Samuel himself
was invariably immersed in the details of the history of the lives of workers.
His classic study of Victorian industry and labour, Workshop of the World,
available free online, is notable for its large number of footnotes.
Workshop and Journal spawned a series
of pamphlets which were and remain classic studies of the detail of aspects of
working class history. For example Stan Shipley’s Club Life and Socialism in
mid-Victorian London uncovered the history of working men’s clubs, particularly
in areas like Homerton, and how their activities formed part of the basis of
the socialist movement’s development after the demise of Chartism in the 1860s. History Workshop Journal is now arguably
a little more academic in style and the link to worker historians is gone.
However it helped to inspire a network of left-wing history groups across the
UK that carry on the tradition of researching and remembering the realities of
working class life and politics. In the age of post-truth remembering reality