History Workshop 11, Rank and File Movements, took place at Ruskin College on 21 and 22 May 1977. Unlike previous Workshops, no social/cultural event appeared on the programme. This Workshop was organised entirely by Ruskin students, rather than jointly between students and staff as many previous Workshops had been. The selection of the topic of ‘rank and file movements’ was designed to set the Workshop within its wider context as part of the labour movement. Following the formidable difficulties in organising previous Workshops where attendances had frequently exceeded 500 and had climbed as high as 2000, the number of tickets for Workshop 11 was limited to 250.

 Listen to an extract from the Workshop – Bob Doyle criticising the record of Labour governments during History Workshop 11 on Audioboo

This Workshop used a different structure from that developed for Workshop 10, where each day had been divided into several themes running in parallel across a number of sessions. Instead, Workshop 11 had shorter, non-thematic sessions, run in parallel, with a few papers being given in each one. Papers given included Organising Musicians in the 1930s, The Munster Creamery Soviets, The Sheffield Shop-Stewards Movement, and Organising Cotton – Workers in Malaysia.

The profile of speakers for this Workshop differed from many others, including fewer academic historians and more speakers from the labour movement, as well as those from Ruskin. This was part of a conscious attempt to counter what some perceived as a drift in the Workshop away from its roots and towards the world of professional academia. The existence of these varying constituencies within the movement – professional academics, worker-students/historians, politically sympathetic amateur historians, and trade unionists – was a source of tension regarding the aims and methods of History Workshop.

publicity for history workshop 11
Publicity for History Workshop 11
© History Workshop Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

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