History Workshop 19, ‘Whose history is it anyway?’, took place at Leeds Polytechnic between 22 and 24 November 1985. The choice of subject perhaps suggested growing questions on the left about how and why to study history from a leftist perspective. There was much fear and uncertainly on the left at this time following the defeat of the miners’ strike in March 1985. The strength of Thatcherism and the wider decline of the labour movement may also have influenced the choice of theme. As with many previous Workshops, social/cultural events took place throughout the weekend, including exhibitions, live music, and a disco.
As had become usual by this point, Workshop 19 began and ended with plenary sessions, and broke up for individual workshops for the remainder of the time. Themes for individual workshops included ‘Women’s History’, ‘Whose History?’, ‘Anarchism’, ‘Urban Culture’, ‘Textile History’, ‘Nature and Socialism’, ‘Immigration and Race’, ‘Socialism and Poetry’, and ‘Militant and Moderate Mining Communities’. Papers given included The Sikh Family History Project, Kropotkin and Terrorism, Women Against Pit Closures, and In the Belly of the Beast: West Indians in Bradford.
Workshop 19 saw a diverse range of speakers, from local history groups, academia, and political campaigns. Particularly strongly attended at this Workshop was the ’Anarchism’ strand of discussion. Anarchist history had been covered in Workshop discussions for a number of years, but at this Workshop the strand on anarchism was second only to the women’s history strand in the number of pre-booked tickets sold. This political diversity was also complemented by increasingly cosmopolitan studies of race, immigration, and immigrant communities, which were increasing focuses of Workshop coverage at this time.