Following the first History Workshop in March 1967, History Workshop 2 took place at Ruskin College on 4 November 1967. The theme of the day’s events was Education and the Working Class in Nineteenth-Century England. It was for this event that the name History Workshop was first used, with its designation as History Workshop 2 establishing A Day with the Chartists as History Workshop 1.
The name History Workshop was inspired by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, founded in 1945. Theatre Workshop put on theatrical performances (frequently with a strong political dimension) aimed at the working classes, who were frequently marginalised and excluded by mainstream theatre. History Workshop thus committed itself to the study of marginalised groups, to be used as part of current political struggles. This was an explicitly socialist heritage, which aimed to build a ‘fluid coalition of worker-students… and other socialist historians’.
Those who gave papers at Workshop 2 included academics, teachers, and students from universities, polytechnics, and adult education colleges. This breadth of involvement represented an early principle of the Workshops. Attempts were made to involve professional historians, students, experts in other disciplines, and anyone else with an interest in history and political sympathy with the aims of the Workshop. Sessions included ‘School and Community’, ‘The Self-Educating Working Man’, and ‘Art, Psychology, Science’. Papers given included Going to School in Bognor Regis, Church vs. Dissent: Mechanics’ Institutes in Coventry, and Working Class Astronomers.