The ‘History, the Nation and Schools’ Workshop entitled Scottish Dimensions was held at Ruskin College between 24 and 26 March 1995. The series of conferences of which this was part had begun in 1989 as a contribution to debates about how history should be taught under the new National Curriculum. This fourth conference in the series was devoted to exploring the ‘four nations’ theory of British history by way of Scottish history, literature, and politics. Scottish Dimensions was the last event billed as a History Workshop to be organised by a group surrounding Raphael Samuel before Samuel’s death in December 1996. In the tradition of previous Workshops, a cultural event, in the form of a ceilidh, was included in the programme.
The conference followed the established practice of History Workshops by this time in holding plenary sessions at the beginning and end of each day, and then dividing into parallel themed sessions for the rest of the time. Themes were entitled ‘History’, ‘Politics’, ‘Media’, and ‘Art’. Papers delivered included Does Mary Queen of Scots Matter?, Women in the Scottish Labour Movement, Gaelic Art, Scottish Toryism, and Was Scott a Tory?
Many of the themes explored by this conference, including nationalism and the public perception of history, had also been explored by contributors to the annual History Workshops in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These were both highly relevant topics in the atmosphere surrounding the end of the Cold War and the trumpeted victory of western capitalism and the corresponding death of socialism. This contemporary social and political environment was reflected by changes within the History Workshop movement. It was suggested by some longtime members of the Workshop movement that later Workshops tended to have a less inflammatory, more academic atmosphere than some early events. History Workshop Journal, which following the end of the annual gatherings in 1994 was the last remaining national organisation in the Workshop movement, controversially dropped its masthead, ‘a journal of socialist and feminist historians’, in Spring 1995.