History of History Workshop

History Workshop 1

publicity leaflet for history workshop 1
Publicity for History Workshop 1
© History Workshop Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

The first History Workshop, organised by Raphael Samuel and entitled A Day with the Chartists, took place at Ruskin College on 4 March 1967. The historians David Goodway, Brian Harrison, and Dorothy Thompson each led a session on different aspects of Chartism. Sessions included Chartism in London, Teetotal Chartism, and Chartism in the West Riding. There was also a visit to Charterville, a community established by the Chartists at Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire as part of their National Land Company venture.

The name History Workshop was not used in the publicity for this event, which was billed simply as a ‘one-day session on Chartism’. However, by the time History Workshop 2 was held in November 1967, the History Workshop name had appeared, and A Day With the Chartists was established as History Workshop 1.

From the beginning, the Workshop aimed to bring in not only Ruskin students, but anyone interested in the topics raised. This attempt to reach as wide a variety of people as possible, both professional and lay, remained a feature of the movement and sometimes a source of tension within it. The left-wing sympathies of the Workshop’s organisers were evident in the choice both of the subject-matter and of the speakers. This Workshop differed from subsequent events in that all of the speakers were professional academics. From Workshop 2 onwards, a wider variety of people gave papers, including academic historians, adult education teachers, school teachers, students, local historians, campaigners, and specialists in other disciplines.

A follow-up event was held at the Shropshire Adult College from 2 February to 4 February 1968. The longer time-frame allowed a wider range of sessions, including The Local Background: Chartism in Montgomeryshire and Shropshire, Chartism and the Trade Unions, and The Chartist Land Plan.

publicity for follow-up event to history workshop 1
Publicity for follow-up event to History Workshop 1
© History Workshop Archive, Bishopsgate Institute


  1. I can clearly recall the first workshops were not at Ruskin, but at St Antony’s College, Oxford, organised by Tim Mason and Ralph Samuels.

    Terry McCarthy

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