Radical Histories/Histories of Radicalism: A Major Conference & Public History Festival

1-3 July 2016
Queen Mary University of London

This international event commemorates twenty years since the death of the leftwing social historian Raphael Samuel and forty years since the founding of History Workshop Journal. The event will explore radical approaches to the past and histories of radical ideas and action through lectures, panels, performances, screenings, workshops and exhibitions.

The event is hosted by Queen Mary University of London and organised by the Raphael Samuel History Centre (www.raphael-samuel.org.uk). It is intended to engage a diverse audience, and to bring together practitioners of many varieties of historical research, curatorship, writing and performance, from both inside and outside the academy. Other venues and partners for the event include Bishopsgate Institute, the London Metropolitan Archives and Tower Hamlets Local Studies Library.

The event will open on the evening of Friday 1st July with a plenary session ‘Radical history then and now’ involving radical historians, historians of radical movements and movement activists, past and present. It will close with a panel discussion on ‘Raphael Samuel and his Legacies’. In between these plenary sessions, there will be papers, film screenings, workshops, meetings and performances, all exploring a wide range of themes and ideas in radical history. We have grouped these themes as follows:
A. Radical movements:
History of radical movements and organisations; parties; left-wing activism; working-class radicalisms; national liberation struggles; popular mobilisations, past and present.
B. Diversity, difference and beyond:
Histories of feminism, gender and sexuality; histories and activism of race and ethnicity; disability politics.
C. Local and global histories:
Radical London; migration/movement of peoples; empire/post-colonial histories; globalisation; internationalism in a global age.
D. Culture, art and environment:
Heritage and public history; radical arts; environmental activism; housing politics.
E. History, policy, and the idea of politics:
Europe; government; elites; the move to the right; austerity; neo-liberalism; the politics of the academy

How to contribute:
Contributions that reflect on any of these themes in relation to any period of history are invited from academic and non-academic historians, and from those working or practising in the arts, education, heritage and culture, as well as activists campaigning in any of these areas.

The themes are indicative only, and we will consider proposals that fall outside them so long as these relate to the overall conference theme. We welcome offers of traditional academic papers but would particularly like to encourage proposals for other session formats likely to engage a varied audience, for example panel discussions, interactive hands-on workshops (for example, around primary source materials), photo-essays, exhibitions and performances. Contributions that focus on any period of history are welcome, as are contributions that offer reflections on methodologies (whether of the historian or the activist).

Please send a 250 – 500 word proposal, including a description of the format and content of the proposed paper, session, workshop, meeting, screenings, or performance. Include an abstract if appropriate, and the names of any other speakers or participants. AT THE TOP OF YOUR PROPOSAL PLEASE INDICATE THE CONFERENCE STRAND (A –E above) TO WHICH YOU THINK YOUR PROPOSAL RELATES MOST CLOSELY.

Please submit your proposal to Katy Pettit, Raphael Samuel History Centre administrator (k.pettit@uel.ac.uk) by Monday September 14th. Proposers will be notified by November 30th.

About the Raphael Samuel History Centre (RSHC)
Originally founded by the historian Raphael Samuel at the University of East London in 1996 as the Centre for East London History, and renamed after him in 2008, the Raphael Samuel History Centre has since expanded into a partnership between UEL, Birkbeck College University of London, Queen Mary University of London and Bishopsgate Institute in the City of London.

An extensive range of events, projects and research activities operates under our umbrella as we seek to stimulate debate about the continuing force of the past in the present. Our dynamic and engaged approach to history goes beyond the limits of the academy to include people of all ages and backgrounds.

The Centre is recognised nationally and internationally as the hub for intelligent debate that links history to present-day concerns and crosses boundaries between academic and public/popular history. We aim to put history in conversation both with other disciplines, and with contemporary activism and politics. In the spirit of Raphael Samuel and more broadly of the History Workshop movement, we are committed to a democratic, non-elitist and inclusive approach to history. We aim to support, nurture and encourage both new-career academic historians and those working in history outside academia. We provide a forum for debate about the place of history in public life, in schools, heritage organizations and the media. We enter into partnership with other organizations – large and small – in order to stimulate interest in and discussion of history.


  1. Raph was my dissertation tutor during my time at Ruskin College 1974-1976. Fond memories!

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