History Workshop 22, Answering Back, was held at Brighton Polytechnic between 18 November and 20 November 1988. This was the third time the Workshop had been held in Brighton, following on from the first two Workshops held after the departure from Ruskin. The choice of topic reflected the importance attached to the ability of ordinary people to understand and to use their own history. It also reflected the growing concern of many in the History Workshop movement with the form and content of history teaching in schools.
As with the previous Workshop, no plenary session was held, rather, the Workshop broke into a number of discussion strands from the beginning. Themes covered included ‘Anarchism’, ‘People and Places: Approaches to Local and Regional History’, ‘Classroom History’, ‘Taking Action: Participation in the Co-operative Movement’, ‘Crime, Deviancy and Popular Revolt in Pre-modern Europe’, ‘The English Revolution’, ‘Education: The Dissenting Tradition’, ‘The Art of the People’, ‘Socialism and Democracy’, ‘Film, Video and the Press – Working Against the Mainstream: Alternative Representations’, ‘Gender and History’, ‘Heritage, National Identity and National Culture’, ‘Ideas in History’, ‘Twenty Years on: The Crisis in Northern Ireland’, ‘Labour Politics, Class, Civil Society and What Went Wrong 1944-1951’, ‘Oral History and Popular Memory’, ‘Racism and History’, ‘Women and Technology’, and ‘Mothers, Daughters and Sisters in History’. Papers given included The Visionary Anarchism of William Blake, 16th Century Rye: A Case Study, The Fight for Women’s Education, and The Memory and Identity of Dutch Caravan Dwellers.
The continuing growth of interest in cultural history and in popular understanding and uses of history was clearly evident in the programme for this Workshop. These trends had been growing elements of the Workshop for much of the 1980s. Also significant in this Workshop was the attempt to ensure that Co-operation was an important part of the schedule. Many of the organisers felt that the history of Co-operation had been neglected, both within the Workshop movement and more widely on the left. The conception of Co-ops as a working class self-owned alternative to capitalism has a long tradition behind it on the left. Together with an interest in Co-ops’ cultural activities, the study of Co-operation fitted in with many of the long-term preoccupations and objectives of the History Workshop movement.