History of History Workshop

History Workshop 7

image of a ticket for history workshop 7
Ticket for History Workshop 7
© History Workshop Archive, Bishopsgate Institute

History Workshop 7, Women in History, was held at Ruskin College between 4 and 6 May 1973. In addition to the presentation of papers, the practice of holding a social and cultural event continued. The film Night Cleaners’ Strike, by Marc Karlin, was shown, followed by a party with folk music.

As with previous Workshops, several sessions were held each day, with multiple papers in each session. Sessions included: ‘Women in the Ancient World’, ‘Third World’, ‘Women’s Strikes’, ‘Ideology and Work’, ‘The Cult of Motherhood’, ‘The Cult of Gentility’, ‘Blacksmiths and Herring Girls’, ‘Women and the Workers’ Revolt 1910-1914’, ‘Liberation Movements’, ‘Women and Crime’, and ‘Women in the First World War’. Papers presented included Women in Ancient Rome, ‘Harijan’ Women in Village India, Scotch Herring Girls 1880-1930, and Work Girls and Prostitutes in 19th-Century Plymouth.

As was usual for Workshops at this time, speakers were drawn from staff and students of adult education institutions and universities, as well as some political campaigns. Workshop 7 reflected increasing feminist influence; although some feminists protested that certain speakers had treated women’s history as a mere sideline to their ‘real’ work. The profile of the speakers at this Workshop was markedly different from previous Workshops in that the majority were women.  It was also noticeable that more speakers and participants were from overseas. At future workshops the overseas constituency continued to grow

Some of the publicity for this Workshop was printed by the workers of Briant Colour Printing (BCP) in London during a ‘work-in’ in 1972-1973. The ‘work-in’ took place whilst employees at BCP occupied the print workshop following the issuing of redundancy notices. They then continued to work while campaigning for a new owner to be found who would guarantee to carry on running the company with the existing staff. Although a new owner was ultimately found, all of the employees were made redundant a few months later, the new owner having first secured the print workshop to ensure that the occupation could not be repeated. During the ‘work-in’, History Workshop was one of a number of left-wing organisations which commissioned work from BCP in order to express solidarity with the occupiers.

image of publicity material for history workshop 6
Publicity for History Workshop 7
© History Workshop Archive, Bishopsgate Institute


Letter from Raphael Samuel to Bill Freeman, Briant Colour Printing Work-in Committee, regarding printing of publicity and tickets for History Workshop 7 and pamphlets in the History Workshop series
© History Workshop Archive, Bishopsgate Institute


  1. It should always be remembered, that the Ruskin history workshop was a collective the ideas for this workshop as well as the organisation came from the students, (the largest group coming from the Communist Party) excepting that without the help of Raph Samuel, Victor Tredwell,  Harry Pollins,  and the principal Billy Hughes the workshops could not have taken place. And often written out of the workshop history, is Tim Mason the co founder of the of the workshops.
    Terry McCarthy Ruskin  student and member of the workshop collective 1971-73

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