History Workshop 28, The End of History, was held in Brighton between 11 and 13 November 1994. This was the fourth time the Workshop had been held in Brighton, making it the largest centre for the Workshop outside Ruskin College. As with the Workshops immediately preceding it, Workshop 28 was devoted to a theme of great contemporary relevance – namely the end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union. The title was adopted from a triumphalist essay on the end of the Cold War by the right-wing political theorist Francis Fukuyama.
The Workshop was structured around a number of themed sessions running in parallel throughout the event, with multiple papers being offered in each session. Sessions included ‘Fascism and Anti-Fascism’, ‘Stragglers’ Tales: The First World War and Radical Histories’, ‘Whatever Happened to History Painting?’, ‘Women’s History’, ‘The Irish and Britain 1814-1994: Histories, Memories and Identities’, ‘Propaganda by the Deed’, ‘The Consumer in History’, ‘International Histories’, and ‘Constructing Histories’. Papers given included History Painting: Origins and Aftermath, Our Gracie: Changing Images of Gracie Fields, Christian Anarchism, and Approaches to the History of Fishing: The Case of Hastings.
Many of the themes covered at this Workshop were long-term interests of the Workshop movement, such as anti-fascism, women’s history, the history of Ireland, and the purpose and uses of history. Topics such as consumption as a cultural rather than an economic phenomenon were relatively new to the Workshop, and suggest a continuing evolution in the movement’s approach to history.
The topic The End of History was an unintentionally appropriate choice, as Workshop 28 was the last History Workshop in the sequence of general Workshops which had begun at Ruskin in 1967. A special Workshop on Scottish Dimensions, part of a spin-off series on ‘History, the Nation and Schools’, was held in 1995, and was the final Workshop worked on by Raphael Samuel before his death in 1996. The programme for Workshop 28 suggested that the movement had been in decline for a number of years going back to the late 1980s, with trends showing falling attendances and fewer papers. This was partly ascribed to an increasingly uncongenial political environment. The 1980s and early 1990s saw a series of reversals for the left in Britain and elsewhere. Meanwhile, ‘death of communism’ rhetoric had come to dominate much intellectual discourse following the demise of the Eastern Bloc, and had disheartened many on the left who were the Workshop’s core constituency.
Following Workshop 28, the Workshop movement was supposed to be based at the Co-operative College in Leicester, with History Workshop 29 then being held in July 1996. However, History Workshop 29 was never held, and the annual History Workshop gatherings, which had begun with A Day With the Chartists at Ruskin in 1967, died out.