Virtual Special Issue

History Workshop Journal Virtual Special Issue: Raphael Samuel

Edited by Felix Driver

This Virtual Special Issue of History Workshop Journal contains all Raphael Samuel’s major articles and essays, and a selection of shorter pieces and interventions, published in the journal over the first two decades of its existence. It includes some classic and relatively well-known pieces – notably the extraordinary panorama of the Victorian industrial economy presented in ‘The workshop of the world’(1977) and the prophetic vision of a new national history in ‘British dimensions: four nations history’(1995) which made its appearance as an editorial in the last volume of the journal which Raphael worked on. Alongside these pieces are lesser-known interventions in debates over local history, history teaching in schools and cultural theory, a series of pieces reflecting Raphael’s engagement with a wide spectrum of interests in culture, politics and education, and his appreciative assessments of the lives and works of Raymond Williams, Ralph Miliband, Tim Mason, Ewan MacColl and Hannah Mitchell.

Raphael Samuel © Lucinda Douglas-Menzies
Raphael Samuel © Lucinda Douglas-Menzies

This Virtual Special Issue presents this body of work together, for the first time, on the twentieth anniversary of Raphael Samuel’s death in 1996. It does so with a minimum of editorializing – this is, simply, a collation of pieces containing the best of Raphael’s writing for History Workshop Journal. It is important to emphasise that this selection of articles is, and can only be, a partial presentation of his work for the journal, not simply because it presents only a fraction (less than half) of the articles appearing over his name,1 but also because so much of the work undertaken by editors especially in the journal’s first two decades was done in collaboration – whether signed as such or not. The early years of the journal were marked by continual reflection on the collective and collaborative nature of all historical inquiry, and much of what appears here was effectively in dialogue with what Raphael Samuel was reading, discussing and debating with fellow historians and others whom he so enthusiastically enrolled into the projects of History Workshop. Many of the pieces here need to be read in their original context – not least, for example, the polemical defence of the ‘methods of History Workshop’ (1980) originally presented in dialogue with a paper by David Selbourne.

‘History notoriously takes wing at dusk, that twilight hour when shadows lengthen, silence thickens and when (according to believers in the numinous) thought flies heavenward and ghostly presences make themselves felt’.2 So, unforgettably, began Raphael Samuel’s last major contribution to History Workshop Journal, a brilliant essay on the future of British history in a post-imperial age published, somewhat typically, as an editorial. One of Britain’s best-known historians, Raphael was also one of the most accomplished of historical writers. The value of bringing his work together in this new form lies essentially in its potential to reach new and wider audiences who may not be familiar with its sheer vitality and range. It also allows us to celebrate the work of one of the founding editors of this journal whose generous vision of historical practice inspired and continues to inspire so many of us.


Articles & Essays

Local History and Oral History
History Workshop Journal 1 (1976)

Workshop of the World: Steam Power and Hand Technology in Mid-Victorian Britain
History Workshop Journal 3 (1977)

‘Philosophy Teaching By Example’: Past and Present in Raymond Williams
History Workshop Journal 27 (1989)

Grand Narratives in ‘History, the Nation and the Schools’
History Workshop Journal 29 (1990)

Introduction to ‘History, the Nation and the Schools’
History Workshop Journal 30 (1990)

Reading the Signs
History Workshop Journal 32 (1991)

Reading the Signs: II. Fact-grubbers and Mind-readers
History Workshop Journal 33 (1992)

British Dimensions: ‘Four Nations History’
History Workshop Journal 40 (1995)

Shorter Pieces & Interventions

The Bishopsgate Institute
History Workshop Journal 5 (1978)

Art, Politics and Ideology: Editorial Introduction
History Workshop Journal 6 (1978)

On the Methods of the History Workshop: A Reply
History Workshop Journal 9 (1980)

Ewan MacColl (1915-1989)
History Workshop Journal 29 (1990)

Tim Mason: A Memorial
History Workshop Journal 30 (1990)

Ralph Milliband 1924-1994
History Workshop Journal 38 (1994)

Hannah Mitchell (1936-1994)
History Workshop Journal 39 (1995)
With Alex Potts

1 The complete list of Raphael Samuel’s signed contributions to History Workshop Journal is now available at History Workshop Online: ‘Raphael Samuel’s Writings for HWJ: A Bibliography’

2 Raphael Samuel, ‘British Dimensions: “Four Nations History”’, History Workshop Journal, 40, 1995, iii.


One Comment

  1. Wonderful to have these fizzing and exciting pieces available on free access. As Felix says, it’s the twentieth anniversary this year of Raphael Samuel’s death – and the fortieth anniversary of the founding of History Workshop Journal – and there’s a conference in the History Workshop style at the beginning of July on radical history/histories of radicalism – details here:

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