Raphael Samuel and the Politics of the People’s Historian

Socialist History - ISSN 0969-4331
Volume 2022 Number 61

Raphael Samuel and the Politics of the People’s Historian
Sophie Scott-Brown pages 76-95


What Britain has lacked in Marxist theorists it has made up for in historians. Last century saw a glittering array of historiographical brilliance: Christopher Hill turned the seventeenth century upside-down; E.P. Thompson transformed the eighteenth; Eric Hobsbawm reframed the nineteenth and twentieth. Raphael Samuel, the youngest of these eminent figures, was different. He did not advance one notable historical argument or theory, instead he changed what it was to be a historian. Samuel’s ‘people’s historian’ was a character created to encourage history-making as social activity. He did this through offering support and creating spaces – like the History Workshop – for independent research. Although deeply committed to democratising history in this way, there were still times of struggle between the public persona and the private man. This essay explores the making and maintaining of Samuel’s people’s historian. It concludes by assessing its long-term effectiveness.

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To cite this article
Sophie Scott-Brown (2022) Raphael Samuel and the Politics of the People’s Historian, Socialist History, 2022(61), 76-95

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