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The Return of History

Raphael Samuel, 14 June 1990

... The restoration of history to the school ‘core curriculum’, if it takes place, and if it survives the counter-pressures in the Government towards TVEI (Technical and Vocational Educational Initiative), will represent one of the more remarkable pedagogic reversals of our time. The privileged place which the new curriculum gives (in my opinion, quite rightly) to British history is in singular contrast to the implosion which has taken place in English studies, and the abandonment – now endorsed by the National Curriculum Council – of both English literature as a separate classroom subject, and set texts, the ‘cultural heritage’ which it was the special mission of school English to transmit ...

Making It Up

Raphael Samuel, 4 July 1996

Raymond Williams 
by Fred Inglis.
Routledge, 333 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 415 08960 3
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... This biography opens with a vivid chapter on Raymond Williams’s funeral. Entitled ‘Prologue, in Memoriam’, it transports the reader to Clodock Church, ‘a plain little building’ in the foothills of the Black Mountains. It is a comfortless day, Fred Inglis tells us. ‘The light fell crooked and the road fell wrong.’ Rooks caw speculatively on the wind, and the weather is appropriately Gothic too, a ‘bitter cold’ February day with ‘vicious showers of sleet and snow ...

North and South

Raphael Samuel, 22 June 1995

Coming Back Brockens: A Year in a Mining Village 
by Mark Hudson.
Cape, 320 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 224 04170 3
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... This is the story of simple working people – their hardships, their humours, but above all their heroism.’ The epigraph which introduced the 1939 screen version of The Stars Look Down – the words are possibly those of A.J. Cronin, the novelist, rather than of Carol Reed, the film’s director – signalled a remarkable turn-around in attitudes to the miners, as well as prefiguring what was to be the leading idiom of British wartime cinema ...

In Search of People’s History

Eric Hobsbawm, 19 March 1981

People’s History and Socialist Theory 
edited by Raphael Samuel.
Routledge, 417 pp., £10.95, January 1981, 0 7100 0765 5
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British Labour History 
by E.H. Hunt.
Weidenfeld, 428 pp., £18.50, January 1981, 0 297 77785 8
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... are doing? What does the term mean? In the case of the splendid package inspired and edited by Raphael Samuel, it clearly means, among other things, history written by a lot of people: about fifty named authors and a ‘collective’. It also means a history arousing the active enthusiasm of a great many more. About a thousand attended the History ...


Alison Light: Raphael Samuel, 2 February 2017

... In his basement kitchen​ Raphael Samuel had a cabinet of curiosities, a glass-fronted corner cupboard filled with dusty objects. Among them, a lump of coal from the Durham coalfields and a plastic National Coal Board mug; a yellow and black theatre programme for a 1956 performance of Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera, with Mack the Knife sketched on the cover as a predatory city gent, with bowler and cane, about to fleece the poor; a misshapen pottery animal, half-cow, half-crocodile, made by one of the children Raphael had helped to bring up; and some relics as old as the house itself, stems and bowls from 18th-century workmen’s clay pipes with a tuft or two of the horsehair they had used to pack the plaster ...


Keith Thomas, 20 April 1995

Theatres of Memory. Vol. I: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture 
by Raphael Samuel.
Verso, 479 pp., £18.95, February 1995, 0 86091 209 4
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... Raphael Samuel and I were undergraduates together at Balliol in the early Fifties. Bibliographically omnivorous, buried under piles of notes and unfinished essays, inkstained and dishevelled, he exuded intellectual intensity and passionate left-wing commitment. I remember his appearing at breakfast one morning, tearful and wearing a black tie ...

Ladders last a long time

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite: Reading Raphael Samuel, 23 May 2024

Workshop of the World: Essays in People’s History 
by Raphael Samuel, edited by John Merrick.
Verso, 295 pp., £25, January, 978 1 80429 280 8
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... Raphael Samuel​ adopted his notetaking method from Beatrice and Sidney Webb, progenitors of Fabian socialism, who developed it in the late 19th century:Each thought or reference to a source was written or pasted onto a single side of a loose sheet of paper. It might be the source itself – an advertisement, a jam-jar label or an extract from a Xerox – it mattered only that it was attributed and subheaded under a theme ...

Lever-Arch Inquisitor

John Barrell, 29 October 1998

Theatres of Memory. Vol. II. Island Stories: Unravelling Britain 
by Raphael Samuel, edited by Alison Light.
Verso, 391 pp., £20, June 1998, 1 85984 965 2
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... When Raphael Samuel died, the second volume of his projected trilogy Theatres of Memory was left unfinished. Some of the longer essays it was intended to contain were unwritten or unannotated or barely begun. The list of contents was still provisional, and the editors have assembled this book mainly by reconstructing Samuel’s shifting intentions, partly by guessing at them ...

Down and Out in London

David Cannadine, 16 July 1981

Rothschild Buildings: Life in an East End Tenement Block 1887-1920 
by Jerry White.
Routledge, 301 pp., £11.50, September 1980, 0 7100 0603 9
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East End Underworld: Chapters in the Life of Arthur Harding 
by Raphael Samuel.
Routledge, 355 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7100 0725 6
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... comrades established among the ivory towers and high tables of Oxbridge colleges, and with Raphael Samuel providing indefatigable leadership in inimitable style, the history workshop movement seems set fair to follow the path already blazed by that earlier enfant terrible, Past and Present, from mutinous opposition to respectable ...

The Partisan Coffee House

Nicholas Faith, 1 June 2017

... in 1962, but like many socialist undertakings before and since it was a creative success. Raphael Samuel, on the left, photographed in 1958 by Roger Mayne. As Eric Hobsbawm, originally a sharp opponent who later joined the ‘management committee’, put it with characteristic clarity, ‘whoever backed the Partisan must have known it was not a ...


Alison Light: The death of Raphael Samuel, 22 February 2001

... It’s four years since my husband, the historian and socialist Raphael Samuel, died of cancer at the age of 61. In the weeks after his death, I wrote about him every day. I filled a boxfile and an A3 ringbinder with anecdotes and observations, physical descriptions and characteristic phrases; I made notes on what he had told me of his childhood, on our marriage, on his work, on what we called his ‘Communist unconscious’; I even listed his shirts ...

Downland Maniacs

Michael Mason, 5 October 1995

The Village that Died for England 
by Patrick Wright.
Cape, 420 pp., £17.99, March 1995, 0 224 03886 9
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... That study of the heritage industry and associated questions (‘heritage-baiting’, Raphael Samuel has called it) seems to be widely admired, but I am relieved Wright has not followed up its example. Aware that he then had a reputation for both ‘anecdotalism’ and ‘excessively abstract generalisation’, he apparently tried to redress ...


Eric Hobsbawm: Communism in Britain, 26 April 2007

The Lost World of British Communism 
by Raphael Samuel.
Verso, 244 pp., £19.99, November 2006, 1 84467 103 8
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Communists and British Society 1920-91 
by Kevin Morgan, Gidon Cohen and Andrew Flinn.
Rivers Oram, 356 pp., £16.99, January 2007, 978 1 85489 145 7
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Bolshevism and the British Left, Part One: Labour Legends and Russian Gold 
by Kevin Morgan.
Lawrence and Wishart, 320 pp., £18.99, March 2007, 978 1 905007 25 7
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... than reflecting on their unique political experience. In the most readable of the retrospects, Raphael Samuel’s The Lost World of British Communism, which is full of melancholy empathy for an irrecoverable past, Communism is seen as ‘a doomed, flawed but noble faith’. But Samuel did not write his now reissued ...

Blood All Over the Grass

Ewan Gibbs: On the Miners’ Strike, 2 November 2023

Backbone of the Nation: Mining Communities and the Great Strike of 1984-85 
by Robert Gildea.
Yale, 469 pp., £25, August, 978 0 300 26658 0
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... half of the 20th century. In The Enemy Within, an account of the 1984-85 strike he co-edited, Raphael Samuel claimed that over decades the Scottish and Welsh coalfields produced men with their ‘own distinctive version of militancy – more “educated”, more communist, more statesman-like’ than their English counterparts. One possible ...

Porringers and Pitkins

Keith Thomas: The Early Modern Household, 5 July 2018

A Day at Home in Early Modern England: Material Culture and Domestic Life, 1500-1700 
by Tara Hamling and Catherine Richardson.
Yale, 311 pp., £40, October 2017, 978 0 300 19501 9
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... and others in 1937 – and furthered by the History Workshop movement launched in 1966 by Raphael Samuel. The modest social origins and leftish sympathies of many academic historians had generated a concern with the lives of ‘ordinary’ people rather than those of the political, social and intellectual elites. In subsequent decades, feminist ...

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