History Workshop Journal

This is the official Facebook group for History Workshop Journal and History Workshop Online.

Both the journal and the website emerge from the History Workshop movement. Founded in Britain in the late sixties by the historian Raphael Samuel, the movement advocated “history from below”: history envisioned from the perspective of ordinary people rather than elites…

This is the official Facebook group for History Workshop Journal and History Workshop Online.

History Workshop Journal is published by Oxford University Press: http://hwj.oxfordjournals.org/
History Workshop Online can be found here: http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/

Both the journal and the website emerge from the History Workshop movement. Founded in Britain in the late sixties by the historian Raphael Samuel, the movement advocated “history from below”: history envisioned from the perspective of ordinary people rather than elites. To that end, it sought to move the study of the past beyond the academy into public gatherings – “workshops” – that were open to anyone. The aim was to turn historical research and writing into (as Samuel put it) ‘a collaborative enterprise, one in which the researcher, the archivist, the curator and the teacher, the “do-it-yourself enthusiast” and the local historian, the family history societies and the individual archaeologist, should all be regarded as equally engaged’.

Radical Stroud’s Entry on the History Workshop Journal Page

Stroud – that ‘mill town in the Cotswolds’ – together with its hills, valleys and Gloucestershire tracks, has a long history of radicalism: a Digger community down the road at Slimbridge; Parliamentarian supporters in the Civil War; illegal tobacco cultivation; food riots; weavers’ riots; Captain Swing; poaching; Chartism; agricultural trades unionism, Quakerism, a Tolstoyan community nearby – and, uniquely, an arch to commemorate the end of slavery.

I could go on, but there is another side to this this coin: ‘Stroud Scarlet’s imperial history. That cloth stretched out on tenterhooks, red-coated the British army; was traded with the Iroquois and by the East India Company; some of that cloth must have made its way down to Bristol, Bunce Island, Sierra Leone, North West Africa and …

Radical Stroud celebrates, recreates, challenges, and reimagines this history through collective performative landscape walks, fusing the performing arts, ‘history’, ‘literature’, psychogeography and counter-heritage. We go beyond conventional sources by creating first person prose and poetical accounts, giving a voice to those ignored by the ‘enormous condescension of posterity’. We blur the genres of History and Literature, of Fiction and Non-Fiction.

I will provide just a few examples here, but a browse through our website will give a fuller picture of our practice. Past shows and recordings include No Pasaran! – a history of west country involvement in the Spanish Civil War; Fair Shares for All – a history of the co-operative movement in Gloucestershire, and Trenchcoats for Goalposts – our current show about the 1914 truce, and local football clubs.

As regards collective walks, we had over one hundred people on our Weavers’ and Workhouse Walk, while our most recent walk saw sixty people walk five miles to commemorate a meeting of 5,000 people in support of Chartism on Selsley Hill, near Stroud in 1839. This featured the christening of a new Chartism beer remembering John Frost (he was selected as prospective Chartist parliamentary candidate for Stroud, some eight months before the Newport Rising) at Stroud Brewery; a walk along the Thames and Severn Canal, with songs and poems; and then the climb up to Selsley with a recreation of the 1839 speeches up there, together with more song against a sun-splashed Severn sunset.

We have received funding from Stroud Festival for our Chartism project, and a film about the 1839 meeting called Day of Hope is in gestation this year, and will be screened in the Stroud Fringe Festival next August. This is a community-based production, with local actors, scriptwriters, musicians, historians, and community involvement through public meetings and invitations via both traditional and social media.

As part of this project, we are also walking the Thames from source to Kensal Green, to commemorate the Chartist Allen Davenport, who was born by the infant Thames at Ewen, and who features on the Reformers’ Memorial at the cemetery.

Finally, a new Waterscape section will appear on the website in January: a radical history of our local canals and rivers, with radical boat trips as well as walks.