Workshop of the World

Workshop of the World:Essays in People's History

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A new collection of essays from one of the most influential historians of the twentieth century.

‘ONE OF THE MOST OUTSTANDING, ORIGINAL INTELLECTUALS OF HIS GENERATION’, Stuart Hall, author of The Hard Road to Renewal

The work of the pioneering historian Raphael Samuel opened up new vistas of historical enquiry. He was committed to the idea of people’s history, in which he excavated the ordinary lives of those often overlooked or discarded by other writers. This ‘unofficial knowledge’ transformed what history was, who was allowed to do it, and who it was for.

Workshop of the World brings the full range and depth of Samuel’s historical writing on nineteenth-century Britain to the fore. From his pioneering study of the influence of the Catholic Church on England’s Irish population to his expansive and erudite essay on the itinerant labourers of Victorian Britain, the collection captures both the breadth and depth of his learning. Guided by both a political engagement as well as a methodological commitment to uncovering the stories of ordinary people, Workshop of the World will help introduce Raphael Samuel’s work to a new generation of readers.

Reviews

  • Workshop of the World reveals how Raphael Samuel dived into the nineteenth century to find just how onions were pickled or the temperature of cheese tested, extending far and wide from rough sleepers in Willesden to Roman Catholic missionaries in Wallasey. John Merrick's collection of Samuel's essays provides the reader with an invaluable introduction to the political and cultural background which inspired this insightful and exploratory radical historian.

    Sheila Rowbotham
  • These essays are works of extraordinary intellectual energy, refusing to identify method with political orientation, luminous in their historiographic clarity, which turn our attention from the commonplaces of history to the exceptions that deny the clichés: to a post- 1800 world driven by seasons, not the clock, a post-industrial revolution world of production dominated not by the factory, but the farm, the workshop, the cottage, where skills are created and work degraded, where the machine does not rule; of peri-urban villages of brickmakers, and much, much more besides. A feast of erudition with purpose.

    David Edgerton, author of The Rise and Fall of the British Nation
  • John Merrick and Verso should be thanked for giving a new generation of readers the chance to encounter the youngest of the British Marxist historians, and the one closest in time to ourselves. Samuel was a charismatic teacher, an extraordinarily well-read historian, and a generous man – his too-long-forgotten voice greets us from every line.

    David Renton