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.


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.


  • One of the most influential historians of his generation, a prodigious teacher, researcher and writer ... Today Samuel is best known for his work on popular memory and for History Workshop. John Merrick's new selection of his essays aims to rectify that: it brings together a sample of Samuel's historical studies, several of which are still thrilling to read, and most of which would have been difficult to get hold of without access to a good university library. Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, her own parents, among others), she exercises a right to address, become coeval, and build a world anew with strangers and familiars, those who have gone and who

    Florence Sutcliffe-BraithwaiteLondon Review of Books
  • Workshop of the World, across its various guises, paints a picture of the streets, factories, chapels, clubs, offices, and slums of England that formed the culture and practices of the country's working class, from the coal miner and the seamstress to the office clerk. ... Workshop of the World may yet serve to reestablish Samuel's reputation. Rightly, Merrick has attempted to cast Samuel as a socialist essayist of equal rank to Hill, Thompson, Hobsbawm, Williams, Nairn, and Anderson. If this case is to be made, no greater evidence can be marshalled than the unique world-building effect of his writing on our understanding of history and the working class.

    Samuel McIlhaggaJacobin
  • 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