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Humboldt University Berlin
In today’s history cosmos, terms such as ‘History from Below’, ‘People’s History’ and ‘Social History’ belong to the essential canon of most academics and students. Thus, it is important to remember how these terms found their way into historiography before they were considered legitimate. Members of the Communist Party Historians’ Group in the UK laid the cornerstone for a new paradigm in historiography, today largely referred to as Social History, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But exactly how did these historians perceive their own role as academic insurgents in the heart of ‘Whig history’ and what were the problems facing them as historians and members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB)?
In late 1946 a group of historians, friends, and members of the Communist Party started regularly meeting in Marx’s House in London. By means of discussion papers, presentations, and conferences it was sought to alter the way the British people perceived their own history. Eventually, so was the audacious hope, a ‘history from below’ would empower the common people to emancipate themselves from the confining and patronising ‘high history’ of British monarchs, prime ministers and great thinkers, yielding the deeply entrenched notion of Britain as a nation of constant evolution, not revolution. [continue reading]