For some time I’ve been considering writing a post entitled “Whatever Happened to History Workshop?” Once it was the flag-bearer of radical history, a product of the struggles of the 60s and 70s, as much a movement as a publication. It was a place – or a number of places – for those outside academia, ‘worker-students’, feminists, socialists, to practice history in new ways, ‘from below.’ As a product of history (if you’ll forgive the determinism for a moment), as times changed so it fossilized. Today, it is little more than your standard academic journal, available on the net only through subscription, even dropping its subtitle ‘A Journal for Socialist and Feminist Historians.’ (Barbara Taylor provides a very useful, and more optimistic, account of its path.)
As part of this article – which may still come – I was going to raise the question of how the internet could revitalize critical history. History Workshop was as important for its social role as for publishing papers and theses. Whether it be the news, the less-formal articles on historical passions or the correspondence in the journal, or the meetings and attendant socializing, it brought people together. What chance that today critical historians can use modern technologies to once again find each other?
The good news is that History Workshop is now establishing a proper online presence, with a website (powered, thanks to WordPress, by free software) due to launch fully in January 2011. A Call For Papers has been issued, stating:
The History Workshop Journal editorial collective is launching History Workshop Online, a website devoted to the practice of politically-engaged history. Affiliated to the journal but entirely separate in its content, the site will serve as a forum, laboratory, and virtual coffeehouse for anyone interested in connecting historical exploration with the politics of the present, whether through engagement with public history, social history, the history of sexuality, or intimate histories of everyday life. In the spirit of the original history workshop movement, we’re keen to explore the diverse (and now multi-media) ways in which progressive history is being “done”, in and out of universities and the museum and heritage sector.
For the launch of the website in January 2011, we welcome all pertinent contributions: reports on public history initiatives; multimedia essays and articles; flagged events for our noticeboard; fulminations, rants, and raves.
For further information please contact the site’s editor, Marybeth Hamilton, at firstname.lastname@example.org
The crucial phrase: “in the spirit of the original history workshop movement”, as befits this web that we weave.