Who was Raphael Samuel?
Raphael Samuel (1934-1996) was one of Britain 's foremost historians. He was the founder of the History Workshop movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which aimed to make History relevant and accessible to everyone. A lifelong socialist and democrat, Raphael believed that History was ‘too important just to be left to professional historians'. In the final year of his life, Raphael established a Centre for East London History at the University of East London which has developed to become the Raphael Samuel History Centre. The centre is dedicated to promoting historical enquiry in the spirit of Raphael, that is with openness, imagination, and creative rigour. MoreThe Raphael Samuel Archive
Raphael Samuel left a large collection of research documents and other papers. These are now housed in the Raphael Samuel Archive at Bishopsgate Institute. The archive is available to researchers and teachers.
Raphael Samuel (1934 -1996) left us the product of a lifetime of teaching, scholarship and political activity. Gifted in all these areas, he wrote, as his close friend Gareth Stedman Jones recalled, with 'the insight of a literary critic, the acuity of an anthropologist and the wit of a political journalist'. Consequently, the Raphael Samuel archive provides inspirational reading for the student, professional academic, enthusiastic amateur and cultural commentator alike. Raphael's was a democratic approach to history and his resistance to academic convention, his dismantling of academic and professional hierarchies make this a varied, fascinating and unique collection.
Raphael Samuel's publications and talks are nevertheless only one measure of his contribution to a wider historical culture. They represent only a fraction of his overall output that stretches back to the 1950s. A constant at these various 'interventions', at least according to Bill Schwarz, is that he would 'bring the archive with him', initially in brief cases or shopping bags and later a 'niftier array' of shoulder bags. Access to the Samuel archive now gives all researchers an opportunity to empty the contents of these bags and to rummage around. Inside is information on the important movements and generations contemporary to Raphael but also illsutration of his extraordinary working methods.