History

History in the making?

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After provoking even headteachers to heckle him, Michael Gove's plans for a new curriculum for school history look to be in trouble. Andrew Stone looks at the growing campaign against them

It is quite an achievement to provoke a conference of headteachers to heckle you, but education minister Michael Gove has never been short of personal ambition. The high-handed arrogance which has characterised his treatment of teachers and schools, and which prompted the backlash from the recent NAHT conference, is equally evident in his plans for school history.

The People Speak

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Anthony Arnove and David Horspool are co-editors of a new book of speeches and writings by British rebels and radicals from 1066 to the present. They spoke to Rebecca Short and Estelle Cooch


Tell us a bit about the project.


Anthony Arnove: It really began in 1980 with the book that Howard Zinn wrote called A People's History of the United States. That book really changed the way that people in the US think about history and the way history is taught.

An interesting moment happened in 1997 when Matt Damon, who grew up next to Howard Zinn in Boston, wrote a scene into the film Good Will Hunting where he mentions the book.

Eric Hobsbawm: half Marx

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Eminent historian Eric Hobsbawm's latest book champions Karl Marx as capitalism's great critic, but he argues that Marx's alternative to the system has failed. Patrick Ward looks at why it is wrong to abandon Marxism as a project for transforming the world


The financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2008 has a fed a renewed interest in the ideas of Karl Marx. The latest book from respected Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, How to Change the World, is a welcome addition to this resurgence.

Dorothy Thompson (1923-2011) - Groundbreaking historian of Chartism

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Dorothy Thompson was a socialist and feminist historian who transformed the study of the Chartist movement. Keith Flett considers her life and achievements

Dorothy Thompson, who has died aged 87, was one of the post-1945 era's leading socialist and feminist historians and a political activist of considerable note and impact.

She was married for many years to the socialist historian E P Thompson, who died in 1993, and her work and activity were in some ways complementary to, and at least equal to, his own. Edward studied Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, for example, while Dorothy focused on the period immediately afterwards - that of Chartism, the first great working class movement.

H is for History

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Throughout history rulers mystify the past to convince ordinary people that their rule is inevitable. The first recorded histories - in the form of king lists - were used to justify their legitimacy.

King Arthur: "I am your king".
Woman: "Well I didn't vote for you."
King Arthur: "You don't vote for kings."
Woman: "Well how'd you become king then?"
King Arthur: "The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king."

Arab Civilisation: Found in Translation

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Modern language, science and culture owes much to the Muslim empire of the early Middle Ages.

'We should not be ashamed to acknowledge truth from whatever source it comes to us, even if it is brought to us by former generations and foreign peoples.' The philosopher Al-Kindi, who wrote those words in 9th century Baghdad, understood better than most how much human history has been shaped by the interaction of different cultures. He was one of the thousands of Arab scholars employed to translate, analyse and develop Greek learning by the Abbasid caliphs, rulers of the great Muslim empire of the 8th to the 13th centuries.

Scottish Revolution: They Took the High Road

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Joint Deutscher Prize winner Neil Davidson looks at the debate provoked by his book.

Whatever disagreements we may have with his interpretation of events, there is no doubt that Isaac Deutscher's major works are great literary achievements which helped keep alive a critical approach to the Russian Revolution in the darkest days of the Cold War.

Weak Foundation

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Review of 'The Myth of 1648' by Benno Teschke, Verso £25

This book sets out to attack the conventional view in the academic discipline of International Relations which sees there being an unchanging form of interaction between states from 1648 to the present day. Teschke quite rightly insists the whole approach is untenable, since the relations between states change with changes in the social relations of production within each, and he provides useful accounts of the relations during the medieval period, the period of absolutism and that of modern capitalism.

However, two things stymie his argument.

Obituary: Turning Point in History

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Brian Manning pays tribute to Christopher Hill, an outstanding historian of the English Revolution.

'The object of this article is to suggest an interpretation of the events of the 17th century different from that which most of us were taught at school... This interpretation is that the English Revolution of 1640-60 was a great social movement like the French Revolution of 1789.' These are the opening words of Christopher Hill's essay on the English Revolution published in 1940. To a schoolboy like myself at the time, they were a sudden flash of lightning that lit a dark landscape.

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