Raph Samuel

Raphael ‘Raph’ Elkan Samuel, born in 1934, was a British Marxist historian and radical thinker who taught at Ruskin from 1962, founding the History Workshop movement.

Born into a Jewish family in London, his father was a solicitor and his mother was a composer and partner in Jewish publishers Shapiro, Valentine. Raph joined the Communist Party of Great Britain as a teenager and left after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956. He was awarded a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford where he became a member of the Communist Party Historians Group. He co-founded the journal Past and Present in 1952 and pioneered the study of working-class history. Raph co-founded the Partisan Coffee House in 1956 in Soho to create a meeting place for the British New Left. He continued to make change, giving a new meaning to the idea of history as an experimental art. He married Alison Light, a writer and critic, in 1987.

Raphael taught at Ruskin from 1962, and was a major influence, founding the History Workshop movement, which powerfully influenced the development of the approach to historical research and writing which is commonly called ‘history from below’. When he joined Ruskin he was appointed Tutor in Sociology and rather than subjecting his students to textbooks and vocational learning he felt there was an importance for them to tell their history, allowing them to become historians of their own past. He was described by Stuart Hall as “one of the most outstanding original intellectuals of his generation”.

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