Sally Richardson reviews Local History since 1945: England, Wales and Ireland by Lionel Munby, D Huw Owen and James Scannell, Socialist History Society Occasional Paper No 21, £3
THIS WONDERFUL little booklet provides an overview of the study of local history in England, Wales and Ireland, along with a guide to some study areas (regional and topical), publications, periodicals and archives. It also includes a wide-ranging look at the political issues highlighted by local history studies. The publishers hope to remedy the omission of Scotland in any subsequent edition.
Local history suffered professional neglect for many years, being the almost exclusive preserve of amateur and non-professional historians. "What local historians were interested in seemed trivia to academics whose thoughts were still focussed on the nation-state," writes Lionel Munby.
Some enlightened professional historians began to take an interest, and the expansion of adult education through university extramural and extension department and organizations like the Workers' Educational Association helped it to blossom.
Local history is particularly relevant to socialist history. It is above all about the history of the common people - 'history from below' as it is often called - and it has had a huge impact on the way mainstream history is interpreted. It has involved many non-professionals in the recovery and interpretation of the past. Our history, after all, belongs to all of us.
Anyone who reads, researches or writes socialist history, local or otherwise, will find this pamphlet of interest. As well as providing lots of useful information on a practical level, it raises questions about whom history belongs to.
Copies of the booklet can be ordered from the Socialist History society at 50 Elmfield Road, Balham, London SW17 8AL for £3.00 including postage.
The Socialist History Society includes many leading socialist and labour historians, both academic and amateur, and holds events and publishes a range of material, including its twice-yearly journal Socialist History. Membership: £20.00 full/£14 concessionary (UK), £25.00 full/£19 concessionary (overseas). Cheques made out to The Socialist History Society should be sent to the above address.
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Copyright © 2006 Sally Richardson