Raphael Samuel

Gareth Stedman Jones's obituary of Raphael Samuel [11 December] captures well his energy, passion and commitment, writes Keith Flett. He is less clear about the political trajectory of Samuel's history.

While Samuel was a youthful member of the Communist Party Historians Group before 1956 his history was very much a product of the new left and the events of 1968 in particular. He was arguably the moving force behind history from below in Britain - the attempt to capture the history of the lives of ordinary working people and their political movements.

He never gave up or became disillusioned, but he did move from socialist history, through history from below to people's history. He saw people's history, primarily of culture, cultural objects and artefacts, as being a genuinely democratic history open to all. Undeniably true in one sense, in another it sometimes lacked a cutting edge. I remember once, at the Bishopsgate Institute, coming across Raphael studying intently The British Book of Hit Pop Singles. The products of such researches made brilliant journalism, but not always satisfactory history.

Even so socialist history will be much the poorer without Raphael Samuel.

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