Friday, 22 January 2016

At the Raphael Samuel Archive

I must admit it was by complete chance that I discovered not only the Raphael Samuel archive but now the New Left Review archive at the Bishopsgate Institute. I must say upfront the archive at Bishopsgate is a wonderful resource.

Head of the Archive Stefan Dickers and his staff make the archive a very good place to study. I will use the archive at least up until my dissertation on Samuel’s time at Universities and New Left is written. I must admit with such a good resource it is mightily tempting to do a biography of him. There is a complete dearth of biographies of the Communist Party historians.

The first few files of the archive concentrate on the early days of University and New Left (ULR). Samuel it would have seem spent most of his time sending begging letters to everyone under the sun for money and articles for the new project.

The letter to Michael Foot the then Labour MP is indicative of the fact the new journal still wanted to remain tied in some way to the coattails of the Labour Party. Samuel I believed after 1956 joined the Labour Party.

While working at the archive sometimes the best moments are meeting other people who are working on the Samuel archive. A special mention goes to Florence who is working on a documentary on East End lives.

Finally, while talking to Stefan he told me of a very disturbing matter. According to Historical Association “Archive material dating back to the first decades of the twentieth century of the internationally renowned labour movement college, Ruskin College, Oxford has been destroyed and material constituting its radical history has been dispersed. The integrity of the material in the college as an archive of working class history no longer exists. Sadly, this process of destruction and dispersal has not finished”[1]