Monday, 29 July 2019

Research Visit to the Raphael Samuel Archive

The purpose of today's visit is to work on a project that I started well over three years ago. I completed a foundation course for a Masters at Birkbeck. Part of that project was a 10000-word dissertation. I choose Samuel as a subject; hence, the study at the Bishopsgate Institute, where the Samuel archive resides.

Call it pride, but I thought the foundation course was a little below my pay grade, so I did not complete the dissertation. I am therefore cleaning up this project either by doing the dissertation which I know I will hate or doing a series of articles for my blog, which I know I will love.

Upon arrival, I had found that the archive all 900 boxes of it had been renumbered. Yes, you heard me 900 boxes. I think it would take a professional historian working around the clock a whole year to work the archive.

Samuel saved every scrap of paper and sometimes trawling through his archive is, at times a little tedious. However, there some gems waiting to be found. One such gem is finding out the extent these historians who spent time in the Communist Party read Leon Trotsky. Christopher Hill certainly did, and so did Samuel who mentions the History of the Russian revolution by Trotsky on one of his numerous scaps of paper.

A point made by Sophie Scott Brown, who wrote a fascinating biography of Samuel[1]is that Samuel deliberately cultivated an image of being an outsider when it came to academia. A study of the first ten boxes contained in the archive tends to puncture that myth. Samuel was invited to numerous conferences and was asked to contribute articles for academic journals and other media.

[1] The Histories of Raphael Samuel: A portrait of a people's historian