Oral historians

Howkins, Alun (8 of 17).  Oral History of Oral History

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  • Recording date

    2008-03-03, 2009-04-21, 2009-06-11, 2009-07-30, 2009-10-08, 2009-10-29, 2009-12-10, 2010-04-22, 2010-11-17, 2011-08-15

  • Interviewees

    Howkins, Alun, 1947- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Wilkinson, Robert (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: The two different groups had already existed in 1968. Himself, Sally Alexander, Stan Shipley and Raphael become the consistent figures within the Workshop group. A fifth person associated with Ruskin was Anna Davin. Alun first met Anna in 1969 while still at Ruskin. She came down to Ruskin to speak on the issue of secret files which were being kept on students. She was married to a man named Luke Hodgkin who taught at Warwick. Anna became very involved in the Workshop after 1969 and was a key figure in setting up the womens workshop in 1970. Anna began a relationship with Raphael from 1970 and they moved in together. She identified herself with the Ruskin group. From St Anthonys the core people are Tim Mason and Gareth Steadman Jones. Alun started recording oral history for very practical reasons, he needed information on poaching and this was the only way to get it. This was probably true for most oral history for the first ten years. [06:03] There is more of a common link between Essex and the Workshop which is community studies. Raphael registered to do a doctorate at the University of London in the 1950s on the Irish in London. He worked for a time with Michael Young at the Centre for Community Studies at Bethnal Green. The methodology of Essex was derived from the community studies tradition of sociological investigation. Raphael was an admirer of Dennis Marsden and Brian Jacksons book on working class culture. In the 1960s there was a powerful Marxist strand in sociology which was swiftly overtaken by Weberianism. Talks about different strands of sociology. What differentiates the Essex group from the Ruskin Workshop is that politics was very important in the Workshop. The Essex project did not have as explicit politics as the Workshop. There was interesting work done in Essex about the family. Talks about family life in Shetland. The approach of both groups was similar. Paul Thompson was at the Workshop before 1973 because this is why Alun went to Essex. [12:27] Describes the Ruskin Workshops There are a number of key figures in modern social history, a number are people who were involved in the Communist Party History Group - Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hill, Edward Thompson, John Saville, Dorothy Thompson and Rodney Hilton. There is another important group whose origins he knows little about who were hostile to the other group. This group included Harold Perkins who hated the Marxists. Both the groups in the early sixties were trying to write a new social history of working people. Another important person is Asa Briggs who was involved in the Society for the Study of Labour History. By 1965 all of these people have published major books, they all have positions at universities and are beginning to recruit graduate students and have an influence. Talks about what universities these people were teaching at this time.  Many of the people of his generation were taught by these academics and these were the people attending the Workshops. Many of the people who spoke at Workshops are now professors. Most of the people who were at Ruskin did not carry on as academics. Only Alun himself and Sally Alexander went on to be academics. Talks about what other Ruskin students went on to do. Founding the journal was very important; its purpose was to change the course, teaching, and research of academic history. [23:53] There were working people at the workshops but the real audience was Labour movement activists, graduate student and younger left wing academics. Talks about a photo of a workshop. It has young people in it. They sometimes had sixth form students come to visit. It was an overwhelmingly young group. For many of the people at the Workshop it was a phase through which they went.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Alun Howkins, Emeritus Professor of History at University of Sussex and agricultural historian and folklorist.

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