A.L. Morton and the Poetics of People’s History

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    In May 1938, the path-breaking A People’s History of England by Arthur Leslie Morton was published by Victor Gollancz as part of the Left Book Club series. It proved to be a popular work, going through many reprintings and forming the basis of the discussions of the Communist Party Historians’ Group which formed in 1946 and which Morton himself chaired. This paper will discuss the work and its influence –arguing that it deserves to be rightly recognised as a classic contribution to Marxist historiography. The paper will also explore the life and wider work of Morton himself – one of the more neglected of the members of the Communist Party Historians’ Group – and in particular will try and give some sense of the context in which the writing of Morton’s grand narrative took place, and how and why he came to write such a powerful work. It will examine some of the key intellectual and political influences inspiring Morton, and also tentatively explore what might be called ‘the poetics of people’s history’, some of the imaginative theoretical and literary strategies that marked Morton’s work and arguably helped to inspire and shape the writings of other ‘people’s historians’.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSocialist History
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


    • People's History
    • Historiography
    • A L Morton
    • Communism
    • Romanticism
    • Marxism


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