by Tom Roberts and Anthony Iles
This pamphlet is a sketch of some elements of what might constitute a 'history from below'. In it we have assembled quotations from esteemed historians, their lowly subjects and sometimes even their critics. Here, Thompson's phrase, 'all knees and elbows of susceptibility and refusal', from which we have made our clumsy title will help us express the necessary awkwardness of affecting transformation by writing history. For there are many attractions for the would-be radical historian here, but also obstacles and 'traps' of interest too. Firstly, we will attempt to reconstruct what is 'history from below' before we explore some tensions inherent in such a project. The phrase 'history from below' is the product of a group of French historians known as the Annales school. It is their description of an approach to subjects and areas previously considered historically unimportant. In England this approach was taken up by a group of Marxist historians who developed a set of methodologies and a world view at odds with the existing Marxist and historiographical orthodoxies.
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