Labour History Review

Asa Briggs and the Emergence of Labour History in Post-War Britain

Labour History Review (2012), 77, (2), 211–242.

Abstract

Asa Briggs was one of the most significant British historians of the second half of the twentieth century. His interests spanned the discipline and he left his mark on a number of fields within it. He was a popularizer of scholarship who took a keen interest in higher and adult education and exercised a strong influence on the organization and curriculum of the new universities of the 1960s. Written to celebrate his ninetieth birthday and seventh decade as a professional historian, this article outlines his influences and achievements and reflects on his long career with particular reference to curricular change and labour history. It discusses his work at the universities of Oxford, Leeds, and Sussex, the contribution he made to the evolution of the subject and his part in the creation of the Society for the Study of Labour History. It stresses his conviction of the necessity for unity, integration, and a holistic, democratic approach to historiography and pedagogy. Ironically, his efforts sometimes helped stimulate the development of distinctive fields, although he considered labour was addressed most satisfactorily as one aspect of historical experience integrated with others, in literature as in life. The article concludes with an assessment of his role in the development of labour history.

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Author details

McIlroy, John