Editorial: Our History

Spring 2015

This forty-seventh issue of Socialist History is the first with our new publisher, Lawrence and Wishart. It marks a new phase in the journal’s history, with simultaneous online publication via EBSCO. Lawrence and Wishart will be our third publisher since the journal was founded on the initiative of Willie Thompson in 1993. For our first five years we were published by Pluto Press. Rivers Oram Press took over at short notice in 1998, inaugurating seventeen years of close and very fruitful collaboration. The development of Socialist History into an attractively-designed and high quality product owes a great deal to the creativity, professionalism and commitment of Elizabeth Fidlon at Rivers Oram. But times change, and it is now essential for any publication which sells in the academic market to be available online, and with that in mind, we have moved the journal to Lawrence and Wishart.

An occasion like this is a good opportunity to look back at the history of this journal’s parent organisation, the Socialist History Society, and of its more famous predecessor, the Communist Party Historians’ (later: History) Group (CPHG).

The first ten years of the CPHG, from 1946 to 1956, has received quite a lot of scholarly attention over the years.1 Indeed, in a note to me written shortly before she died in early 2011, Dorothy Thompson remarked, ‘I am continually being asked questions about my lifetime, especially about “the CP historians’ group” which has become something of a mythical monster’. Interest in figures like Eric Hobsbawm, John Saville, E.P. and Dorothy Thompson, Christopher Hill, Victor Kiernan and others, with their subsequent high-profile careers as historians, have kept the early CPHG in the historiographical spotlight. However, the fact that many of these historians left the CPGB in the aftermath of the 1956 events has meant that the subsequent story of the CPHG itself, as distinct from its more illustrious early members, has been largely overlooked.2 In an attempt to redress the balance a little, this short survey looks mainly at the evolution of the CPHG after 1956, in the very different circumstances which prevailed in British communism after that year. It also examines how the group responded to the demise of the USSR and the CPGB itself at the end of 1991, when, in contrast to 1956, a far more profound crisis in British communism led to the renaissance of the history group as a much broader Socialist History Society.

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