chapter  Seven
22 Pages

Reading Alastair Reid: A future for labour history?

WithDavid Howell

This chapter presents a contribution to a debate about the methodology of labour history. It discusses two fundamental assumptions – that the research field is one of continuing significance, and that its future necessitates an open debate about methods in which old icons and new prescriptions are subjected to the same critical standards. Thus, the social historian, Alastair Reid characterised the contribution of Marxist historiography to the understanding of the history of the British Labour Movement. Alastair Reid’s position has its attractions. His emphasis on the need to study in depth diversities of occupational experience and of local political tradition is one that should be endorsed. Equipped with images of adversaries and their own agenda and hypotheses, Eugenio Biagini and Reid present and criticise earlier analyses of the shift from Liberalism to Labour. Biagini and Reid are sceptics and their scepticism challenges a family of assumptions that extend beyond the distinctively Marxist.