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The History of History

8. Marxism and Feminism

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the development of Marxist and Feminist history in the second half of the 20th century, focusing in particular on: (i) the key preoccupations of Marxist historians, e.g. the importance of socio-economic structures, the importance of class conflict, etc.; (ii) the importance of the group known as the British Marxist historians, including c (1917-2012), E. P. Thompson (1924-93) and Raphael Samuel (1934-96); (iii) the increased engagement of these historians with the wider public; (iv) E. P. Thompson’s ‘The Making of the English Working Class’ (1963); (v) the overlap between Marxist historians and Feminist historians; (vi) the key preoccupations of Feminist historians, e.g. highlighting the imbalance between the sexes that has persisted through different historical periods, recovering the experiences of women, etc.; (vii) the kinds of sources used by Feminist historians, and the way they are used; and (viii) the relationship between Feminist history and other approaches to history that seek to recover the experiences of historically marginalised groups, e.g. Black history, Gay history, etc.


In this course, Professor John Arnold (University of Cambridge) explores the history of history – the ways in which the writing of history has changed from Herodotus (c. 484-25 BC) to Hayden White (1928-2018). In the first module, we think about the question ‘What is history?’, focusing in particular on some of fundamental challenges that historians of all ages have had to grapple with, as well as on the idea of the ‘purpose’ of history – why do we bother to study the past at all? In the following six modules, we think about the development of history in six key periods – the ancient world, the medieval world, post-Reformation Europe, post-Enlightenment Europe, the 19th century, and the 20th century. In the final two modules, we consider three approaches to history that have proved highly influential from the second half of the 20th century to the present day – Marxist history, Feminist history, and Postmodernism.


John Arnold studied at the University of York, gaining a BA in History, and a D.Phil. in Medieval Studies. He worked at the University of East Anglia, then moved to Birkbeck, University of London, in 2001, until his election to the professorship of medieval history at Cambridge in 2016. He has been lead editor of the journal Cultural and Social History, is on the editorial board of the journal Past & Present, and co-edits several publication series: Genders and Sexualities in History (Palgrave Macmillan), Heresy and Inquisition in the Middle Ages (York Medieval Press), and Oxford Studies in Medieval European History (OUP).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Arnold, J. (2020, September 07). The History of History - Marxism and Feminism [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Arnold, J. "The History of History – Marxism and Feminism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 07 Sep 2020,

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