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Cover for Theatres of Memory

Theatres of Memory

Past and Present in Contemporary Culture

Raphael Samuel


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (4/16/1996)


When Theatres of Memory was first published in 1994, it transformed the debate about what is to be considered history and questioned the role of “heritage” that lies at the heart of every Western nation’s obsession with the past. Today, in the age of Downton Abbey and Mad Men, we are once again conjuring historical fictions to make sense of our everyday lives.

In this remarkable book, Samuel looks at the many different ways we use the ‘unofficial knowledge’ of the past. Considering such varied areas as the fashion for “retrofitting,” the rise of family history, the joys of collecting old photographs, the allure of reenactment societies and televised adaptations of Dickens, Samuel transforms our understanding of the uses of history. He shows us that history is a living practice, something constantly being reassessed in the world around us.

Praise For Theatres of Memory: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture

“Whose history is it, then? That’s the question driving Raphael Samuel’s provocative investigation of the historically steeped nature of British culture ... A joy to read.”—Roy Porter, New Statesman

“A brilliant and compelling historical vision.”—Jonathan Clark, The Times

“An alluring, hugely energetic writer ... Samuel is invaluable.”—Fiona MacCarthy, Observer

“Challenging, perceptive and gloriously eclectic.”—David Robinson, The Scotsman

“Magnificent.”—David Edgar, Independent on Sunday

“A showcase for Samuel’s quite astonishing historical and cultural range.”—Stefan Collini, Times Literary Supplement

“One of the most outstanding, original intellectuals of his generation.”—Stuart Hall

Verso, 9781844678693, 508pp.

Publication Date: September 11, 2012

About the Author

Raphael Samuel (1934–1996) was a tutor in History at Ruskin College, Oxford, and a founding editor of History Workshop Journal. His works include Theatres of Memory and Island Stories, also from Verso. For more information about his work, see The Raphael Samuel History Centre and Archive online.