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“History is the new punk”: The International History From Below Network

  • Manchester Metropolitan University Geoffrey Manton Building M15 6LL (map)

The International History From Below Network is a diverse organisation of historytellers, historical agitators, artists, independent archivists, history groups, political archaeologists etc. It was founded in 2012 in Barcelona to reflect a growing worldwide movement of historical activism and public interest in radical history, and to build an alternative, non-academic resource for the production and transmission of oppositional forms of history.

As radical history becomes increasingly popular, more and more activists – from squatters and footballers to street artists and curators – are making the transition to historians, merging past struggles, new technology and street culture to build new and surprising narratives. International collaboration also helps practitioners understand history from below in a wider context instead of merely via local fragments; not through making simplistic analogies but through understanding repeated cycles and patterns of struggles.

From these international collective observations we can recognise connections, draw inspiration from the courage and imagination of past actors (for better outcome in today’s struggles), and help to raise questions that encourage others to delve further into histories from below. We want to celebrate past victories, instead of just mourning the defeats.

History as subculture and self-organised do-it-yourself practice is about ‘commoning’ and ‘levelling’; promoting the sharing of resources and countering the idea that history is solely the province of professional historians. We aim to find new practices and arenas for radical history beyond the austere mood and sensibility of the academic lecture and conference. Mixing working class militancy with the emotive force of street art and theatre, dry GPS data with the excitement of international solidarity, and humour with benign social history, the network wants to promote a new generation of DIY historians from below, and hopefully make way for the next.

Peter Box, David Rosenberg and Roger Ball are members of the International History From Below Network, a cooperative international network of DIY historical agitators, activists, archivists and political archaeologists from around the world.