If, for Marxist history, the 1950s and 1960s might be seen as a heroic age of discovery, the 1970s brought more uncertainty and less coherence to the project. Partly, Marxist history had become victim of its own success. Large numbers of academics were drawn under its influence and the tight spirit of comradeship and a common past in the CPHG no longer ensured the cohesion that it formerly did. Events of the late 1960s had radicalised a generation of students who enthusiastically took up history from below but also transcended it. Naturally enough, areas of inquiry widened and history from below helped to spawn new types of history: women’s history, gay history and the history of sexuality, cultural history and historical sociology. In some cases Marxists were at the forefront of these new histories as with Sheila Rowbotham’s Hidden from History (1973), Tim Mason’s work on women in Nazi Germany and Marian Ramelson’s Petticoat Rebellion (1967). In others these developments emerged via a sharp rupture with Marxism: for instance, Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality (1976). Some of these areas potentially reinforced Marxism but some discarded it, searching for alternative attitudes towards knowledge, social totalities and power. These fragmentary forces grew ever stronger as the character of the New Left — increasingly constituted in the late 1960s by specific social movements (the women’s liberation movement, the gay liberation movement, the black movement and the student movement) — had intellectual consequences. So even before the ideological climate changed in the mid- to late 1970s with the growing confidence of the New Right, Marxist history was facing a serious external challenge.
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