Struggles for a past

Irish and Afro-Caribbean histories in England, 1951-2000

By Kevin Myers

Struggles for a past

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8480-5
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: July 2015
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General, HISTORY / Social History, Society & social sciences / Ethnic minorities & multicultural studies, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Modern History, History, Social & cultural history


This book examines the construction of ethnic communities, and of multicultural policy, in post-war England. It explores how Irish and Afro-Caribbean immigrants responded to their representation as alien races by turning to history. In cultural and educational projects immigrants imagined, researched, wrote and pictured their pasts. They did so because they sought in the past dignity, a common humanity and an explanation of the hostility that had greeted them in England.

But the meaning of the past is never fixed. Encouraged and conditioned by the burgeoning field of race relations, these histories were interpreted as expressions of difference. They asserted, it was claimed, specific ethnic needs and identities. They were the nation's 'other histories'. Drawing on a wide range of sources and covering many different debates, the book seeks to recover the inclusive historical imagination of radical scholars and activists who saw in the past the resources for a better future.


'Struggles for a Past is an excellent and thought-provoking book. It not only provides important analysis of the Irish and Afro-Caribbean experience in England; it centres a consideration of the very place and role of history and memory in the construction and understanding of race in England. This historiographical account is a productive avenue for educational and social historians, and certainly holds significant further potential for future work.'
Jessica Gerrard, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, History of Education, 2017, Vol. 46, No. 4

'an important and timely book, which helps us to understand how narratives of the past can be potent instruments of identity formation.'
Twentieth Century British History


1. The nation and its people 1951-68
2. History and humanism 1968-81
3. Pluralism, politics and the uses of the past 1981-2000


Kevin Myers is Senior Lecturer in Social History and Education at the University of Birmingham

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