What is People's History?

A people’s history or history from below is a type of historical narrative which attempts to account for historical events from the perspective of common people rather than political and other leaders.

A people’s history (otherwise known as social history) is the history of the world that is the story of mass movements and of the outsiders. Individuals not included in the past in other type of writing about history are part of this theory’s primary focus, which includes the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the poor, the nonconformists, and the otherwise forgotten people. This theory also usually focuses on events occurring in the fullness of time, or when an overwhelming wave of smaller events cause certain developments to occur.

This revisionist approach to writing history is in direct opposition to methods which tend to emphasize single great figures in history, referred to as the great man theory; it argues that the driving factor of history is the daily life of ordinary people, their social status and profession. These are the factors that “push and pull” on opinions and allow for trends to develop, as opposed to great people introducing ideas or initiating events.

In his book A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn wrote: “we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been, The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”[1] (See source page)

What is the Celebrate People’s History Project?

Hosted by the Just Seeds Artist’s Cooperative, since 1998 the Celebrate People’s History Project has produced an amazing array of political posters by different artists from around the world, each highlighting a historical example of social struggle. The series celebrates important acts of resistance by both individuals and collective movements who have fought tirelessly for social justice. From the Spanish Revolution to feminist labour organisers, indigenous movements to environmental sustainability, protests against racism to the Korean Peasant’s League — Celebrate People’s History canvases global movements in collaboration with a global network of artists.

Visually the posters are as diverse as the topics themselves. Screenprint, woodcut, linocut, illustration, line art and traditional graphic design all feature in full colour — employed to engage in much needed critical reflection about aspects of our history often overlooked by mainstream narratives. A seamless welding of art and politics, Celebrate People’s History is sure to excite the history junkie, poster enthusiast, art student and social activist alike. (see text source)

Find out more about the project on their blog.

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