You are on page 1of 8

By Sabine and Helen

Influence of Marxism on
The recognition of the importance of economic history; the way the
wealth of a community is produced and how this affects the
structure of that community.
Recognition of the role of the economic classes in historical
Recognition of the social origins of human thinking and ideology.
Relativism in the approach of historians; Most modern historians
now recognise that moral standards change as society changes.
Modern sense of the unity of history;
historians would recognise that history should not be sectioned off
in to fragments but that all these different aspects of life are
Marxism has contributed to modern scientific history; it
scientifically analyses the class struggle.

Main points of Marxist
Emphasis on class and class struggle and conflict;
Marx indentified 3 classes in a bourgeois society under the
1. Capital
2. Landed property
3. Wage Labour
Emphasis on the wage labouring class which has led to
Marxist historiography being described as history from
Marxist historians believe that class struggle is of decisive
importance in determining social change in the past.
Main points of Marxist
Emphasis on economics and economic constraints;
The economic aspect is crucial in the explanation of this type of
Marxist historians put particular emphasis on the idea of a political
economy and the effect that this has on the different social classes
and their relations to each other.
The anatomy of a civil society has to be sought in political
economy. Karl Marx
Economics of a society condition the general process of social,
political and intellectual life.
it is not the consciousness of men that determines their
existence but their social existence that determines their
consciousness. Marx

Marxist Historians (Watch out!)
Eric Hobsbawm
Maurice Dobb
Rodney Hilton
Christopher Hill
EP Thompson

Assessment of Marxist
Criticism has been levelled at Marxist historians for placing too much
emphasis on resistance and rebellion, to the extent that do not acknowledge
the more conservative practices and social and political actions of the lower

Marxist historiography has been important in influencing historical study as it
has pointed out the need to study long term social change and recognise the
impact of class struggle. However there has been criticism of some aspects of
Marxist historiography, such as the evaluation of the English Civil War and the
French revolution as being bourgeois revolutions. In fact, even other Marxist
historians have argued that the effect of the transformation of the English
landed classes was the transition to agrarian capitalism. In the case of the
French revolution, many historians declined to accept the view that it resulted
in a decisive change in French economic development. In the face of the
criticism, many Marxists have re interpreted these events, e.g. Hill argues the
Civil War was a bourgeois revolution because its outcome established
conditions necessary for capitalism, rather than because the revolutionaries
were led by the bourgeois.

Assessment Continued
Marxism has also been criticised for its equation of social
being with class position, as wealth is not the only factor
that may lead to social exclusion, others being race and
gender. Marxists have explained patriarchy as deriving from
the mode of production in society, not as an autonomous
form of social inequality, which non- Marxists often argue
However, there can be no doubt that Marxist
historiography has greatly influenced historical study by
highlighting the need to study long term economic and
social change and by switching the focus of historical study
from the elites to the masses as history from below.
Discussion Questions
To what extent is Marxist historiography useful in
writing history?
What problems (if any) arise from analysing history
from a Marxist viewpoint?
What has the impact of Marxist historiography been
on history itself?