JUNE 2018. Our new series of talks, Social Histories of Revolution: the Long 1960s, will start in September. Details on web pages here.


The SOCIAL HISTORIES OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION was a series of 15 public lectures that ran in London from October 2016 to January 2018, to coincide with the revolution’s centenary.

The speakers were historians who had researched aspects of the social history of the revolution, the years leading up to it, and its legacy. The audiences, ranging from 60 to 150 people, were students, participants in social movements, militants in socialist, feminist and trade union organisations, and others who were simply interested in history.

The format – a 30-minute talk followed by more than an hour of questions, answers and discussions – enabled open and thought-provoking discussions.

Recordings of all the talks are now available (see links on the recordings page) and will remain for the foreseeable future.

We (the organisers) think this was, overall, a successful experiment in creating a space to discuss history outside the usual academic frameworks.

We are now (February 2018) exploring the possibility of a second series of talks, perhaps on the theme “social histories of 20th century revolutions”. If we do so, we will let people know, here and elsewhere. Please email socialhistories1917@gmail.com if you want us to keep you posted.

(We have left our original “About” information below, so that you can see what the idea of the series was.)


All are welcome to SOCIAL HISTORIES OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, a monthly series of discussion meetings, timed to take place during the run-up to the centenary of Russia’s revolutions of 1917.

Each discussion will be opened by historians, scholars working in academia who have spent many years studying the revolution in the Russian archives. But these are not academic seminars – they are open to all who share our interest in the history of the Russian revolution as a landmark struggle for social liberation. At each discussion there will be an opening talk of about 30 minutes, followed by open debate.

The emphasis in the discussion meetings will be on the social histories of the revolution – that is, how it was experienced by the mass of working people who participated.

By taking this approach we aim not to brush aside the role of political leaders, and their disputes and decisions, but rather to move beyond these well-known debates and reach a deeper understanding of the revolution as the active participation of millions of people in changing history.

We hope that by developing our theme over a year of meetings, we will be able collectively to engage in serious thinking and re-thinking about the revolution and its significance for our past and present. 

William Dixon, Brendan McGeever, Simon Pirani (Organisers)  


Past events are available to watch on Youtube here – all future events will be uploaded as well. Please listen and share!




Oct 27 – Steve Smith (University of Oxford): How much popular support did the Bolsheviks enjoy in 1917-1921?

Nov 24 – Brendan McGeever (Birkbeck, University of London): Antisemitism and Revolutionary Politics in the Russian Revolution, 1917-1919. 

Dec 15 – Andy Willimott (Reading University): Living the Revolution: Urban Communes in 1920s Russia and the Invention of a Socialist Lifestyle.


Jan 26 – Sarah Badcock (Nottingham University): Kaleidoscopes of Revolution: the 1917 Revolutions at Local Level.

Feb 23 – Katy Turton (Queens University, Belfast): Women in Revolt: the Female Experience of the 1917 Revolutions. At: Room LG04, 26 Bedford Way, University College London (UCL), London WC1H 0AP.

March 16 – George Gilbert (Southampton University): The Radical Right and the Russian Revolution.

March 30 –Dimitri Tolkatsch (University of Freiburg, Germany): The Ukrainian Peasant Insurgency in the Revolutionary Period.

April 27. – Chris Read (Warwick University): The Social History of the Revolutionary Period.

May 25 – Barbara Allen (La Salle University, USA): Alexander Shlyapnikov and the Russian Metalworkers in 1917.

June 29 – Don Filtzer (University of East London): The Working Class and the First Five-year Plan, 1928-32.

Sep 28 – Gleb Albert (University of Zurich): Early Soviet Society and World Revolution, 1917-27.

Oct 12 – Lara Douds (University of York): Lenin’s “living link” with the people? The Soviet government’s Reception, 1917-1924.

Nov 23 – 1917 A Century On: A Debate. Discussion to be opened by Simon Pirani (author of The Russian Revolution in Retreat 1920-1924).

Nov 30 – Wendy Goldman (Carnegie Mellon University, USA): Free Love, the Family and the Russian Revolution.


Jan 18 – Steve Smith (University of Oxford): Red Petrograd: revolution in the factories 1917-18 (to launch a new edition of this classic book). 6.30pm-8.0pm, Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London.