Cunning Plan 191: diving deep into ‘history from below’ with Year 8

By Nathanael Davies, published 7th July 2023

Cunning Plan… for diving deep into ‘history from below’ with Year 8

Can the ‘subaltern’ speak, Year 8s?

When the Indian scholar and literary theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak asked this question in 1988, she wasn’t asking Year 8s on a Monday morning. What she wanted to explore was whether those marginalised people written out of the archive – ‘the subaltern’ – could be written back in.

Marginalised people are written out because so many sources were originally produced, and often collected and curated, by the powerful. A group of historians whom we might term ‘historians from below’ address this problem by reading such sources against the grain. They do so in order to get the ‘subaltern to speak’ and to provide a more complete picture of the past. In recent decades, this has become the pursuit of a growing number of historians across many fields... 

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