Comrade: Bill Anderson: A Communist, Working-Class Life


  • Ross Webb



In 2011, Nick Salvatore reflected on the ‘intimate relationship’ between biography and social history. Challenging the suggestions made by some historians that biography was outside the ‘discipline of history’, Salvatore argued that the recent turn to biography in labour and social history was a welcome development. It opened the possibility of a broader understanding of ‘the interplay between an individual and social forces beyond one’s ability to control’. Such biography, he continued, could shed light far beyond any individual, even if it does not always reach into every corner of social life’. Like any historical work, however, it demanded a ‘disciplinary rigor and thorough research effort that treats equally seriously both the subject and the context that shapes that life’. In his excellent biography, Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist, Salvatore referred to the book as a ‘social biography’, one that ‘intended to explore both the individual and the broader social context’.


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