Questioning labour and history at the start of the course, I started to read the unfinished theses of Walter Benjamin. For Benjamin, the historian is a "prophet who looks back". History must be told, not from the point of view of the victors, but of the vanquished. Theses on the concept of history, also called "On the concept of history", constitute his last written text which considered a philosophical and political reference. It will be first published in 1942 by the Institute of Social Research in Los Angeles (Frankfurt School). Written in Paris, in 1940, shortly before he ends to his life. This text, very short, was not intended to be published, but constituted a basis of work for a future development. He wrote the theses between December 1939, (after leaving Nevers camp, where he had been interned for more than two months by the French Republic's authorities)and the beginning of the year 1940. At that time the German invasion in Europe has intensified. The German-Soviet Pact, signed in 1939, gave a temporary halt to protest movements and disoriented part of the left and anti-fascist movements. Walter Benjamin, like many Jewish German and Austrian intellectuals became stateless because they have lost their nationalities. Feeling no longer safe in France, Benjamin tried to leave to the United States. But feared not to succeed and to be captured under the repressions.
"On the concept of history" composed of 20 short texts, including theses, appendices and variants. It is a difficult reading because it rises many interpretations. From a personal point of view, it is an inspiring starting point to reflect and to extend the question of "who is in charge of writing History". It also to question the representation of classes in History how we know it. The textes address its concept, in relation to progress, in an approach that mixes a Marxist approach, to which the text regularly refers, especially the notion of the "materialist historian".
Historical materialism, or materialist conception of history, is a Marxist method of analyzing history from a materialistic perspective. It induces the idea, present in the writings of Karl Marx, that historical events are influenced by social relations, in particular the relations between social classes, and thus by the situation actually experienced by human beings. This conception gives an essential part to the economy in the transformations of the world. Historical materialism appears both as an economic view of history and as a historical view of economics: it is part of Marx's philosophy in explaining how the production of livelihoods has shaped the place of man in the nature.