When Raphael Samuel's Theatres of Memory: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture was published in 1994, it was critically received. Yet, the book has not had the impact of other key works such as Lowenthal's The Past is a Foreign Country (1985) or Hewison's The Heritage Industry (1987). A number of factors have contributed to this, such as Theatres essentially being an unfinished project, and 'heritage' in the book having multiple personas - the net result being that Samuel's arguments can at times be hard to pin down. Yet with interest in his approach to heritage now growing, this article seeks to unravel Samuel's core ideas and arguments pertaining to heritage, and to give an historical background to their evolution. With the central tenets of Samuel's argument essentially being a case for the democratisation of heritage; the validity of what we might today call 'unofficial' narratives and discourses; and to challenge the dominant view that heritage was ultimately history's poor cousin, I argue that Samuel's ideas have much to offer contemporary research agendas in heritage.