Posh Boys

How English Public Schools Ruin Britain

By Roger Verkaik
If the reader has had a public school education then this book is probably ‘a huge enjoyable read’ as recommended by one reviewer, on the other hand if the reader is a member of the majority of the British population who have not had the same educational advantage of the public school, then they are more likely to agree with the reviewer who labelled this book as ‘an enraged polemic’, and to empathise totally with the author. The history of public schools is described from the fourteenth century […]

Imperial Intimacies

A Tale of Two Islands

By Hazel V. Carby
A copy of The Bristolian
This is an eloquent and angry account of Professor Hazel Carby’s family history linked to the shameful history of the British Empire. She is painfully honest about the relationship of her own parents - her mother born in Wales, her father from Jamaica, their marriage soured by “the climate of virulent and violent British racism.” It was in Bristol where her mother had grown up and where “ambition took root and flourished, the city that nurtured and nourished her dreaming…the city’s architecture […]

On Brandon Hill

Popular Culture in Bristol since World War Two

By Nick Gilbert
This is an absolutely epic overview of Bristol culture – literary connections, film, music, gossip and much more since WW2. That’s around seven decades’ worth. You need to read it on an electronic device for two reasons: first, it’s an e-book; second, you will find yourself checking search engines, wikis, and music sites on every other page. In the words of the author, Nick Gilbert: "On Brandon Hill is the first ever comprehensive history of post-war Bristolian culture, and covers all the major […]

The Fatal Shore

The Epic of Australia's Founding

By Robert Hughes
Anyone interested in the history of Australia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries would do well to read Robert Hughes’s book. He describes in detail the development of the convict system and the colonisation of Australia from the first convict ship arriving at Sydney Cove in 1787 to the last convict voyage to Fremantle in 1868. With intensive research he has given the convicts a voice describing their own experiences of suffering, survival and resistance during that period. Robert […]

The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth Century North America and The Caribbean

By Gerald Horne
As you will have probably gathered from the title, Professor Gerald Horne wastes no time with mincing his words. The first paragraph of the Introduction is likewise refreshingly uncompromising about the position that the book takes: The years between 1603 and 1714 were perhaps the most decisive in English history. At the onset of the seventeenth century, the sceptered isle was a second-class power but the Great Britain that emerged at the beginning of the eighteenth century was, in many ways, […]

The Battle for China’s Past: Mao and The Cultural Revolution

By Mobo Gao
This 2008 book is a significant contribution to an ongoing process whereby Chinese radicals are reappraising dominant narratives on revolutionary China and in particular on the ‘Cultural Revolution’ (CR) period of 1966-76, thereby challenging the official Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dismissive verdict over Mao’s later policies and the so-called ‘Gang of Four’. While most of us on ‘The Left’ in the West know a fair bit about the 1917 Russian Revolution for example, our knowledge of China’s […]

Struggle or Starve: Working-Class Unity in Belfast’s 1932 Outdoor Relief Riots

By Seán Mitchell
Struggle or Starve is a compelling account of the 1932 Outdoor Relief riots in Belfast, an episode of widespread working-class unity while engaged in militant struggle that is often airbrushed over in favour of the more typical focus on Northern Ireland’s sectarian politics. Seán Mitchell is however a socialist from West Belfast who has finally given this unique event the historical study it has long deserved but not received. The period under study in fact extends from the working-class of […]

This is Not a Drill

An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

By Clare Farrell, Alison Green, Sam Knights and William Skeaping (eds)
  Book review and discussion of Extinction Rebellion: This is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook, ed. by Clare Farrell et al. (London: Penguin, 2019). Question: Who was described as a ‘true feminist green revolutionary’ in October 2019? (answer at the end; no scrolling now…) ‘Run comrade, the old world is behind you!’ went one of the slogans in Paris 1968. This is still true, comrade, and, catastrophically, the old world of predatory capitalism is rearing up in front of us too. […]

Radical Culture

Discourse, Resistance and Surveillance, 1790-1820

By David Worrall
Worral's book concentrates on the period of the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars. The narrative is based mainly in London, and looks at those who wanted to replicate the French Revolution in Britain. The main thread looks at those who believed in the work of Thomas Spence, who has largely been ignored in the mainstream history books. Spence was an ultra-radical, who saw the main problems with British society in land ownership. He wanted common land ownership, on a corporate basis, but […]

Wales

Epic Views of a Small Country

By Jan Morris
Clevedon-born author and historian Jan Morris describes herself as ‘by loyalty Welsh’, and writes about her subject with warmth and eloquence. As a book that captures the spirit of place, Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country, cannot be bettered. Morris gives a brusque sense of intimacy so that you feel you’ve been grabbed by the arm and are being led across the bridges and down the valleys of Wales in your wellies, while she confides everything that she is passionate about. Far from being a dry […]