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 […]

Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone

By Melissa Chemam
Just finished Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone, courtesy of Tangent Books and Richard Jones. It's a detailed history of the band from the early eighties through to 2018 by French journalist, Melissa Chemam. The first half of the book, especially, really flies. The formation of the band in the eighties as the hard partying Wild Bunch sound system, cooking-up hip-hop, dub and soul in the punk-noir atmosphere of an eerily dark and violent inner city Bristol, the subsequent drift and collapse […]

Make Rojava Green Again

Building an Ecological Society

By Internationalist Commune of Rojava
The ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ campaign of the Internationalist Commune of Rojava began in early 2018. I am pleased and impressed that they have now published this inspirational book. That such a text is being produced is in itself an expression of hope. It is a most promising development in some of the least promising circumstances. The Internationalist Commune of Rojava rightly states that ‘the ecological crisis has become the most urgent challenge of our time because it touches and impacts all […]