Saturday, September 27, 2008

Edward Carpenter; A Life of Liberty and Love

Sheila Rowbotham, author of Hidden from History, and The Friends of Alice Wheeldon, has written a major new biography of the pioneering advocate of free love, gay rights and women's suffrage - the anarchist-socialist, Edward Carpenter. Carpenter had an "extraordinary impact on the cultural and political landscape of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A mystic advocate of, among other causes, free love, recycling, nudism, women’s suffrage and prison reform, Carpenter’s work anticipated the sexual revolution of the 1960s and placed him at the epicenter of the literary culture of his day."

This 584 page book is available from Verso;

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Relevance of Philip Larkin

"Some poems strike a chord. Others ring a bell. But Philip Larkin's Toads bongs like Big Ben inside my head. If I had my life again I would change nothing except the mental affliction that this sad, sardonic masterpiece describes so pithily and accurately. But changing that would change everything", writes Times journalist Richard Morrison, in a perceptive analysis of the way in which more schooling results in less education:

1649 and the Execution of King Charles

1649 was the year of Charles I's execution, and the year when Leveller revolt in the New Model Army was crushed by Cromwell. Both events that marked a turning point in the English Civil War.

Next February a conference, organised by the London Socialist Historians Group, will be held at the Institute of Historical Research, London, to look at the way in which 1649 ushered in new "liberties and democratic practices". Keynote speakers will include Geoffrey Robertson (author of
The Tyrannicide Brief), Geoff Kennedy (author: Diggers, Levellers and Agrarian Capitalism [forthcoming]), Norah Carlin (author, The Causes of the English Civil War) and John Rees (author, A Rebel's Guide to Milton, [forthcoming]).

The conference will be held on saturday 7 February 2009.
Full details of the Conference will be available on:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

London Anarchist Bookfair 2008
Saturday 18th October 10am - 7 pm

The line-up of speakers at the 2008 London Anarchist Bookfair includes John Pilger, Paul Mason, author of Live Working or Die fighting (on the "rise and fall of the global labour movement") , Morris Beckman, talking about his time in the "43 Group", and Ian Bone, author of Bash the Rich (best autobiography of 2007). There will also be a full programme of workshops and films covering a wide range of issues and subjects, including presentations by two new anarchist magazines. There will be more bookstalls than usual, and hundreds of different book titles - and best of all copies of new and old pamphlets.
For the second year the Bookfair will be held at Queen Mary & Westfield College, on the Mile End Road. Full details on:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Caustic Cover Critic

Described as "one man's endless ranting about book design" Caustic Cover Critic, is a blog that is is worth returning to again and again for the excellent visual essays on cover art. It was the four-part "round-up" on Penguin designer Romek Marber that first caught my attention, but there are also features on P G Wodehouse, "Femme Fatales", John Wyndham, and many other writers, publishers and artists... old and new. The pared-down, minimalist commentary that lets the cover art speak for itself is also welcome.

Friday, September 12, 2008


The excellent COPAC -National Union Catalogue of the holdings of UK & Irish Deposit, Research and Academic Libraries - has recently added the catalogues of the Library of the Society of Antiquaries and the City of London Guildhall Library to its database.

The Guildhall Library is one of the oldest public libraries in the country, and has one of the "world’s most comprehensive collections of printed works on London history and also outstanding resources on diverse subjects such as food and wine, gardening, law reports, English parliamentary papers, local history, marine history, clock and watch-making and archery." The Society of Antiquaries has important holdings on archaeology, architecture and the history of antiquarianism.


Wild Thing

The New York Times profiles Maurice Sendak at 80.

Obviously the national papers....

Obviously the national papers are so busy fighting with each other for the title of the people's guardian - that they haven't been able to find the time or energy to report on the new sixty-page Statewatch report (see yesterday's post) All the mock outrage at a couple of lost CDs or data sticks containing personal information has proved to be just so much froth. The sixty-page Statewatch report revealed EU plans to monitor all digital data and was taken up by the Press Association..yet only Computer Weekly and the Daily Mirror (a paragraph) have managed to mention it.

See below for links to the report.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Statewatch Report - The Shape of Things to Come

A new Statewatch Report written by Tony Bunyan, exposing how European governments and EU policy-makers are pursuing unfettered powers to access and gather masses of personal data on the everyday life of everyone – on the grounds that we can all be safe and secure from perceived “threats”.

"The proposals set out by the shadowy "Future Group" set up by the Council of the European Union include a range of highly controversial measures including new technologies of surveillance, enhanced cooperation with the United States and harnessing the "digital tsunami".

In the words of the EU Council presidency:"Every object the individual uses, every transaction they make and almost everywhere they go will create a detailed digital record. This will generate a wealth of information for public security organisations, and create huge opportunities for more effective and productive public security efforts."

Conclusions (8 pages) (pdf):

Copy of full report (pdf):

Rare Birds Yearbook 2008

The Yearbook focuses on 189 critically endangered bird species, illustrated by more than 400 colour photographs and paintings, with suggestions about what can be done to save them.

You can view sample pages here:

The winners of the photo competition for Rare Birds Yearbook 2009 have been announced and include some stunning images of the world’s rarest birds - the winning photograph was by Andy and Gill Swash for their beautiful image of a pair of Lear’s Macaws in flight, taken in north-east Brazil. Read more about the photography and see the photographs at:

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Pillage Continues...

Cardiff City Council are planning to sell off some of the rarest and most interesting books in its Central Library - up to 18,000 volumes - because the Council claims it cannot afford to look after them. The books earmarked for possible sale include early atlases, incunabula (ie books printed before 1500) private press publications, books with special bindings, limited editions and rare book collections, including a substantial collection of scarce political tracts from the Civil War and rare books on natural history and geography. It is estimated that some of the books will sell for up to £40,000 each.

Dr Wyn James, a member of the rapidly formed action group to prevent the sale, who is also secretary of Cardiff Welsh Bibliographical Society, told the BBC:

"In the past the council has not invested in these books and did not include them on the electronic catalogue, which means that the majority of people did not know they were there.
"But rather than ensuring that these valuable collections be catalogued, and exploiting these assets in a way that would substantially enhance Cardiff's prestige as a city of culture and learning, the council has decided to sell them."

The full story is on the BBC website:

Monday, September 01, 2008

Le réseau d'évasion du groupe Ponzan - Anarchistes dans la guerre secrète contre le franquisme et le nazisme (1936-1944)*

*The network of escape group Ponzan - Anarchists in the secret war against the Franco regime and Nazism (1936-1944)

Antonio Tellez Sola has pioneered the study of anarchist resistance to fascism since his ground-breaking book on Sabate. In this new work he focuses his attention on Francisco Ponzan Vidal. During the revolution and civil war in Spain Ponzan played a special role in the anarchist "intelligence" networks, crossing nationalist lines, compiling intelligence reports, and aiding the escape of compaions trapped in nationalist areas. With the outbreak of World War II Ponzan and other exiled comrades organised one of the largest escape networks in Europe helping people cross the Pyranees and into the comparative safety of Spain. The resistance network they set up had specifically libertarian characteristics that are explored in here in detail by Tellez.

Tellez himself was a member of the French maquis, and the anti-Franco resistance movement in Spain after the War. This 405 page book is in French.