Sunday, 19 December 2010

New Book on John Saville

New title from the Socialist History Society/Lawrence and Wishart

John Saville: Commitment and History
Themes from the life and work of a socialist historian
(Ed. David Howell, Dianne Kirby and Kevin Morgan)

John Saville (1916-2009) was one of the leading socialist academics of his generation, and one of the most influential figures in British labour history. This new collection of essays offers a variety of perspectives on his lifetime's work. The first section - commitments - assesses Saville's activities, at different times during his life, as a communist, as a founder of the New Left, and as editor (with Ralph Miliband) of the long-running Socialist Register. The middle section - themes - looks at key themes which mattered for Saville, from revolutionary anti-imperialism in India to the politics of Cold War and debates in labour history. In part three - interventions - contributors discuss Saville's contributions to contemporary historical understanding of Chartism, British labourism and the Cold War. The aim is to offer critical analysis and reflection in the tradition which Saville himself did so much to establish.

Contributors: Tony Adams, John Callaghan, Malcolm Chases, Madaleine Davis, Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, David Howell, Dianne Kirby, Colin Leys, Kevin Morgan and John Sakkas.

Socialist History Society meetings 2011

Some more Dates for your diary...

Socialist History Society Meetings 2011

Willie Thompson on “Ideologies in the Age of Extremes”
Copies of Willie’s new book of the same title will be available.
7pm, 21st January 2011


Eric Hobsbawm
In discussion on his latest book, “How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism”.

Date to be confirmed
Copies will be available.


Mike Pentelow on “Wilf Page and the History of Rural Workers’ Struggles”
7pm 15 March 2011


Harry Landis on the History of Unity Theatre
2pm 14 April 2011


SHS AGM followed by Seminar on Aspects of East End History
With Samantha Bird, Sarah Wise and Janine Booth
2pm 14 May 2011

Venue for all: Bishopsgate Institute, Liverpool Street

Saturday, 18 December 2010

LSHG seminars Spring 2011

Socialist History seminars for Spring 2011 - all at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London at 5.30pm. Organised by the LSHG - for more information please contact the convenor Keith Flett.

Jan 24th
Ben Lewis: 'Rediscovering Zinoviev? The USPD Halle Congress of October 1920'

Feb 7th
Owen Hatherley: 'The Ruins of the Urban Renaissance, or why Blairiteurbanism was a good idea appallingly implemented'

Feb 21st
John Lindsay: 'Out of the Shadows- the Campaign for Homosexual Equality from the 1970s'

March 21st
George Paizis: 'Panait Istrati- Revolutionary, Novelist & Friend of Victor Serge'

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Ragged Trousered Philanthropists day

The free market does not exist. In every nation, the corporations hold out their begging bowls and tax-payers line up to fill them. We are the ragged-trousered philanthropists of the 21st century, the comparatively poor obliged to sponsor the rich.
George Monbiot

Speaking of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, the TUC have organised a special day in their honour on Saturday 5 February 2011 with an event in Hastings:

A lively, radical day of music and speeches to commemorate the centenary of the death of author Robert Tressell.

Robert Noonan was born in Dublin in 1870 and died in Liverpool on 3 February 1911.

Whilst living in Hastings, he finished 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' - the original title page of the book carried the subtitle 'Being the story of twelve months in Hell, told by one of the damned, and written down by Robert Tressell' - the Hell was the town of Mugsborough (Hastings, where he was living) and the book describes the horror and deprivation suffered by the working class as exampled by the building workers of that town.

Sponsored by SERTUC, GMB Southern Region, Writers Guild of Britain and Unite London and Eastern Region.

Monday, 13 December 2010

'Medieval England richer than today's poorest nations'

Medieval England Twice as Well Off as Today’s Poorest Nations, Science Daily (Dec. 6, 2010)

— New research led by economists at the University of Warwick reveals that medieval England was not only far more prosperous than previously believed, it also actually boasted an average income that would be more than double the average per capita income of the world's poorest nations today. In a paper entitled British Economic Growth 1270-1870 published by the University of Warwick's Centre on Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) the researchers find that living standards in medieval England were far above the "bare bones subsistence" experience of people in many of today's poor countries. The figure of $400 annually (as expressed in 1990 international dollars) is commonly is used as a measure of "bare bones subsistence" and was previously believed to be the average income in England in the middle ages. However the University of Warwick led researchers found that English per capita incomes in the late Middle Ages were actually of the order of $1,000 (again as expressed in 1990 dollars). Even on the eve of the Black Death, which first struck in 1348/49, the researchers found per capita incomes in England of more than $800 using the same 1990 dollar measure. Their estimates for other European countries also suggest late medieval living standards well above $400. This new figure of $1,000 is not only significantly higher than previous estimates for that period in England -- it also indicates that on average medieval England was better off than some of the world's poorest nations today including the following (again average annual income as expressed in 1990 dollars).
Zaire $249
Burundi $479
Niger $514
Central African Republic $536
Comoro Islands $549
Togo $606
Guinea Bissau $617
Guinea $628
Sierra Leone $686
Haiti at $686
Chad $706
Zimbabwe $779
Afghanistan $869

University of Warwick economist Professor Stephen Broadberry, who led the research said: "Our work sheds new light on England's economic past, revealing that per capita incomes in medieval England were substantially higher than the "bare bones subsistence" levels experienced by people living in poor countries in our modern world. The majority of the British population in medieval times could afford to consume what we call a "respectability basket" of consumer goods that allowed for occasional luxuries. By the late Middle Ages, the English people were in a position to afford a varied diet including meat, dairy produce and ale, as well as the less highly processed grain products that comprised the bulk of the "bare bones subsistence" diet." He also said: "Of course this paper focuses only on average per capita incomes. We also need to have a better understanding of the distribution of income in medieval England, as there will have been some people living at bare bones subsistence, and at times this proportion could have been quite substantial. We are now beginning research to construct social tables which will also reveal the distribution of income for some key benchmark years in that period".
"The research provides the first annual estimates of GDP for England between 1270 and 1700 and for Great Britain between 1700 and 1870. Far more data are available for the pre-1870 period than is widely realised. Britain after the Norman conquest was a literate and numerate society that generated substantial written records, many of which have survived. As a result, the research was aided by a wide variety of records -- among them manorial records, tithes, farming records, and probate records." Professor Broadberry further said that: "Our research shows that the path to the Industrial Revolution began far earlier than commonly has been understood. A widely held view of economic history suggests that the Industrial Revolution of 1800 suddenly took off, in the wake of centuries without sustained economic growth or appreciable improvements in living standards in England from the days of the hunter-gatherer. By contrast, we find that the Industrial Revolution did not come out of the blue. Rather, it was the culmination of a long period of economic development stretching back as far as the late medieval period."
PDF of paper:

Cultures of Occupation and Demonstration: 2010/1968/1917

In the context of numerous student occupations of their universities
and mass demonstrations, the seminar Marxism in Culture has organised
a special session on 17th December at the Institute of Historical
Research, Senate House, 5.30pm. All welcome.

'Cultures of Occupation and Demonstration: 2010/1968/1917'

Warren Carter
Gail Day
Steve Edwards
Esther Leslie
David Mabb
Nina Power
Alberto Toscano.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

History you don't learn at school

In the latest Socialist Worker, Red Saunders speaks to Matthew Cookson about his new photographs which recreate key moments of working class struggle to inspire fightbacks today

Hobson's Imperialism

'Hobson’s Imperialism

presented by Jeremy Corbyn MP, Alex Callinicos and Nathaniel Mehr
Wednesday 12th January, 7pm
Housman's Bookshop, London
£3, redeemable against purchase

This January, Spokesman Books will be re-publishing J.A. Hobson's 1902 classic 'Imperialism: A Study'. Hobson's book was among the first to explore the links between political economy and imperial expansion. It inspired a number of Marxist critiques of imperialism, and was quoted extensively in Lenin's famous pamphlet, 'Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism'.

The new edition will feature an introduction by Nathaniel Mehr and a foreword by Jeremy Corbyn MP. At the event Jeremy Corbyn and Nathaniel Mehr will be joined by Professor Alex Callinicos, who has written extensively on economics and imperialism, to discuss the significance of Hobson's book in today's world.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

David Cameron, hear us say, hands off EMA!

Monday 13th December
Day of Action to defend EMA

4pm onwards – after school protest at government offices

Called by Education Activist Network, supported by London Region UCU
Department of Business, Innovation and Skills
1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET

Unkettle Education!
Fees, cuts and EMA: how do we fight to win?

6pm – public meeting, Central London (watch this space for venue)
Called by Education Activist Network, supported by London Region UCU

Speakers include school and college students, university occupiers, parents, teachers and special guests to be announced

This Monday a coalition of trade unions has called for a day of action to defend the Education Maintenance Allowance. This will come just days after MPs vote on the trebling of University tuition fees. Access to higher and further education is already grossly unequal. A report published this weekend by Shadow Education minister David Lammy MP reveals that 21 Oxbridge colleges did not accept a single black student last year. Now the attacks on education could mean that millions of ordinary people are denied the right to higher and further education altogether.

But over the past four weeks tens of thousands of students have walked out, defying sub-zero temperatures and police harassment to fight against fees, cuts and the scrapping of EMA. This is the generation that will not be silenced, kettled or denied the right to education and it has inspired parents, teachers and millions of people facing the Con-Dem axe. Now we need to come together and ask how we can defeat these attacks and win the right to education for all.

For more on the trade union day of action around the country, see

Celebrating the life of Basil Davidson

Celebrating the life of Basil Davidson
27 January 2011

An event commemorating the life of Basil Davidson, long-time member of the IRR and member of Race & Class Editorial Committee.
Thursday 27 January 2011, 6-9pm
Khalili Theatre, Main Building, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG
Speakers include:
Opening remarks by Prof. Stephen Chan, SOAS
Victoria Brittain - co-chair
Richard Gott
António Gumende - High Commissioner Republic of Mozambique
Adotey Bing
Lionel Cliffe
Peter Brayshore
Senait Jones

To RSVP, contact Nick Davidson: Sponsored by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy of the School of Oriental & African Studies, in association with the Institute of Race Relations, Review of African Political Economy and Action for Southern Africa.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Remembering The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Forthcoming event at The Women’s Library

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
Saturday 29 January 2011, 10.30am to 2pm
£10 / £8 concessions

Robert Tressell’s famous novel ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ is one of the classic novels on how capitalism operates in the workplace. The book is still a leading best seller and many politicians, writers and historians have acknowledged the ongoing legacy of this book. The original manuscript of ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ has been in the care of the Trades Union Congress since 1958 and is now held in the TUC Library Collections at London Metropolitan University. A digital copy can be seen on the TUC History online website here .

Join this special event that marks the centenary of the death of Tressell [Robert Noonan], and celebrates this famous work with speakers Professor Karen Hunt, Keele University; Marion Walls, co-editor of ‘Revisiting Robert Tressell’s Mugsborough’; Dave Harker, author of ‘Tressell: The Real Story of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’, Andrew Lynch, producer of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists play in 2008, and a Trade Union speaker discussing the significant role this novel has played. There will also be a special screening following the event of ‘Give us this day’.

This event is being held at:
The Women’s Library, Old Castle Street, London E1 7NT

To book: contact
or phone 020 7320 2222
For further details go to
For press / listings images contact:

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Next LSHG seminar

Monday 13th December
Jessica Fenn, 'The abolition of the dock labour scheme in London 1989: Industrial relations theory and practice'

LSHG seminars at 5.30pm, the Pollard Room, Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, London. All welcome.

Also - reminder for people to support the Peoples History Museum campaign

Black and Asian Britain seminars

Black and Asian Britain seminars

Organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, in conjunction with the Black & Asian Studies Association
Senate House, University of London, Russell Square, London WC1
6 to 7.30 pm, room G34, except for March 29 – room G37
Everyone is welcome. You do not have to pre-book/register. (Contact:

Final seminar for 2010
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Jan Marsh (National Portrait Gallery), Black kings and horsemen in European art 1400-1700 : how can we find out more about them?

Seminars January – June 2011

Tuesday, 18 January - Hakim Adi, The West African Students Union - A Photographic History

Tuesday, 15 February Leslie James, 'Playing the Russian Game': British government attempts to suppress George Padmore's criticism of colonialism, 1945-1949

Tuesday, 29 March Donald Hinds, Slavery, should there be an apology and reparation? Who should make it and who should say 'Thank you. It was long overdue! Now I am truly free?’

Tuesday, 19 April Brian Joyce, Black People in a Kentish Conurbation: The Medway Towns Before 1914

Tuesday, 17 May Christian Høgsbjerg, Mariner, Renegade and Castaway: Chris Braithwaite, the Colonial Seamen's Association and class struggle Pan-Africanism in late Imperial Britain

Tuesday, 14 June Onyeka (no title yet – will be on some aspect of the life of Africans in Tudor Britain)

Day X for Workers

From the Education Activist Network:
“Day X for workers”

The NUS president Aaron Porter has apologised for “dithering” and now gives full support to the occupations. Unison, one of the country’s largest unions with members across the education sector, has issued a statement supporting the student protests, as have many leading members of the National Union of Teachers. Delegates at the special HE conference of the UCU voted for a national demonstration on the day when Parliament votes on tuition fees.

The national student coordination meeting this Sunday, with over 150 delegates representing most of the occupations, voted to back this call and issued a statement calling for “parents, workers and trade unionists to do everything in their power to join our resistance on the day of the vote in parliament, up to and including walking out to join our demonstration.”

Next, this Sunday, occupations in many cities will be hosting “General Assemblies” of resistance to bring school students, parents, workers, trade unionists and campaigners together and coordinate future plans. Parliament will vote on tuition fees some time before breaking up for Christmas, and this kind of united organisation will be essential in defeating their proposals. Our contribution to this will be a teach-in in Central London, close to several occupied universities.

Teach-in: Education for the People, Not the Market

Sunday 5th December, 12noon-4pm, King’s College London

Speakers include journalists George Monbiot and Laurie Penny, King’s College lecturer Stathis Kouvelakis and veteran of the 1968 student movement John Rose.

CFP: Local Communisms conference

'Local Communisms, 1917-89
University of Glamorgan (South Wales, UK). Friday 1 and Saturday 2 July 2011

The study of communist parties globally has, perhaps inevitably, always involved finding a balance between overarching relationships with Moscow and the specific influences of a diversity of local environments in which the individual parties functioned. While recognising the importance of the former, this conference aims to address the extent to which national and sub-nation political, social and cultural traditions and developments, crises and continuities shaped the character of ‘world communism’.