Thursday, 24 November 2011

CFP: Unofficial Histories

Unofficial Histories
Saturday 19th May 2012 at Bishopsgate Institute, London

A free public conference to discuss how society produces, presents, and consumes history beyond official and elite versions of the past.

Call for Papers

The “unofficial histories” conference seeks to bring together those who work in the academic, community and cultural fields to consider the value and purpose of historical engagements and understandings that take place within, on the edges of, or outside “official” sites and channels for the communication of historical ideas. Taking its cue from the assumption that history is, as Raphael Samuel put it, “a social form of knowledge; the work, in any given instance of a thousand different hands”, the conference aims to open up to examination the ways in which historians, curators, writers, journalists, artists, film makers, activists and others, seek to represent the past in the public realm, and in the spheres of popular culture and everyday life.

What kinds of subjects, ideas and themes are presented? What styles and mediums are used to construct history? How is this history produced, transmitted and consumed?

We hope to sharpen the awareness of the different sites and forms of historical production and consider how they impact public perceptions and consciousness of history. We are also concerned to understand the interactions between competing (and corresponding) impulses in the processes of formation: the scholarly and the political; the academic and the everyday; the imperatives of funding, ethics and access.

Finally, we would like to consider whether or not such “unofficial histories” have political effects that might serve democratic and emancipatory goals, and/or can be seen as sources of dissent and resistance against conventional, privileged models of historical knowledge.

Presentations of between 10 and 20 minutes (different approaches to communication are encouraged) are welcomed on any aspect of the above, which may include:

• People’s History and the History of Everyday Life
• Consuming History: History as Commodity
• TV, Radio and Internet
• Literature, Poetry and Folksong
• Museums, Heritage, Archives, and Education
• Feminist and Women’s History
• Historical Re-enactment and Living History
• Memory, Myth and Folklore
• Oral History, Testimony, and Biography
• Local, Regional and Community History
• Family History and Genealogy
• Art, Drama and Theatre
• The Role of the Historian in the Public Sphere

Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words by 31st January 2012 to Fiona Cosson,

For more information and to register for the conference, please see our website at

Sunday, 13 November 2011

LSHG Forthcoming events

London Socialist Historians
Seminar Reminder
Monday 14th November
John Charlton: THE 1815 SEAMAN’S STRIKE ON THE NORTH-EAST COAST OF ENGLAND 5.30pm in the Bloomsbury Room [room 35] South Block Institute of Historical Research Senate House, Malet St WC1

Forthcoming events
Monday 12th December 5.30pm Room G34 South Block Institute of Historical Research
Keith Flett: William Cuffay, Black Chartist and Londoner

Saturday 25th February 2012
Midday Chancellor’s Hall Institute of Historical Research
One day event: A history of riots. Speakers include Neil Davidson on 'From riots in Glasgow & Edinburgh in 1706 to riots in the Global South in 2011'

Marx Memorial Library events

From: Marx Memorial Library
Subject: MML Lectures - Winter Series

Dearest member,
Having finalised the winter series of lectures here at the Library I thought you may be interested to learn of the topics and speakers in the hope that you can make it!

Listed below are the two forthcoming lectures, which have been kindly arranged by David Margolies. Entrance for both is just £2.50 or £1 concessions, and both will begin at 6.30pm on their respective dates.

On the 21st November we will be hosting a lecture by Mike Brown entitled “The effects of the Spanish Civil War on Britain in World War II” – details of which can be found on our Facebook page at

And on the 12th December we will be hosting a lecture by Andy Brockman entitled “Hear voices from a far distance”: The news, Ninos Vascos, and Brigadistas in southeast London – details of which can be found at

We do hope to see you at either or both!
With very best regards,
Jesse Bela Sullivan
Library Administrator
Marx Memorial Library
37a Clerkenwell Green
020 7253 1485

Monday, 7 November 2011

A seminar for David Starkey perhaps?

Institute of Commonwealth Studies, in conjunction with the Black & Asian Studies Association present 'Black and Asian Britain seminars' at Senate House, University of London, Russell Square, London WC1 6 to 7.30 pm,
Everyone is welcome. You do not have to pre-book/register. (Contact:
15 November (STB8, Stewart House Basement) Michael Ohajuru, ‘An Introduction to the Black Presence in Renaissance Europe’ as exemplified by the Black Magus's image found on a 16th Century Rood Screen from Devon. (Now in the Victoria & Albert Museum's Collection (W.54-1928). How did the image reach Devon and what might it have meant at the time?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Stan Newens on Ray Challinor

Ray Challinor 1929-2011 by Stan Newens[edited speech from the June memorial meeting co-organised by the LSHG - see also here and John McIlroy's longer obituaty of Ray online here]
Ray Challinor, whose life we are here to commemorate, was a dedicated socialist, a long serving activist in the Labour movement and a brilliant historian.
Born in Stoke-on-Trent on the 9th July 1929, he was the son of two socialist teachers who were themselves deeply involved in the working class movement in North Staffordshire.
His father, Arthur Bertram Challinor, was the son of a celebrated musician and composer, Frederick Arthur Challinor, [1866-1952], who was of mining stock and left school at 10 years of age to make bricks.
By dint of hardwork, he somehow obtained a Doctorate of Music at Durham University and wrote more than 400 pieces of music, including “The Potters’ Song” for the National Society of Pottery Workers.
Ray’s father was a keen footballer and cricketer, as well as a successful teacher, and chaired Stoke City Labour Party for a period during the interwar years.
Ray’s mother, Leonora Margaretta Gertrude Gibson was the daughter of a Crewe cycle maker, bus entrepreneur and ironmonger, Walter Henry Gibson and his second wife who was of German origin. She became a teacher, a secretary of Longton WEA and a committed socialist of an ILP background who knew Lady Cynthia Mosley, MP for Stoke South [1929-1931]. She always maintained that Lady Cynthia was totally untouched by Sir Oswald Mosley’s Fascist ideas.
Sadly, Ray’s parents separated during his childhood, and Ray moved to Crewe with his mother, while his sister, Joan, stayed with their father. He briefly attended Crewe Grammar School but was then sent as a boarder to the Friends School at Lancaster at 12 years of age.
Deeply influenced by his mother’s ILP convictions, he decided to help Fenner Brockway when he contested the Lancaster By-Election in 1941 for the ILP against the Coalition Government candidate, Fitzroy Maclean (Con). He was permitted to do this by the Friends School Headmaster, although only 12, and long remembered the gibe, said to have been made by Communists, ‘A vote for Brockway is a vote for Hitler’.
In 1945 Ray was one of the youngest delegates at the ILP National Conferenc e and met Dan Smith (later Labour leader on Tyneside), Bill Hunter, Ted Grant and Jimmy Maxton. They and the Marxist historian Frank Ridley clearly influenced Ray’s intellectual development.
He left school without taking Higher School Certificate examinations and became a journalist on the Crewe Guardian.
Faced with conscription for military service at 18 years of age, he went before a tribunal and obtained exemption as a conscientious objector, on condition that he worked in agriculture for two years. He was a singularly unsuccessful agricultural employee, who amongst other things overloaded a boiler, causing it to explode. He was relieved to return to his mother’s home- now at Silverdale, Newcastle-under-Lyme, upon completion of his service, and returned to his job as a journalist at the Crewe Guardian.
By now he had become a Trotskyist who rejected the idea that the Soviet Union was socialist and he joined the Revolutionary Communist Party shortly before it dissolved in 1948.
He subsequently became active in Crewe Labour Party and then Newcastle-under-Lyne Labour Party where he got to know the Labour MP Stephen Swingler very well. He was, however, thinking deeply about politics and in June 1948 wrote an article arguing that Russia was not a degenerate workers’ state , as Trotskyists argued, but was state capitalist [“Left” June 1948].
Tony Cliff (Ygael Gluckstein) produced his RCP internal bulletin “The Nature of Stalinist Russia” in June 1948 also arguing,at much greater length, that Russia was state capitalist. Understandbly, then, Ray became a founder member of the group formed by Tony Cliff in 1950 which launched “The Socialist Review” and eventually evolved into the Socialist Workers Party.
In 1952, Ray obtained a place at the University of North Staffs at Keele to take a degree but he remained active in Newcastle-under-Lyme CLP and also became active in the University Socialist Society, where he clashed with fellow student, John Golding, later the right-wing Labour MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme.
It was at this stage that I first met Ray,initially at a Socialist Review meeting at Holloway Head Birmingham and later, when I began work as a miner in the North Staffs coalfield, as an opponent of the Korean War.
As a member of the Labour Party, I transferred my membership to Stoke and formed a Labour League of Youth branch in Stoke Central CLP,of which Ray became a member. It was here that he met his future wife, Mabel Brough.
For the following 4 years, Ray and I were active in the Labour Party all over the West Midlands. We also travelled through the Midlands and the north on my motorcycle to promote sales of Socialist Review, of which Ray became the editor. We gave NCLC lectures for the West Midlands organiser Alex Murie, and organised meetings like one for Joseph Murumbi Secretary of the Kenya African Union, in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Ray stood for election as a Council candidate I 1954 and 1958 and was subsequently selected as the prospective Labour Parliamentary candidate for Nantwich, although he gave this position up before the 1964 General Election. This was after I returned to live in the south east.
After completing his degree course, Ray taught at North Staffs schools at one time with Jack Braddock, brother-in-law of Bessie Braddock MP, who was much more left wing than his sister-in-law. Later, however, he obtained a post at Wigan Mining and Technical College and moved with his wife, Mabel, to Hindley.
Throughout the 1950s, Ray either edited the Socialist Review or produced articles for it, but in the later 1950s, Ray, Bernard Dix, Wilf Albrighton and I became critics of Tony Cliff’s hard-line Bolshevism and were denounced as revisionists. Bernard and Wilf left the group first; I left in 1959 but Ray remained a member until 1973, I believe. He subsequently rejoined and only finally cut his ties in 1983, although he continued to defend the SWP when I criticised its policies long after this.
In Wigan, Ray became a well known figure on the left, which regularly congregated at the “Dove and Partridge” public house and he was regarded by Alan Fitch, the Labour MP, as an objectionable dissident. He supported CND, backed a strike at Courtaulds and was very active in support of the left in the Labour and Trade Union movement.
In Wigan, in 1965, Ray discovered, in the Library, a collection of the manuscript records of the Miners Association,which existed in the 1840s and had barely been consulted thereafter. In co-operation with Brian Ripley, he produced his first book, “The Miners Association: A Trade Union in the Age of the Chartists” (1968). He also wrote a pamphlet for the Communist History Society, “Alexander MacDonald”. In 1972, he published “The Lancashire and Cheshire Miners” and he wrote as a thesis for his PhD “Trade Unionism in the Coal Industry till 1910”.
These were brilliant original works, based on painstaking research which put the miners’ leader Alexander MacDonald and his close associates in a new light as compromisers rather than the heroic figures they were cast as elsewhere. Ray published a biography of the man he saw as the truly principled fighter for the miners:- “A Radical Lawyer in Victorian England: WP Roberts”.
Before this was published, Ray moved to Whitley Bay to take a post at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic- later a University- where he eventually became the principal lecturer in history.
In addition to teaching and inspiring many of his students, Ray continued to write and produced “The Origins of British Bolshevism” (1977), “John S Clarke: Parliamentarian, Poet and Lion Tamer” (1977), and “The Struggle for Hearts and Minds: Essays on the Second World War” (1995). He also turned out numerous articles published in a range of different journals.
Ray joined the Society for the Study of Labour History in 1964 and was a keen participant in its activities. He served as President of the Society 1974-77 and thereafter as a Vice-President. When he moved to Whitley Bay, he also joined the North East Society for the Study of Labour History and became one of its key activists.
With Archie Potts, Labour Party activist and the biographer of Konni Zilliacus MP, he and Mabel launched Bewick Books which published a number of political, historical and cultural volumes on the north east.
Throughout his adult life Ray accumulated a magnificent library of socialist books, rare socialist journals and many literary gems. For example he possessed a run of the Johnson-Forrest publications produced by CLR James under the pseudonym “Johnson “ with Raya Dunayevskaya as “Forrest”. He also possessed many American works and other literary volumes.
He visited America to meet American socialists and thinkers. He kept up a correspondence with or invited socialists and others to stay with him. Harry McShane, Anne Swingler, Brian Manning, Edward Thompson were typical of his friends.
Although he left the Labour Party in disgust and fell out of the International Socialists-later the SWP-,he remained politically active. When Eddie Milne, Labour MP for Blyth, was deselected for making accusations of corruption in the Labour Party, Ray worked to help him retain his seat in 1974, though Eddie later lost it.
When a former boxer, Liddle Towers died in police custody in 1976, Ray campaigned locally to demand an investigation.
He remained active in CND. He continued to write letters and articles on contemporary as well as historical events. His voice was raised on many issues and only ill health in his final years ultimately silenced him.
In all his activities, Ray received devoted support from his wife Mabel, who attended to his every need. Both Ray and Mabel were deeply attached to their son, Russell, their daughter-in-law Rebecca and granddaughter, Claire. My family accompanied me on visits to see him over many years he was one of my very closest friends for 59 years.
In later life we were not in close political agreement. He retained what he regarded as his revolutionary politics while I retained my Labour Party membership and commitment to what he regarded as reformism.
He consistently mocked my abstemious attitude to alcohol and what he saw as a puritanical cast of mind. I was, he told me, the most conservative socialist he had ever known!
But in spite of this we were both committed to a socialist transformation of society and this cemented our friendship.
Ray lived a life dominated by continuing intellectual endeavours unceasing commitment to the cause of human emancipation, loyalty to his family and his friends and dedication to the aim of active progress towards the goal of international socialism. He led a positive and worthwhile life, which, through his writings and his example, will continue to enlighten and encourage others to strive for the ends which were central to his whole being.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Next LSHG seminar - John Charlton on the 1815 Seamen's Strike

Monday 14th November
5.30pm in the Bloomsbury Room [room 35] South Block Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St WC1
Entry is free, without ticket

On the subject of seamen's strikes, see this call for papers for a conference on The Many-Headed Hydra: 10 years on.

Kanaval: A People's History of Haiti

You are warmly invited to the following seminar on Weds 9 November hosted by the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies:
Kanaval: A People’s History of Haiti
Leah Gordon, film-maker and photographer
Date: 9th November 2011
Time: 5pm
Venue: Room 103, Senate House, first floor, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU

Abstract: For the last 15 years Leah Gordon has been documenting a carnival in Jacmel, Southern Haiti using photography and the collection of oral histories. This work has recently been published in the book Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti (Soul Jazz Publishing, 2010). Each year, Jacmel holds pre-Lenten Mardi Gras festivities. Troupes of performers act out mythological and political tales in a whorish theatre of the absurd that courses the streets, rarely shackled by traditional parade. Whatever the Carnival lacks in glitz and spectacle, it makes up for in home-grown surrealism and poetic metaphor. The characters and costume partially betray their roots in medieval European carnival, but the Jacmellien masquerades are also a fusion of clandestine Vodou, ancestral memory, political satire and personal revelation. The lives of the indigenous Taino Indians, the slaves’ revolt and more recently state corruption are all played out using drama and costume on Jacmel’s streets. This is people taking history into their own hands and moulding it into whatever they decide. So within this Historical retelling we find mask after mask, but rather than concealing, they are revealing, story after story, through disguise, gesture and roadside pantomime. A selection from over 150 photographs will play on a loop whilst Leah discusses the importance of documenting the carnival, the role of folk history in Haiti and the many different mediums used by Haitian people to retell history, the implicit complexities of the visual representation of Haiti (in terms of two centuries of post-revolution Western demonisation), the on-going struggle between spectacle and narrative in a photographic project, the role of oral histories in restoring narrative to the visual and the link between the technical process, analogue photography and historic narrative. Leah will finish by reading one or two of the oral histories.

Biography: Leah Gordon is from the UK and has worked as a photographer, film-maker and curator. She visited Haiti for the first time in 1991, and has continued to have a relationship with the country to this day. As a reportage photographer Gordon covered the coup in the early nineties and then began to make work inspired more by the culture and religion than the politics. In 2006 she commissioned the Grand Rue Sculptors from Haiti to make 'Freedom Sculpture', a permanent exhibit for the International Museum of Slavery in Liverpool. In 2008 she completed a film about the artists called Atis-Rezistans: the Sculptors of Grand Rue. Continuing her relationship with the Grand Rue artists, Gordon organized and co-curated the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince in December 2009. She has recently been involved in a range of projects as film-maker and photographer including a film documenting the colonial legacy and the museum in Maputo and a meditation on the Slave Trade and the River Thames; her photography book Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti was published in June 2010. Gordon is currently on the curatorial teams for the first Haitian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), 'In Extremis' at the Fowler Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles (2012) and co-curator, with Alex Farquharson of an exhibition based on the Haitian Revolution at the Nottingham Contemporary (2012). Leah Gordon is represented by Riflemaker Gallery and is film tutor on the BA in Digital, Film and Screen Arts at University of the Creative Arts, Farnham.

György Lukács Library project: assistance sought

György Lukács was a fundamental figure in the development of twentieth- century Marxist philosophy, theory of culture, and literary criticism. His works have inspired radical Marxist thinkers from Ernst Bloch and Walter Benjamin to Agnes Heller and Fredric Jameson. Moreover, his critical and historical writings on the literary realism played a crucial role in European literary politics from the 1930s to the 1960s. He was already a key figure in Central European and German cultural life prior to his turn to Marxism in 1919, a leader in the 1919 Hungarian Commune, a communist organizer, cultural politician, ideologist, and scholar of renown. Subject to a persecutory "Lukács debate" during the Stalinist dictatorship in Hungary in the early 1950s, he participated in the 1956 uprising and, following his arrest and eventual return from Romania, was restricted in Hungary for the remaining decade of his life to conducting his scholarship with a limited circle of students and collaborators, despite his continuing international influence and prestige. Throughout his extraordinary six decades of intellectual, political, and cultural life, Lukács wrote constantly, both in German and Hungarian, in forms ranging from reviews, lectures, and polemics to major essays to full-scale studies, including his monumental late aesthetics and ontology. Although some of Lukács's major works--such as History and Class Consciousness and Theory of the Novel--have been long translated and widely read, other of the major works have never seen translation into English. This is true of a large number of major essays in German as well, and of the Hungarian essays, few have even appeared in German, much less English. There are well over 10,000 pages of Lukács's work that have never appeared in English translation; the already- translated portion is thus only a fraction, which represents at best a partial view of his thought and life work. Lukács's constant correspondence, speaking, and writing as he moved between Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, and Moscow over the course of his adventurous life also means that a substantial amount of his work was disseminated in difficult-to-find periodicals, pamphlets, or books. Nor are even existing English translations easy to access. Many of the earlier translations of Lukács into English from the 1940s to the 1970s remain out of print or mostly out of reach in limited distribution journals.

A project is underway to collect and bring out in English a large amount of previously untranslated writing by Lukács, a "Lukács library," in the Historical Materialism book series at Brill Publishers. The first volume, The Culture of People's Democracy: Hungarian Essays on Literature, Art, and Democratic Transition will appear in 2012, and the translation of the first volume of The Particularity of the Aesthetic has been initiated. Although we are exploring grant and other funding, we presently have no financial backing.

Therefore we are seeking two kinds of assistance:
• Suggestions about how we might obtain funds for the project : Are there cultural institutions, university translation offices, government funded academic research programs or philanphropic institutions which we could tap into, either on our own as project editors or through your assistance and collaboration in the project?
• We would also like to solicit qualified translators who are prepared to donate their efforts to the project. The translations will be from German (the majority), Hungarian (a sizeable minority), and Russian (a limited number) into English. The contribution of translations of individual, shorter works as well as longer texts would be appreciated. All translators will be acknowledged for their contributions.We would particularly like to hear from individual translators or a small group of collaborators who would commit to realizing one of the project volumes of the Lukács Library.

I will be serving as series editor and in many case also editing the individual volumes, providing historical and critical introductions, annotations, and other apparatus. However, if anyone would like to participate in an editorial or co-editorial role as well, I am open to discussing the possibility of editorial collaboration on particular volumes. We are interested in getting several volumes into print at the earliest date possible, to help gain institutional support for the project and to make an impact on current discussions with an influx of previously unavailable Lukács writings. If you are interested in assisting with this project, please get in touch with me. In solidarity,Tyrus
P.S.: If you are attending the Historical Materialism conference in London, following the "For Lukács" session at 12-13:45 on Sunday, November 13, 2011, please join me for lunch afterwards to discuss collaborations and translations for the Lukács Library.
Tyrus Miller
Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate StudiesUniversity of California at Santa Cruz

Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Workers

In the Same Boat?
Shipbuilding and ship repair workers: a global labour history

The project intends to study shipbuilding labour around the world from
World War II until the present from a global history perspective. We
will track the relocation of production and analyse its consequences
to workforces in Europe, North and South America, and in East Asia
from the 1980s onwards.
See also the call for papers.
The project is coordinated by Elise van Nederveen Meerkerken, Marcel
van der Linden, and Raquel Varela.

London Socialist Film Co-op

AT THE RENOIR CINEMA, Brunswick Square, London WC1
Nearest London Tube: Russell Square
Buses: 7, 17, 45, 46, 59, 68, 91, 168, 188

10.30 FOR 11AM SUNDAY 13 NOVEMBER 2011

First UK screening of two documentary films:

DEADLY DUST (TODESSTAUB), Frieder Wagner, Germany 2006, 93 mins
This science-based documentary explores the effects of depleted
uranium ammunition used in Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia, though banned by
the Hague and Geneva Conventions. The surge in post-war birth defects
indicates that an epidemic of reproductive abnormalities is likely to
have been caused by the residue of these munitions.

WITH THE LINCOLN BRIGADE IN SPAIN, Henri Cartier-Bresson/Herbert
Kline, US 1938, 18mins
The internationally acclaimed photographer Cartier-Bresson filmed the
Brigade. Its members were drawn from all walks of life and it is
thought to be the first military unit commanded by a black officer.
The volunteers trained alongside Spanish troops and became know for
their bravery. In 2010 the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive
discovered, restored and re-released this cinema treasure.

DISCUSSION LED BY Rae Street, CND Council member and active in the
International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, John Green, former
documentary filmmaker, and Helen Graham, Professor of Modern European
History at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Radical to Revolutionary Women in the 19th Century

Socialist History Society
Public Meeting
Radical to Revolutionary Women in the 19th Century
Another look at Harriet Law, Annie Besant and Eleanor Marx

7pm, 9th November 2011
Dr Laura Schwartz on Harriet Law
Deborah Lavin on Eleanor Marx
Marie Terrier on Annie Besant
Seminar consists of three short talks presenting new views of the subjects followed by discussion.
Venue: Bishopsgate Institute, Liverpool Street
Entry free; all welcome; retiring collection

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Ralph Miliband and Parliamentary Socialism

Friday 25th November 2011, London School of Economics
This conference marks the 50th anniversary of Ralph Miliband’s Parliamentary Socialism – a critique of the Labour Party that shaped a generation of scholars and activists. The book argues that Labour’s belief in the centrality of parliamentary politics often undermined the very movements that were needed to bring about real change. With protest on the rise, and Labour seeking a new way forward, the conference aims to reassess Miliband’s arguments and their contemporary relevance.

Speakers include Tariq Ali, Robin Blackburn, Hilary Wainwright and Leo Panitch