The Lost World of Rhodes by Nathan Shachar book review

Mike Guilfoyle

Image © Mstyslav Chernov

I was immediately drawn towards Nathan Shachar’s evocative and moving book on the formative historic influences that have he notes contributed so much to the diverse and richly textured socio -cultural inheritance of the Greek Island of Rhodes, the largest of the twelve Dodecanese islands situated near to South-Eastern Turkey (remarkably it only became a part of Greece in 1948!).  An Island that has been so memorably shaped and contoured by the confluence of epochal storied events ably detailed in this deeply humane and insightful narrative.   Read more of this post

In Search of the City on a Hill book promotion@LeftCentral

In Search of the City on a Hill 

In Search of the City on a Hill reconstructs the complete story of ‘the city on a hill’ from its Puritan origins to the present day for the first time. From John Winthrop’s 1630 ‘Model of Christian Charity’ and the history books of the nineteenth century to the metaphor’s sudden prominence in the 1960s and Reagan’s skilful incorporation of it into his rhetoric in the 80s, ‘the city on a hill’ has had a complex history: this history reveals much about received notions of American exceptionalism, America’s identity as a Christian nation, and the impact of America’s civil religion. Through this history, the book challenges the widespread assumption that Americans have always used this potent metaphor to define their national identity. It demonstrates that America’s ‘redeemer myth’ owes more to nineteenth- and twentieth-century reinventions of the Puritans than to the colonists’ own conceptions of divine election. The conclusion considers the current status of ‘the city on a hill’ and summarizes what this story of national myth eclipsing biblical metaphor teaches us about the evolution of America’s identity.

Published by Bloomsbury Academic

Author: Richard M. Gamble

This book will be reviewed at the Central soon.

Wadjda – a Film Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Arria Belli

[The review contains plot details.]

The child’s perspective provides the film director with an opportunity to observe and implicitly comment on a situation with an unencultured and potentially critical eye.  This device has been used in films such as Offside (2006, dir. Jafar Panahi ) where an Iranian girl attempts to watch a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Bahrain, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro) where fantasy plays alongside the horrors of war in 1944 fascist Spain, and numerous others.

In Wadjda (2012) the female writer and director Haifaa Al Mansour employs this technique to comment on cultural norms, particularly those affecting women, in present day Saudi Arabia.  The film is the first official Saudi Arabian submission to the Oscars and the first feature length film made by a Saudi female.  To avoid problems when filming with mixed genders Al Mansour had to direct some outdoor scenes via radio when concealed in the back of a van.   Read more of this post

Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, a Review

Lincoln Green  

Image © Weglinde

Simon Reeve’s series of 4 programmes broadcast on BBC2 attempts to explain why pilgrimages take place, particularly in an age of scientific rationalism and relative medical competence.  The presenter is deeply affected by the physical beauty of the holy sites, the architecture of our great buildings and the hospitality of pilgrims and their supporters.  Nevertheless the programme frequently appears little more than a travelogue broken up with interviews and meetings with kind and courteous eccentrics.  Despite the superficial treatment of its content the programme does however introduce a number of issues and helps the viewer to understand why huge numbers of people of many faiths have felt the need to participate in what could be potentially a very onerous and life-changing journey. Read more of this post

Miliband, the Mail and antisemitism, some points arising

Robin Richardson

Image © CC-BY

Antisemitism, it has often been said, is a light sleeper. Sometimes, though, and in certain places and circumstances, it slumbers for quite a long time, and is not immediately or widely recognisable when it wakes up. For whilst dormant it was taking on new tones and colourings, was acquiring a new repertoire of signals and cues, new nods and winks, it was fashioning new dog whistles. Those who give voice to it when it wakes after a longish sleep may not be consciously aware of what they are doing, or of the effect their words, references and imagery have on others. Read more of this post

Review of Simon Schama – The Story of the Jews Episode 5: Return

LeftCentral Review

This final episode deals with the creation of the state of Israel, it begins on Yom HaShoah. We hear a siren wail; symbolically life comes to a stop, busy traffic, hospitals, colleges all the bustle of daily life grinds to a halt. People desist from chatter, as they are filmed standing in complete silence, attempting to remember an event which as Simon Schama says, is beyond words. He then explains that the state of Israel contains 50% of the world’s Jewish population, six million people, each survivor representing a defeat for the Nazi programme of total extermination. The Holocaust, argues Schama, finally made the moral case for the creation of Israel. Not only because of what the Nazis did but what everyone else failed to do. Read more of this post

Review of Simon Schama – The Story of the Jews 2: Among Believers

Lincoln Green

Image © Michael D Beckwith

Holidaymakers towing caravans towards the Lincolnshire coast via the A46 will notice Lincoln Cathedral at a high point to their right.  The image, in bright sunlight or possibly glowing in the dark, will mean different things to different people.  Simon Schama’s account of the Jews in medieval times under Christian and Islamic rule, first broadcast on BBC Two on 8 Sep 2013, will change perceptions of that building and its art in a manner suggested by Schama’s Landscape and Memory (1995).  In this earlier work he discusses the interrelationships between culture and landscape, how the one informs and is a reinterpretation of the other. The TV programme, which is still available on BBC iPlayer, promotes reinterpretation through Schama’s identification of the less emphasised and indeed misrepresented impact of Jews on life in medieval Lincoln. Read more of this post

The Wind That Shakes The Barley…Directed by Ken Loach.

Image © Terence wiki

Nora Connolly

I first saw this movie in 2006 and recall people leaving the cinema in tears. A powerful film directed by a master of the craft, Ken Loach. The last fifteen minutes deeply moving, as Teddy O’Donovan (Padraic Delaney) fails to persuade his brother and former brother-in-arms Damien (Cillian Murphy) to join the ranks of the pro-Treaty forces and give up his anti-Treaty comrades. Teddy O`Donovan orders Damien`s execution, granting the condemned man time to write a letter to Sinead (Orla Fitzgerald). In the early hours Damien meets his death, Teddy O`Donovan dressed in his Free State uniform, commands the firing squad to kill his brother. A scene of betrayal realistically portrayed. We then see Teddy go to Sinead with the letter; Sinead breaks down (a beautiful performance by Fitzgerald) and orders O`Donovan off her land. Sinead becomes a metaphor for Ireland, the Cathleen ni Houlihan of the film (TWTSTB has more in common with O`Casey than Yeats). It deserved its critical acclaim but as a piece of history it`s flawed. Read more of this post

Dreaming of One Nation – Labour, multiculturalism and race

Image © Alexander Kachkaev

Robin Richardson

Review of The British Dream: successes and failures of post-war immigration by David Goodhart, Atlantic Books 2013, 381 pp, £20

David Goodhart hopes there will be a Labour government, or a Labour-led coalition, from 2015 onwards. He himself belongs, he says, to the ‘political tribe of north London liberals’ and is ‘a journalist of leftish sympathies’. His subject-matter in this book is immigration policy, and the extent to which Britain can be a multicultural One Nation. It is possible to imagine Britain, he mentions, ‘little by little becoming a less civil, ever more unequal and ethnically divided country – as harsh and violent as the United States’. In such a Britain the welfare state will have largely withered away, for white British people will be increasingly unwilling to pay taxes to support people who belong to (one of Goodhart’s favourite (phrases) ‘visible minorities’. He sees his book as a wake-up call to prevent such a dystopia. Read more of this post

EQUALITY AND THE DRAFT HISTORY CURRICULUM

Katherine Edwards 

Image© John Addison, Print, Government Office, East India Co St Helena

At the recent memorial service to mark the twentieth anniversary of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Prime Minister spoke of Stephen’s death as having brought ‘monumental change’ to British society.  Those of us concerned about the implications for equality and multiculturalism in the proposed new history curriculum found the irony of this comment hard to take.

One of the recommendations of the 1999 Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence case was a ‘National Curriculum aimed at valuing cultural diversity and preventing racism, in order better to reflect the needs of a diverse society’. Yet although there are good grounds for thinking that this aim has been taken seriously in the education system up to now, we need to be clear about what a stark reversal the new draft national curriculum for history represents.  If it comes into force, it is very likely to set the recommendations of the Macpherson Report back by at least a generation.  Read more of this post

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