Book Review: Linda Palfreeman, Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances.

Alan Sennett

Image © Bas de Jong

Linda Palfreeman’s new book, Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances. British Medical Units in the Spanish Civil War, makes an important contribution to the historiography of Spain’s bitter civil war. Building upon her earlier ¡Salud! British Volunteers in the Republican Medical Services During the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (2012), the author offers a well-documented account of two hitherto neglected British humanitarian initiatives. While British relief efforts for Republican Spain have been well documented and analysed, there remain notable silences in the historical record. Read more of this post

Sybil Oldfield ‘Thinking Against the Current’: Literature and Political Resistance – Book Review

Lincoln Green

Image © Adam Jones, Ph D

Sybil Oldfield’s collection of twenty one essays is wide-ranging in scope.  She discusses the work and activities of such diverse figures as Thomas Paine, Charles Dickens, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, Simone Weil, Virginia Woolf, Sophie Scholl and Helen Keller.  What ties these figures together is their concern for emancipation – social, economic and political.  In their different ways and times they all acted to liberate human potential from the control of a dominant state or a socially endemic mind-set which inhibited the development of what we might be as people and as a society.  Another theme which runs through these essays is the kindness which her subjects demonstrate to others, to those dispossessed from those conditions which promote well-being.  The word ‘kindness’ has perhaps rather meek and passive associations, but Oldfield’s subjects often worked in terrifying circumstances, facing terror and a horrendous death whilst they sought to apply such gentle concerns to their dealings with fellow human beings.   Read more of this post

The Tories – From Winston Churchill to David Cameron by Timothy Heppell book review

LeftCentral Book Review 

It’s true; progressives should never judge a book by its cover because this is an outstanding in-depth analysis of the Tories by Timothy Heppell. Napoleon said luck was the attribute all Generals should have; a useful trait in politics too.  And for the majority of the time good luck is a strong feature of the post-war Tories. The transformed party took power with a slim majority in 1951; just as a world economic upturn was emerging, which helped reconcile the party in government to the Attlee Consensus.  The 1951 election providing another lucky break for the Tories in a bizarre anomaly, more votes were cast for the defeated Labour Party.  Read more of this post

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

The last ‘respectable’ forms of racism

Kate D’Arcy 

Image © I, mattwj2002

I worry that there’s still no official education policy on race equality, discrimination and exclusion. I am anxious about the children who have intersecting inequalities which the system allows to wreck their educational opportunities. I am troubled that so few people even give such matters thought. Maybe it is because equality policies and procedures are in place that people assume issues of race and racism have been addressed?

It sharpens perception to focus on one community, so here’s information about the educational inequality faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils.
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Pedagogy of Hope, Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire – Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © Slobodan Dimitrov

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope, first published in 1992, was written “in rage and love”, passionate in its denunciation of social wrongs and in its assertion of the power of education to release the truth.  The book works at both inspirational and practical levels, Freire believing that hope must be secured in practice, in action.  In his own life, Freire embodied this integration of love and need for securing social change.  His thinking and commitment to the best in humanity informed his engagement in the world.  Pedagogy of Hope illuminates Freire’s earlier publications including Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) which with sales of over one million copies has had extraordinary impact throughout the world in its analysis of socially and personally transformative education.  Read more of this post

The Men Who Lost America by Andrew O`Shaughnessy:Book Review

LeftCentral Book Reviews

Image © Mr d`Aprix

When it comes to the American War of Independence, the UK and the USA are two nations divided by a common history, although a general consensus has emerged regarding British incompetence.   Professor Andrew O`Shaughnessy has attempted to address this and in doing so has written a beautifully balanced book.  It contains ten biographical subjects, George III, Lord North, Sir William Howe, Admiral Lord Richard Howe, John Burgoyne, Lord George Germain, Sir Henry Clinton, Lord Cornwallis, Admiral George Rodney and John Montague.  There is significant interplay but remarkably no repetition of detail, in a well crafted and riveting book.   Read more of this post

What Price Justice – The demise of Probation?

Mike Guilfoyle 

Image©Mummelgrummel

It was a piquant moment for me, reading that the prominent Human Rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC had been broached to consider instigating legal action.  This in response to the ill-considered and mean spirited move by the ‘ Hard line’ Justice Secretary Chris Grayling MP, prohibiting the sending into prisons of books by families and friends under recently imposed restrictions introduced last November via a Ministry of Justice edict, with the Orwellian prefix PSI 30/2013 (Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme). This policy recalled for me, the redoubtable prison reformer Sir Alexander Paterson, who coined the famous adage `that men (sic) come to prison as a punishment, not for punishment’.  Read more of this post

Book Review: The Russian Revolution by Abraham Ascher

LeftCentral Book Review  

This is short book with a long reach; it begins by outlining developments before October 1917, ending with the demise of the Soviet Union.  There is even a contemporary reference to Vladimir Putin – all achieved in less than 200 pages. Of course what is important is not what is covered but what is discovered by the reader and there is much to learn in this beginners guide.

The Russian revolution of October 1917 took place in a country that had not yet reached the appropriate stage of economic development, necessary for such a Marxist transformation.  This lacuna in economic development, required a Leninist push in a revolutionary direction encapsulated in his promise of Bread, Land and Peace and all power to the Soviets. Russia was an autocracy, with a tiny (though emerging) industrial working class, in a predominately agrarian peasant country.  Read more of this post

A Review: The Culture Show – The Art of Boxing

LeftCentral Review

Image © National Library of Ireland on The Commons

“Where did that thread of steel come from?…it came from the way you learnt to bite down on your gum shield and stick out your weary jab.  In your darkest hour, you will discover that you are better than you ever knew and it would be because you boxed”.  Tony Parsons

An economic downturn unfortunately tends to coincide with an interest in professional boxing.  And in this the era of food banks and retrenchment, the cliché of the `hungry fighter` is a haggard though apt one.  And the distinction between the amateur and the professional code is a crucial one – although this issue was not explored by Tony Parsons in his review of the noble art.  The economic and ideological features of boxing evident when one looks at Cuba, the world`s leading amateur boxing nation and a country where professional boxing is banned.  Read more of this post

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