Thinking Against the Current book promotion@LeftCentral

Thinking Against the Current 

This collection of literary/historical essays, written 1970-2010, covers political subjects as diverse as 17th Century Quaker persecution history, the social impact of Malthus, the self-emancipation of English women, Eleanor Rathbone on the human rights of girls and German women’s resistance to Hitler. The more literary subjects include the social thinking of the English Romantics, Dickens’ Great Expectations, Simone Weil’s great essays attacking militarism and Virginia Woolf’s opposition to the State — as well as contemporary American women poets on the problem of war. But despite all its diversity, this collection has one unifying theme — the necessity for resistance, for ‘thinking against the current’, as Virginia Woolf wrote in ‘Thoughts on Peace in an Air-raid’. The torch of resistance to oppression and militarism is shown to have been continuously handed on through the generations from the seventeenth century to our own day by men and women who had the courage, at whatever personal cost, to ‘fight with the mind’. This book of passionate, lively essays is not merely a treasure trove for biographical researchers; it is also strengthening medicine, introducing us to unfamiliar forebears who can help us in our current struggle for a better world. As Simone Weil said: “We can find something better than ourselves in the past”.

Sussex Academic Press (UK) – published September   2013

Author: Sybil Oldfield

We are delighted to announce that Lincoln Green will be reviewing this text at the Central.

Madrid’s Forgotten Avante-Garde book promotion@LeftCentral

Madrid’s Forgotten Avante-Garde 

Madrid’s Forgotten Avante-Garde explores the role played by artists and intellectuals who constructed and disseminated various competing images of national identity which polarised Spanish society prior to the Civil War. The convergence of modern and essentialist discourses and practices, especially in literature and poetry, in what is conventionally called in Spanish letters “The Generation of ’27″, created fissures between competing views of aesthetics and ideology that cut across political affiliation. Silvina Schammah exposes the paradoxes facing Madrid’s cultural vanguards, as they were torn by their ambition for universality, cosmopolitanism and transcendence on the one hand and by the centripetal forces of nationalistic ideologies on the other. Taking upon themselves roles to become the disseminators and populisers of radical positions and world-views first elaborated and conducted by the young urban intelligentsia, their proposed aim of incorporating diverse identities embedded in different cultural constructions and discourse was to have very real and tragic consequences as political and intellectual lines polarised in the years prior to the Spanish Civil War.

Sussex Academic Press (UK) - December   2013 Author: Silvina Schammah Gesser

We are pleased to announce that this book will be reviewed for LeftCentral by Dr Alan Sennett

Lost World of Rhodes book promotion@LeftCentral

Lost World of Rhodes  

Four peoples, each with its own culture, language and faith, shared a small Mediterranean town and experienced, each in its own way, the upheavals of war, modernity, emigration and occupation. With the German takeover in 1943, the Holocaust in 1944 and the beginning of Greek rule in 1947, this multiethnic world perished forever. At the centre of this book stands the Sephardi community — Spanish-speaking Jews who arrived in Rhodes sometime after the Spanish expulsion edict of 1492 and who remained the largest single group within the old city walls until Italy adopted German racial legislation in 1938. When sultan Abdulhamit II ascended to the Ottoman throne in 1876, the Jews of Rhodes were among his most loyal and traditional, not to say hidebound, subjects. But within the course of a few decades, this bastion of piety and rabbinical tradition was thoroughly transformed by French rationalism, Italian secularism and the pressures of economic globalisation. Many unlikely characters come alive in this spirited account of the vibrant and irretrievably lost world of Rhodes: The French monks who impart universal values to provincial Turks, Greeks and Jews; the Rhodian schoolboy lost in a Congolese jungle; the Italian general who brings sanitation to the medieval town; the Greek shepherd who knows the history of Rhodes better than any scholar; the Turkish diplomat whose wife was murdered by the Nazis and then risked his life to save Jews from the SS. These are just some of the stories related directly to the author, who combines journalism with scholarship in the recreation of a unique cultural microcosm.

Sussex Academic Press (UK) - April   2013  Author: Nathan Shachar

We are delighted to announce that Mike Guilfoyle will be reviewing this text at the Central.

Reconstructing Spain book promotion@LeftCentral

Reconstructing Spain 

This book explores the role of cultural heritage in post-conflict reconstruction, whether as a motor for the prolongation of violence or as a resource for building reconciliation. The research was driven by two main goals: first, to understand the post-conflict reconstruction process in terms of cultural heritage, and second, to identify how this process evolves in the medium term and the impact it has on society. The Spanish Civil War (1936–39) and its subsequent phases of reconstruction provides the primary material for this exploration. In pursuit of the first goal, the book centres on the material practices and rhetorical strategies developed around cultural heritage in post-civil war Spain and the victorious Franco regime’s reconstruction. The analysis seeks to capture a discursively complex set of practices that made up the reconstruction and in which a variety of Spanish heritage sites were claimed, rebuilt or restored and represented in various ways as signs of historical narratives, political legitimacy and group identity. The reconstruction of the town of Gernika is a particularly emblematic instance of destruction and a significant symbol within the Basque regions of Spain as well as internationally. By examining Gernika it is possible to identify some of the trends common to the reconstruction as a whole along with those aspects that pertain to its singular symbolic resonance. In order to achieve the second goal, the processes of selection, value change and exclusionary dynamics of reconstruction and the responses it elicits are examined. Exploring the possible impact of post-civil war reconstruction in the medium term is conducted in two time frames: the period of political transition that followed General Franco’s death in 1975; and the period 2004–2008, when Rodríguez Zapatero’s government undertook initiatives to ‘recover the historic memory’ of the war and dictatorship. Finally, the observations made of the Spanish reconstruction are analysed in terms of how they might reveal general trends in post-conflict reconstruction processes in relation to cultural heritage. These insights are pertinent to the situations in Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Published: Sussex Academic Press (UK) - March   2014 – Author: Dacia Viejo-Rose

We are delighted to announce that Dr Alan Sennett will review this book at the Central, his own text Revolutionary Marxism in Spain 1930-1937 is out in June.

Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances book promotion@LeftCentral

Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances 

When a military coup provoked civil war in Spain in July 1936, many thousands of people around the world rallied to provide humanitarian aid. Britons were no exception. Collective efforts in Britain to provide aid for the Spanish Republic were vast in both scope and effect. Whilst such enterprise has formed the focus of a few previous studies, some of the most dramatic stories of the Spanish war have yet to be uncovered. This book seeks to shed light on the activities of two separate ventures that played important roles in British medical and humanitarian aid to Spain — the Scottish Ambulance Unit and Sir George Young’s Ambulance Unit. The volunteer members of these teams (those who went out to Spain and those who supported them in Britain) earned the unstinting praise of the Spanish government for their selfless commitment to the cause, as well as winning the respect and gratitude of the citizens whose welfare they strove so selflessly to protect. Recently discovered documentation reveals previously undisclosed details of these remarkably altruistic and, indeed, heroic enterprises, clarifying the reasoning behind their creation and documenting their endeavours in Spain — endeavours of key relevance to the wider history of the conflict. In Spain, the volunteers of the Scottish Ambulance Unit and the George Young Ambulance Unit offered a heartening and inspiring antithesis to the suffering they sought to relieve. They deserve to be remembered for what they embodied during those days of untold cruelty and destruction — outstanding examples of man’s humanity to man.

Sussex Academic Press (UK) - December   2013 author: Linda Palfreeman

We are delighted to announce that Dr Alan Sennett will review this book at the Central, his own text Revolutionary Marxism in Spain, 1930-1937`is due out in June.

The Muslim Struggle For Civil Rights in Spain book promotion@LeftCentral

The Muslim Struggle for Civil Rights in Spain

This book argues that secular and devout Muslims have fortified rather than compromised, as popular sentiment would have it, Spain’s fragile democracy since the end of dictatorship in 1975. Despite a broad diversity and often conflicting agendas, Spain’s Muslims have mobilised as an effective force and thrust themselves into the public arena. In demanding civil rights as immigrants and citizens on par with native-born Spaniards, they have struggled to fill gaps in immigration policy and legislation on religious pluralism, have called into question prevailing Christian interpretations of Spanish history, and have employed such concepts as convivencia (peaceful coexistence) and arraigo (rootedness) to argue their case, forcing Spanish society to open up a space for them and the government to expand legal protections to the levels of other developed nations. The struggle began in the city of Melilla, North Africa, in 1985 when the enclave’s Muslim residents demanded access to Spanish citizenship and challenged what they perceived to be a privileging of Christian Spaniards. In 1989, the movement spread to mainland Spain, where Muslims formed independent organisations, proposed modification to unfair immigration laws, and pushed for the regularisation of undocumented residents. A major focus is how practising Muslims, both migrants and native converts, have worked to institutionalise Islam in Spain, have constructed mosques despite opposition, and have accommodated the state’s secular vision of women’s rights. Another focus examines the ways Muslims have interrogated the iconic image of the Moor in Spanish history and in festivities such as the Festivals of Moors and Christians, and how this has aroused tensions in areas with strong regional nationalist traditions, especially Catalonia. The study concludes with a survey of writings, in Spanish and Catalan, by Muslim immigrants, and how these works have helped to publicise the everyday experience of migration in Spain and to redefine what it means to be Muslim and Spanish. 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.
Read more of this post

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

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