John Saville: commitment and history

November 22, 2010

David Howell, Dianne Kirby and Kevin Morgan (eds). 2011. John Saville: commitment and history
Themes from the life and work of a socialist historian
(London: Lawrence and Wishart). ISBN 9781907103216. 224 pages (pbk) £14.99.

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. A 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 Chase, Madeleine Davis, Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, David Howell, Dianne Kirby, Colin Leys, Kevin Morgan and John Sakkas.

Lawrence and Wishart, 99a Wallis Road, London email
tel 020 8533 2506 fax 020 8533 7369
Published in association with the Socialist History Society

Kevin Morgan The good old cause
Madeleine Davis The New Reasoner and the Early New Left
Colin Leys ‘Honest socialists’: John Saville and the Socialist Register
John Sakkas The first casualty of a socialist foreign policy? Greece and Britain in the 1940s
Dianne Kirby Islam and the Religious Cold War
Sobhanlal Datta Gupta History re-examined: anti-imperialism, the Communist Party of India and international communism
Tony Adams Port workers and politics: religion, casual labour and voting in English docklands, 1900-1922
Malcolm Chase The Chartist movement and 1848
David Howell The ideology of labourism
John Callaghan The politics of continuity


Hobsbawm History and Politics – Gregory Elliott

November 22, 2010

Gregory Elliott. 2010. Hobsbawm: History and Politics (London: Pluto Press).

Historian Eric Hobsbawm is possibly the foremost chronicler of the modern age. His panoramic studies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, stretching from the French Revolution to the fall of Soviet communism, have informed the historical consciousness of scholars and general readers alike. At the same time, his writings on labour movements and socialist politics have occupied a central place in left-wing debates. Despite this, no extended study of Hobsbawm’s work has yet been attempted Gregory Elliott fills this gap in exemplary fashion.

Elliott analyses both the scholarly record of Hobsbawm and the intellectual and political journey that his life represents. In doing so, he seeks to situate Hobsbawm’s thought within the context of a generalised crisis of confidence on the Left after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Rich in content and written in Elliott’s authoritative and highly readable style, this book is a must for anyone with an interest in Hobsbawm and the crisis of the Left.

About The Author

Gregory Elliott is a Visiting Fellow at Newcastle University. His books include Ends in Sight (Pluto, 2008), Perry Anderson: The Merciless Laboratory of History (1998) and Althusser: The Detour of Theory (2nd edition, 2006).

Working class episode – Wiltshire history day

October 10, 2010

Working-class episodes
Saturday 6 November 2010 – 10.00am-2.30pm
St Margaret’s Hall
Bradford-on Avon BA15 1LH
Admission free

The ‘Trowbridge martyr’: Thomas Helliker and the Wiltshire Outrages of 1802
Prof. Adrian Randall, Birmingham University

Swing Rebellion in Wiltshire
Nigel Costley, Regional Secretary, South West Trades Union Congress

Chartism in rural Wiltshire, 1838-1842
Steve Poole, Principal History Lecturer, University of the West of England

Strikes and Socialism in Swindon in the 1960s and 1970s
Derique Montaut, Labour Party Leader, Swindon Borough Council

Phyllis and Idris Rose: Trowbridge communist councillors
Dave Chapple, CWU and Rosie McGregor, UNISON

Organised by White Horse (Wiltshire) Trades Union Council

For further details contact: Andy Newman 07764 563855

‘Save CLR James Library’ name – online petition

October 10, 2010

An online petition demanding that Hackney Council, London retain the name CLR James Library for the new Dalston Sq Library development has been launched online. The petition declares:

We the undersigned demand that any new library built as part of the new Dalston Square Development as a replacement for the current CLR James Library retains the name CLR James Library. We believe that the current name should stand as a tribute to the great writer and historian, and also as recognition of the literary contribution of Hackney’s African Caribbean community.

Russian State Television and Radio Archives open

October 3, 2010

For the first time in history the Russian State Television and Radio Archives will be made available across the world.

Thanks to a pioneering new deal, for the first time since their original broadcasts the Russian State Television and Radio Archives will be made available across the world. Footage from the first Russian ballets through to visits by international leaders has been documented by the Russian state broadcasters only to be locked in vaults ever since their original broadcast.

But 14 years of perseverance by one Englishman has resulted in a ground-breaking deal allowing the archives to be opened up to international media and other interested organisations across the globe for the very first time. The deal opens up opportunities for investors to take part in the unlocking of history as new partners are sought for this innovative project.

Anthony Gould, a leading Russian consultant, has negotiated directly with successive Russian Governments to ensure this valuable material is able to be shows across the world. The significance of the material is still difficult to comprehend as the gems of the last century have remained inaccessible for nearly a hundred years. As a result of the vast quantity of material available, new investors are being invited to take part in releasing these hidden gems to the rest of the world.

The archive contains over two million items including items from the 1900s showing Emperor Nicolas and his family. In addition, there is radio broadcast material dating back to 1928 and film footage that pre-dates the television era.

Commenting on the release of the archive, Catriona Kelly, Professor of Russian, University of Oxford said;

“The Russian State Television and Radio Archives, dating back to 1928, are an indispensable resource for understanding the history of the country. Now, after years of negotiation by RTR Worldwide, television and radio companies, academic institutions, and organisations will be able to access their unique holdings in the most technically advanced format available. This is a remarkable story.”

Anthony Gould has been working on this project for over 10 years. He says “I’m delighted to finally be able to unlock access to Russia’s amazing TV and film archive, detailing over 2 million pieces of footage. Throughout this ten year project to get us to this stage, I have always found the Russian archives to be something very special. It is an exciting moment for me to be able to share this with millions of people around the world”.

The exact contents are still being clarified as each individual reel is painstakingly restored identified and digitised to ensure the best quality for re-broadcast.

Archive statistics (already identified)

* 130,850 documentaries
* 7,340 musical performances
* 3,875 theatrical films
* 2,500 cartoon programmes
* 1,120 TV plays and radio programmes

Examples of the items in the archive include previous unseen footage by the Western world of footage of the Baikal Amur Highway construction. The documentaries detail the full construction of the BAM Highway between 1975-1985. This highway runs alongside the Trans-Siberian Railway. The documentary shows the secrets of the building of this immense project in the permafrost of the Siberian region as well as the stories of the workers along the line. The total cost of this highway was $14 billion and Western media has never been allowed to report on it and was not invited to the opening. Today the BAM attracts many tourists and western train enthusiasts.

There is also Footage on Emperor Nicolas and the House of the Romanovs in a significant 1992 Programme which includes WW1 Newsreels and the end of the war, footage from the 1900s showing the Emperor and his family playing sports and drill making, There are also newsreels of the Emperor talking to dignitaries at Alexander’s monument, Lenin’s emigration between 1914-1917, Dzerzhinsky in the honour guard at the tomb of Lenin in 1924 and Emperor Nicolas in St Petersburg and the Winter Palace.

New footage recently identified includes:

* film of Rasputin in Cossack outfits
* film of Nicolas, Pictures of Empress Maria Feodorovna and Prince Alexander’s Son
* There is footage of a photo session of the State Duma. There are also lots of pics of Prime Minister Stolypin: he was killed in 1911 (as foretold by Rasputin). In 2008 Stolypin came second in a TV poll of The Greatest Russians of All Time. (Stalin came 3rd)
* Footage of President Kennedy and newsreels showing President Kennedy talking with Nikita Khrushchev.
* Footage on Gorbachev with his family
* Footage of Yeltsin taking office in 1991
* Footage of Stalin from 1911
* WW1 Footage
* A 1987 film chronicling the life and work of the playwright Mikhail Bulgakov* (The White Guard was recently produced at the National Theatre in April 2010) includes WW1 footage and fragments from readings of the original production of The White Guard, Theatrical Novel and Margarita. There is footage of WW1 showing tanks, trenches and horse attacks.

For further information please contact Victoria Barton on 07989690844 or

20 Jahre Deutsche Einheit – 20 Jahre gesamtdeutsche Forschung. Zwei Konferenzen ziehen eine Zwischenbilanz

September 12, 2010

Details of two forthcoming conferences in Germany on different aspects of the GDR:

Am 23. und 24. September lädt das Institut für Zeitgeschichte gemeinsam mit der Bundesstiftung zur Konferenz „DDR-Geschichte in Forschung und Lehre. Bilanz und Perspektiven“ ein, deren Programm Sie hier finden: Sollten Sie an der Tagung ganz oder zeitweilig teilnehmen wollen, melden Sie sich freundlicherweise bis zum 20. September bei Frau Georgi vom IfZ an

»Ostdeutschland und die Politikwissenschaft. Eine Bilanz 20 Jahre nach der (Wieder-)Vereinigung« ist die Konferenz überschrieben, zu der Prof. Dr. Astrid Lorenz, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, die Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences und die Bundesstiftung vom 30.9. bis 2.10. einladen. Das Tagungsprogramm können Sie hier einsehen: Anmeldungen bitte an Besonders möchte ich Sie noch auf zwei öffentliche Veranstaltungen im Rahmen der Konferenz aufmerksam machen:

A minimal English translation:

On 23-24 September, the Institute for Contemporary History co-hosts a the conference “GDR history in research and eduation – balance and perspecives’. The programme for the conference is available here: For more information about particpating in the confernece, please contact Mrs Georgi of the IfZ (

From 30 September to 2 Ocrober, the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences is co-hosting a conference on the theme “East Germany and poltical science: an appraisal, twenty years on”. The conference programme is available here: To register

Oral history interviews with political radicals – British Library

September 12, 2010

Researcher Andrew Whitehead has deposited his colleciton of ‘oral history interviews with political radicals’ with the British Library Sound Archive.

These interviews with British political activists and others were conducted to gather material for BBC radio documentaries, or more often out of personal interest. In all cases, the interviewees knew that their comments were likely to be in the public domain. Only a few of the interviews have been transcribed – and the deposited transcripts are not necessarily checked and verbatim records. The recordings are available for consultation without restriction, and short extracts (up to 200 words) can be published with an appropriate acknowledgement. Any publication of longer extracts, or use of interviews for broadcast or as part of any public performance, requires my prior written permission.

Some of the interviews deposited were conducted by Shen Liknaitzky, and are included in this collection with her specific permission.

The radio programmes included in this archive are the copyright of the BBC.

More details of the collection, including a guide to the interviewees, can be found on Andrew Whitehead’s blog.

Conference: Art Histories, Cultural Studies and the Cold War

September 12, 2010

Art Histories, Cultural Studies and the Cold War
Venue: Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, University of London Friday 24th September 2010

Registration from 9am: Tea, Coffee & Croissant

9.45: Welcome: [Professor David Ayers; Drs Grant Pooke and Ben Thomas]

Propaganda and Photography – Chair: David Ayers
10.00: Irina Bystrova (Moscow): The Americans, Russian and the British in conditions of the Cold War: from the history of mutual perceptions

10.20: Martha and John Langford (Concordia and Victoria): Showing, Without Telling: A Cold War Tourist and His Camera

10.40: Sally Stein (Los Angeles): Photography, Feminism and the Cold War in the USA [title tbc]

11.00: Sarah James (Oxford): “Scratching the History of Men”: Humanism, Photography, Art History, and the Politics of the Subject in a Divided Germany

11.20: Coffee

11.35: Caroline Blinder (Goldsmiths): American Alphabet: On Paul Strand’s Post War Photography

11.55: Jane Powell (Kent): The Changing Iconography of Cold War Posters at the Marx Memorial Library

12.15: Victoria Zhurlvaleva (Moscow): “The Cold War of Images”: the Soviet Union in American Political Cartoons

12.35: Plenary – Discussion

1.00: Lunch

Keynote Address

2.00: Miranda Carter: Anthony Blunt: Art and Intelligence

Strand 1: Cold War Art History and Criticism – Chair: Ben Thomas
2.45: Matthew Potter (Leicester): The Neglected Field of Germanism in British Art History, 1850-1939

3.05: Ben Thomas (Kent): Edgar Wind and the Congress for Cultural Freedom

3.25: Marina Dmitrieva (Leipzig): The Renaissance behind the Iron Curtain

3.45: Tea

4.15: Ljiljana Kolesnik (Zagreb): Social Realism, Modernism and the “Formalist Turn” in Yugoslav Art Criticism of the 1950s

4.35: Monika Rutecka (Kent): Jan Matejko. A symbol of Polish National Identity or a Victim of Political Manipulation?

4.55: Peter McMaster (Kent): Peter Fuller: A Dissident Voice

5.15: Strand 1 – Discussion

Strand 2: The Contested Cultural Sphere – Chair: Grant Pooke
2.45: Joes Segal (Utrecht): Modern Art and Cultural Warfare in East and West

3.05: Christine Bianco (Oxford Brookes): Modern Art and Freedom: Cold War Cultural Politics in American Mass Magazines

3.25: Tiziana Villani (Kent): The “Biennale of Dissent”: A Page from the Italian Cold War

3.45: Tea

4.15: David Ayers (Kent): Hewlett Johnson: Britain’s ‘Red Dean’ and the Cold War

4.35: Verity Clarkson (Brighton): Contested visions of Soviet art in Britain: the Art in Revolution exhibition (1971).

4.55: Lucy Weir (Glasgow):“The Pornography of Pain”: Exploring Imagery of the Cold War in Pina Bausch’s Kontakthof and Nelken

5.15: Strand 2 – Discussion

5.30: Full Plenary – Discussion

6.00: Reception – Wine and Refreshments

Reserve Paper – Grant Pooke (Kent): Francis Klingender: Cold War Reflections and Valedictions c.1948-1955

Twentieth Century Communism – Communism and Political Violence

August 25, 2010

The second issue of Twentieth Century Communism journal, which has as its theme ‘Communism and Political Violence’, has now been published and is available in print and online.

Communist attitudes to violence have varied according to whether a given party was in power or opposition, and on the wider context in which its adherents found themselves. For communists of the Comintern generation, it was forever framed within a Bolshevik-derived paradigm centred on the experience of 1917; for the resistance movements of the second world war it was understood as part of the struggle against fascism; for those battling to liberate themselves from colonialism it was understood as part of the liberation struggle.

Two sample articles from the issue can be read in-full online:

Front cover of Twentieth Century Communism journal issue two

Conference: Art Histories, Cultural Studies and the Cold War

August 23, 2010

24 September 2010
Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies
University of London
United Kingdom

Organized by the department of History & Philosophy of Art at the University of Kent, the conference aims to explore how the Cold War delineated approaches to Art History, Historiography and Cultural Studies and how its conditions and constraints shaped the professional careers and influenced the writings and ideas of scholars and cultural theorists. We welcome a wide range of perspectives that might include, for example, the use of particular methodologies, the choice of specific subjects for analysis that were explicitly politically motivated or contextualised readings of particular art historical monographs or reviews of wider art historical topics, such as ‘the Renaissance’ or ‘the history of Modern Art’, as sites of displaced ideological conflict.

A related study day on Saturday 25 September, organized by the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory (CCM) at the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, will explore Cold War Cities.

Find out more from about the conference.