A Radical History of Britain – Scotsman review

Well, I suppose you have to take the bad reviews as well as the good ones. A lukewarm response to my ‘insular’ book over here.

Published in: on June 7, 2009 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I can haz book cover?

A Radical History of Britain

A Radical History of Britain

A Radical History of Britain

has now gone to the publishers. Yippee! It has a new, exciting subtitle,  Visionaries, rebels and revolutionaries: the men and women who fought for our freedoms, and a firm publication date, 4 June 2009.

In other news, over at Me and My Big Mouth, the battle continues between myself and Patrick Dillon, though this round looks more like a dead heat. Scott’s got as far as the revolutionary wars in Ireland and Scotland, so the end result is imminent. Whatever the outcome, history, I think, has been the winner.

Finally, as it’s Halloween, news from CNN that some present-day witches want their sixteenth- and seventeenth-century predecessors to be posthumously pardoned.

Amusingly, someone from the Ministry of Justice has replied to the effect that

“Evidence must prove conclusively that no offense was committed or that the applicant did not commit the offense. It is not enough that the conviction may be unsafe — the applicant must be technically and morally innocent.”

Does the Ministry of Justice believe in the power of maleficient magic? I suppose the recall of Peter ‘Lord Vader’ Mandelson is evidence enough.

A bit of puff – A radical history of Britain

When I started writing this blog, it was mainly to promote and discuss this work in progress. As ever with blogs, I ended up writing about an awful lot more.

Now, having written the last chapter of the draft of the book, it seems a fitting time to give the project a little puff here. The working title is A Golden Thread: A Radical History of Britain from Magna Carta to the Present Day. It already has its own Amazon page which tells you that it will be coming out June 09 (which is right) in paperback (which is wrong, this will be the date of the hardback publication.)

To give you a bit of a taster, here’s the chapter rundown (these are broken up into mini-chapters too, but I can’t be bothered to write all that down here.)

Introduction: ‘King Alfred, Secret Republican’ – I’ll leave you guessing about that.

1. A Talisman of Liberty – everything you ever needed to know about Magna Carta, its history and its role as a symbol of British freedom, important to many subsequent radical movements.

2. When Adam Delved – the emergence of popular rebellion in 13th century, the Peasants’ Revolt, Jack Cade’s Rebellion and the ‘Commotion Time’ of 1549. This chapter looks at the connections between these medieval and early modern rebellions and argues that they deserve to be included in Britain’s ‘radical tradition’.

3.’The poorest he that is in England’-radicalism in the English Revolution, concentrating in particular on the Levellers and the Diggers, this chapter also offers its own radical reinterpretation of that famous clash in the Putney Debates between Ireton and Rainsborowe.

4. ‘The Age of Paine’ – surveys the revival of radical politics in the second half of the eighteenth-century, especially the emergence of Tom Paine, his classic ‘The Rights of Man’ and the turmoil of the 1790s which appeared to bring Britain close to another revolution.

5. ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ -charts the beginnings of 19th century radicalism, recast as a patriotic, constitutional movement, a movement which was brutally crushed at ‘Peterloo’ in 1819. The massacre nonetheless created a powerful memory, repeatedly called upon by subsequent radicals.

6. ‘A Knife and Fork Question’ addresses the Chartists whose politics and style was a clear outgrowth of the ‘mass platform’ developed by Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt.

7. ‘A Bloodless Revolution’ looks at the interconnections between the successful campaign for women’s suffrage and the growth of the Labour party. It demonstrates that the suffrage movement was truly radical not only in terms of its militant methods, but also in terms of its vision of a society transformed by the emancipation of women.

Epilogue ‘After this-what?’ surveys British radicalism after the equalisation of suffrage in 1928. It suggests that the strength of Britain’s constitutional tradition was both a blessing and a curse.

Conclusion ‘A Golden Thread?’