Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Sociology of Unemployment: A choice between hard labour or destitution?

Tom Boland and Ray Griffin, authors of The sociology of unemployment have a new article in The Irish Examiner this week...Since 2012 social welfare in Ireland has been radically reformed in ways that are not widely known or understood. The Government’s Pathways to Work policy has been consistently linked to the Action Plan for Jobs. Yet, the relationship between welfare and the economy and the consequences of welfare reform for individual lives has been subject to very little scrutiny.

Read the full article.

More about The sociology of unemployment

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Oratory and the Labour Leadership Election

By Andrew S. Crines,
British Politics Lecturer
University of Liverpool

One of the most fundamental necessities of a potential leader is the ability to communicate a political message to as broad an audience as possible. The construction of political discourse is the life-blood of the political process given it enables actors to persuade the electorate to lend them their vote. The ability to orate (deliver) a speech facilities this process, but also the rhetoric (content) of a speech must be appealing to the broader as well as immediate audience. As the speech travels into the broader demos, the orator may expect his/her impact to be felt amongst supporters and non-supporters alike. How these oratorical and rhetorical techniques function are explored in some detail in the edited collection Labour Orators from Bevan to Miliband, recently published by Manchester University Press (along with its sister volume, Conservative Orators from Baldwin to Cameron). See below for a special discount on both these titles.

The current leadership election is, of course, no different. The core strategy of each of the four candidates is to leave a positive impression upon the electorate, which in this case is the Labour membership and associates. The four contenders each have distinctive styles which they have used to try and convince the electorate to nominate them as their first choice. For example Liz Kendall has set out an empirical argument of how she believes Labour needs to change in order to address the concerns of the broader electorate concerning Labour’s electability. It is driven by the pragmatic need to embrace more closely the centrist voter, whilst arguing certain tenets of Labour principle may need to be sacrificed. Andy Burnham, in contrast, presents a more centre-left vision which accepts some changes are needed, however the core thrust of what comprises Labour values are vital in informing the future renewal strategy. This is similar to Yvette Cooper, however her style of delivery has a forceful edge which, potentially, could be problematic should she become leader. Finally Jeremy Corbyn’s rhetorical style aims to place a more fundamental interpretation of Labourism at the heart of Labour’s future, with a staunchly value-driven approach. Of these contenders, both Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn offer a distinctive alternative to the voters. Each have an entirely different vision of Labour, and how it can appeal. Burnham and Cooper each speak to the renewal strategies outlined by Miliband, however their distinctiveness comes in which policies they believe are deserving of the greatest attention.

Ultimately, these Labour orators are each striving to make an impression with asymmetrical results. Kendall’s campaign has not received the support which the Blairites may have been forgiven for anticipating. Similarly, Cooper’s campaign has not gained the momentum which a long-serving Labour cabinet member may have expected. Only Burnham and Corbyn have garnered sufficient prominence within the campaign for them to be in with a realistic chance of securing the top job. However, it must be remembered that second preferences are key in determining the outcome, and so it would be foolhardy to rely upon a single measure for anticipating the outcome. Despite this, Corbyn’s oratory has been most effective because his style inspires his audiences to listen. His is an epideictic style of oratory, with emotive rhetoric. Furthermore, he is supported by figures such as Owen Jones and Tony Mulhearn, which positions his rhetoric within a traditionalist left position. In concert with the £3 supporters, Corbyn’s momentum has developed to such an extent that it challenges the mainstream.

Looking at Labour oratory more broadly, it is unsurprising to find that Corbyn’s rhetoric rests within the Bennite tradition. The Bennite tradition believes in advancing socialist causes through direct action outside of the Parliamentary route. During the Benn period, this was through groups like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy who, following the abolition of the Proscribed List in 1973, were able to mould the CLP’s towards a more radical interpretation of socialism. This is a very different tradition to Labour’s moderate left (such as Aneurin Bevan, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle), who use the institution of Parliament to drive social change and promote a more egalitarian society.

Furthermore, the Corbynite perspective offers a very different interpretation of political power, which sees electoral victory as secondary to ideological cohesion. This conception of power is rooted far more within the demos, which believes the capacity to change society rests within the power of protest. This contrasts with Bevan, Foot, Castle, Burnham, Cooper, and Kendall’s belief that to change the direction of society towards equality necessitates political power expressed through the Parliamentary system.

As a consequence, although Corbyn’s message may be appealing to the current Labour electorate, it is unlikely to resonate with the broader electorate because it doesn’t include them. Corbyn’s conception of power is alien to the centrist voter who infrequently engages within the political process. However, given Burnham, Cooper, and Kendall each embrace ideological and rhetorical perspectives which have more successful traditions within Labour history, they have greater potential in making Labour electable again in 2020 or 2025. That said, whoever emerges as leader will have a very difficult five years ahead if Labour is to begin making its way back to the number of MPs required to secure a majority.

Special two for one offer

Purchase Labour orators from Bevan to Miliband and Conservative orators: From Baldwin to Cameron together, and get one FREE! Simply contact our distributors on +44 (0)1752 202301, or email you order details to, quoting the discount code OTH548, expires 30/09/2015.

Labour orators from Bevan to Miliband
Edited by Andrew S. Crines and Richard Hayton
 978-0-7190-8980-0  £65.00

Conservative orators: From Baldwin to Cameron
Edited by Richard Hayton and Andrew S. Crines
978-0-7190-9724-9  £75.00

Monday, 3 August 2015


By Sarah Glynn, author of Class, ethnicity and religion in the Bengali East End
Almost every day we hear the question asked: why are people turning to ‘Islamic extremism’? But in mainstream discussion, no-one mentions the elephant in the room - or rather no longer in the room. The rise of Islamist politics, both reformist and revolutionary, is a relatively new phenomenon; so what has changed that has allowed this to happen?  My historical and sociological research into immigrant politics, and especially the politics of the Bengalis in London’s East End, leads to an answer that few politicians want to hear. Islamism has been able to attract people looking for an escape from the brutality and banality of capitalism because the socialist alternative that would once have claimed them has been systematically traduced and undermined. The rise of Islamism has been made possible by the decline of socialism – which has been under constant attack from the same powers who publicly bemoan Islamist dominance. (And this is still going on, as the deliberate marginalisation of the secular and leftist Kurdish movement in northern Syria so poignantly demonstrates.) The 2002 article in which I first made these arguments has been
widely quoted, including in a paper commissioned by the UK Government; but my
inconvenient argument is never taken up or even discussed.

 Of course, the process of this political evolution has been complicated; and, as the Bengali case history demonstrates, these realignments are a product of developments in progressive left politics as well as of the apparent triumph of neoliberal capitalism. Comparisons are often made between the Bengali East End and the Jewish East End of an earlier generation. That Jewish East End nurtured a tradition of active secular left politics, including strong support for the Communist Party. The Communist Party was a dominant influence on the political mobilisation of the early Bengali immigrants too, as it was in anti-colonial and post-colonial movements more generally.  But, as in other similar movements, the popular-front politics promoted by the Communist international allowed socialist aims to be postponed into an indefinite future while activists focused on the ‘first stage’ of national liberation. For the people from East Bengal, their struggle for independence from the British Empire, which took place when the immigrant community numbered only one or two hundred, had been riven by religious sectarianism; but the bloody battle for an independent Bangladesh in 1971 was fought in the name of a secular socialist republic. The more radical left put aside their differences with the nationalists in the joint fight for independence, but when that independence was won, the left found themselves side-lined. This was true among the East-End Bengalis too. The left had been so busy campaigning for independence and organising day to day community work that their socialism had been left on the back burner.

These first London Bengali activists had built up a strong practice of grass-roots political organisation, but it was focused on the practical issues that beset a poor immigrant community facing increasingly racist immigration restrictions. It failed to aspire to make more ideological change.

Meanwhile, wider progressive politics was undergoing a cultural turn that downplayed the role of economic forces and class conflict and prioritised the politics of identity. In the East End, Black Radical activists from Race Today were instrumental in establishing the Bengali Housing Action Group that helped solidify campaigning along ethnic lines; and growing racism was countered by Bengali youth groups. These mobilisations achieved real improvements to people’s lives and to Bengali self-confidence, but they could not build bridges between different ethnicities as had been so deliberately achieved by the class-based politics of the 1930s. Nor could they address the fundamental economic inequalities that transcended different ethnic groups.

Black Radicalism opened a Pandora’s Box of separatist organisation, and as this approach became institutionalised into political multiculturalism, these different organisations were encouraged to compete with each other for portions of government funding. Lingering traces of radicalism were tamed and incorporated into the system. Meanwhile, the East End, like other immigrant areas, remained a significantly deprived area, and the Bengalis remained a disproportionately deprived group.

While the turn to religion can be understood as responding to the need for an ideological counter to a system that produced such deprivation, religious identity has also been encouraged by multicultural policies that have increasingly regarded people as members of religious groups and awarded prominent roles to religious organisations and leaders. Some left organisations have also been complicit in this, blurring the line between campaigning against religious discrimination and actively promoting religious groups. The Stop the War Movement and George Galloway’s Respect that emerged out of it allowed the popular front put together to oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq not just to eclipse much of their left ideology but also to strengthen political involvement via Muslim (and Bengali) identity.

The impact of Western foreign policy on Islamist radicalisation has been widely acknowledged, but the growth of British Islamism preceded 9/11. Islamist movements were already well established even before the boosts given by the perceived neglect of the suffering of Bosnian Muslims and the publication of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. For young Bengalis growing up with limited prospects, Islamist idealism and the international brotherhood of the ummah (or Muslim community) can be seen as an inspiring alternative to the pointless selfishness of capitalist materialism – and an escape from the temptations of drugs and gang wars. The mainstream reformist Islamist groups around the East London Mosque have strengthened their position in the wider Bengali community through a well-ordered structure and active participation in grassroots community-work – aping the tactics of communist organisations. More revolutionary groups have been active in colleges and universities.

The inverse relationship between strong left movements and strong political Islam has long been understood by Islamists, just as it has by Marxists. They recognise each other as incompatible ideological systems, and they know that both will compete for supporters from the same disgruntled victims of capitalism. Among immigrants of Muslim background, just as in the countries of the Middle East, the effective counter to Islamic radicalism has been historically demonstrated to be a strong secular socialist movement. Try telling that to David Cameron.

Special 20% discount
To order your copy of Class, ethnicity and religion in the Bengali East End with a special 20% discount, simply contact NBN International on +44 (0)1752 202301, or email, quoting the discount code OTH547. Offer expires 31/12/2015.

Monday, 29 June 2015

BOOK LAUNCH Grown but not made

Congratulations to Edward Juler, who launched his new title Grown but not made last week at The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.

Edward Juler speaking at the event

This title is the first detailed critical history of British Modernist sculpture’s interaction with modern biology. Discussing the significant influence of biologists and scientific philosophers such as D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Julian Huxley, J. S. Haldane and Alfred North Whitehead on interwar Modernist practice, this book provides radical new interpretations of the work of key British Modernist artists and critics, including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Paul Nash and Herbert Read.

Find out more about the book.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Emile and Isaac Pereire

By Helen Davies

Why do the lives and careers of Emile Pereire (180075) and his brother Isaac (18061880) fascinate us? Certainly, their achievements as railway entrepreneurs and bankers were extraordinary, but the answer also lies in the place and the religion in which they were born, the circumstances of their birth, and the dynamic era in which they lived. The French Revolution determined the course of their lives.

The Pereires were Sephardic Jews, among the first generation of Jews emancipated when, in January 1790, they became free and equal citizens of France. Although the Revolution benefited them in many ways, it also helped to bring Bordeaux, the city in which they were born, to its knees. This eighteenth-century
trading power-house lost the Atlantic slave trade on which its vast mercantile success had depended, and it felt very deeply the impact of constant war waged by France’s enemies, especially Britain.

The Bordeaux Sephardic community was, however, close-knit and socially cohesive, providing support for those of its members who became impoverished. The Pereires were beneficiaries of Sephardic welfare throughout their childhood, raised in a single parent, observant, Jewish household by their mother, a devout Sephardic woman.

Moving to Paris in the early 1820s as young adults they were introduced to the economist and political philosopher, Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, the Comte de Saint-Simon, a significant meeting which had an immediate impact on Emile and Isaac. On Saint-Simon’s death they became ardent followers of the movement which took his name, Saint-Simonianism. The Pereires contributed to a system of ideas which focused upon the importance of technology to industry, and which emphasised improvement of the lives of the poorest in society. Individuals would be classed according to their capacities and compensated for their works,
according to the Saint-Simonians. The Pereires could thus be described as “early socialists”.

Saint-Simonianism generated ideas and projects which became very lucrative, and were to put the Pereires among the foremost capitalists in Europe. The sheer scope and spectacular nature of their business enterprises are sufficient to grasp our attention. Following their introduction of the first passenger rail line to France (in 1837) they went on to establish some of the most important railways in Europe, in Italy, Switzerland, Spain and the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as in France. To finance these enterprises they founded the first investment bank of any size in Europe, the Crédit Mobilier, which they replicated in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Rumania, Spain and the Ottoman Empire. Their shipping company, the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, carried the first regular mail and
passenger services between France and North America. They were significant urban developers, their Compagnie Immobilière constructing for the Baron Georges Haussmann, the Prefect of the Seine, huge swathes of Paris’ right bank. The Pereires also operated industrial laundries and companies distributing gas lighting, providing horse-drawn public transport and taxi services.

Their business interests generated enormous wealth and their style of living was
commensurate with others of France’s grande bourgeoisie --- an elaborately decorated mansion on the rue du Faubourg SaintHonoré; a château outside of Paris at Armainvilliers; a seaside resort at Arcachon; extensive collections of paintings and sculpture; extravagant entertainments. Their political association with and support for the Emperor Napoléon III, who had come to power after a coup d’état in 1851, was crucial to their business success, a relationship which had its murkier side. When the Crédit Mobilier failed in 1867, taking with it the savings of many small shareholders, this exacerbated a view popular in some circles that the brothers were corrupt, shady, buccaneers, intent on making themselves wealthy at the expense of poorer people. The truth was much more complex. Nevertheless, endless legal battles embroiled them.

Their personal story, while fascinating in its own right, also shows the dynamic change in the French economy over this period. It highlights the ideas which contributed to its shaping, and the equally radical transformation of French society and politics.

Emile and Isaac Pereire is available to buy now. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

MUP to acquire forward collection from Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Manchester University Press is pleased to announce that it has acquired 58 forward titles from Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Earlier this year, Bloomsbury Academic took the decision to cease commissioning new book projects in the areas of academic Politics, International Relations and Sociology. MUP will engage the former Bloomsbury Senior Commissioning Editor, Caroline Wintersgill, to oversee the smooth transition of forthcoming titles already under contract  through publication under the MUP imprint. This follows a strategic decision by MUP, which has a strong reputation within the Humanities, to increase the size and scope of its Social Science list.

Jonathan Glasspool, Managing Director of Bloomsbury Academic & Professional said, ‘We’re very pleased to have reached an agreement with Manchester University Press. The list will find a good home in MUP, which has a high-quality publishing programme in Politics and other Social Sciences – from monographs and edited collections to textbooks for course use. The decision will help us to invest further in core areas of academic publishing, on the back of our best year ever’.

 Frances Pinter, CEO of Manchester University Press said, ‘MUP  is thrilled to take these projects forward. The synergy of the books with our own publishing programme couldn’t be better. We greatly appreciate the editorial care taken by Bloomsbury in developing these projects and look forward to working with these excellent authors. The press has a commitment to marketing its books aggressively and creatively, and its books are distributed around the world (in the Americas, by Oxford University Press).’

About Manchester University Press:

Founded in 1904, MUP is the third oldest and third largest University Press in England, holding a global reputation as a publisher of international excellence. Focusing on the Humanities and Social Sciences, MUP publishes on average 160 new titles a year,16 journals and an active backlist of over 1,000 titles. With landmark titles such as Beginning Theory and acclaimed series such as the Revels Student Editions, MUP focuses on delivering independent thinking of the highest quality to a global audience, while continually seeking new ways to ensure that our publishing output is distinctive, innovative and responsive. We have actively led on applying new business models that facilitate Open Access for books as well as journals, working with outside partners and funding bodies. MUP has also partnered with the University of Manchester to develop Manchester Open Library (MOL). MUP’s  innovative publishing has been recognised through the winning of many prizes. Our books are available increasingly in a variety of ebook formats and a major backlist digitisation project is underway.

Contact Details: Dr Frances Pinter, 

About Bloomsbury Academic & Professional:

Bloomsbury Academic & Professional division has grown rapidly since its inception in 2008, and specialises in the humanities, social sciences, law and tax. Output of titles and services is over 1,400 per year. The division includes the active imprints of Bloomsbury Academic, Bloomsbury Professional, Methuen Drama, Arden Shakespeare, Hart, Fairchild Books, and the historic imprints of Berg Publishers, Bristol Classical Press, Continuum, and AVA Books. The division was winner of the IPG Independent Publisher of the Year Award and Frankfurt Book Fair Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year in 2013, and won Academic & Professional Publisher of the Year in both 2013 and 2014 at The Bookseller Annual UK Industry awards. Within the division, we publish many world-leading writers including Nobel laureates. A focus for the division is expanding its digital revenues. In addition to several thousand ebooks, we publish a rapidly-increasing range of digital subscription services, including the award-winning Berg Fashion Library, Bloomsbury Professional Tax and Law Online, the Churchill Archive, Drama Online, and Bloomsbury Collections. 

Contact Details: Jonathan Glasspool,;

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

BOOK LAUNCH The BBC’s ‘Irish Troubles’ Television, Conflict and Northern Ireland

    ***Author Professor Robert Savage is available for interviews in advance***

Friday, May 29th, 6pm
Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin

The BBC’s ‘Irish Troubles’ Television, Conflict and Northern Ireland, by Robert Savage, Professor of the Practice of History at Boston College, uses recently released archival material from the BBC and a variety of UK government archives to explore the contentious relationship between broadcasting officials, politicians, the army, police and civil service from the outbreak of violence through to the 1980s.

Professor Savage completed the new publication while a visiting research fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute in Trinity College Dublin. The book will be launched in Trinity Long Room Hub at 6pm on Friday, May 29th, 2015.

Focusing on the incessant wrangling between political elites, civil servants, military officials, broadcasting authorities and journalists about what should and should not be featured on the BBC's regional and national networks, Professor Savage considers how the BBC’s broadcasts complicated the ‘Troubles' by challenging decisions, policies and tactics developed by governments trying to defeat a stubborn insurgency that threatened national security.

In many cases the anxiety and controversy created by these political skirmishes challenged the ability of the medium to accurately inform citizens of important events taking place, thereby undermining the BBC's role as a public service provider, according to Professor Savage.

The book illustrates that as the ‘Troubles’ escalated, the BBC was attacked, threatened and bullied, by a variety of actors but did its best to stand its ground and maintain editorial independence and journalistic credibility.

Key Points:

·         In spite of the infamous broadcasting restrictions put in place in 1988, professional staff remained determined to provide the public with informed news and information about the conflict. Broadcasters resisted government efforts to silence voices that, although controversial, were critical to comprehending and eventually resolving a long and bloody conflict. The broadcasting ban was seen as despotic by many broadcasters who, with the support of senior staff, cleverly worked around it by using sub-titles and then hiring actors to read the words of Sinn Féin politicians. Reporting on ‘the Troubles’ became somewhat surreal as talented actors including Stephen Rea and Ian McElhinney found work dubbing the remarks of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

·         The BBC in Northern Ireland slowly evolved to become more independent and less deferential to the Unionist Government at Stormont. By the late 1960s  its managers and editors understood the need for an independent editorial posture and became more critical of the politics, policies and pronouncements of the Unionist Government.

·         Labour and Conservative Governments alike tried to pressure, censor and bully the BBC both in Belfast and London. These governments were convinced that the BBC coverage of the turmoil in Northern Ireland undermined their efforts to defeat terrorism.  These governments were acutely aware of the power of television to damage the image of the United Kingdom at home and abroad and struggled to succeed in winning the ‘propaganda war’.

·         The national network knew little about the complexities of Northern Ireland until the beginning of the campaign for civil rights began to gain traction in the province. By providing informed, critical coverage of events the BBC helped undermine a regional parliament that had long governed without consensus.

Professor Savage commented: “Throughout the conflict British governments tried to shape the way in which television depicted the struggle against paramilitaries, especially the Provisional IRA. However, its relentless presence undermined government efforts to present a simple picture of the forces of law and order trying to defeat savage terrorists hell-bent on a campaign of murder and mayhem. All those involved in the conflict hoped to produce a narrative for both domestic and international audiences to justify their role in an increasingly bitter and violent struggle.”

“The propaganda war that ensued created much consternation for officials in London, Belfast, and Dublin who understood the conflict presented a real and immediate threat to social order. Rules, regulations and policies that tried to suppress, shape or ‘spin’ coverage of the conflict were intended to marginalise extremists. Governments were acutely aware of the power of television to encourage sympathy or support for the very organisations they sought to destroy.”

Professor Jürgen Barkoff, Director of Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute commented: “The Trinity Long Room Hub is proud to have supported, through its Visiting research Fellows programme, such a groundbreaking book. Professor Savage’s stay at the research institute was an enriching and highly stimulating experience for everyone involved and we are particularly pleased that new collaborations developed out his time with us such as the special edition of the journal Éire/Ireland, co-edited with Professor Christopher Morash from the School of English.”

Media Contact:
Fiona Tyrrell, Press Officer for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Trinity College Dublin | | + 353 1 8964337 and + 353 87 6169056

Jack Dunn, Director, Office of News & Public Affairs, Boston College| | + 1 617 552 3350

About Robert Savage:
Robert Savage is Professor of the Practice of History at Boston College. He completed his latest publication while a Visiting Research Fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub in 2012. Other publications include A Loss of Innocence? Television and Irish Society 1960-1972

(2010), Sean Lemass: a biography (1999 revised and expanded edition 2014), Irish Television: the Political and Social Origins (1996). He is currently co-editing a special edition of the journal Éire/Ireland with Christopher Morash, Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity, and is writing a chapter on film and the broadcast media for the four volume Cambridge History of Ireland edited by Thomas Bartlett.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Making oneself at home: domestic life in the colonies of the British Empire

By Dianne Lawrence

The people over the road are moving out, the whole kit and caboodle: the chairs and beds, the IT paraphernalia, cat-basket, books, tele’ and lawn mower. In the year I’ve lived here I’ve been aware of at least half a dozen such moves. Once an aquarium left and a drum kit moved in, though thankfully that was at the other end of the street. No sooner will this lot of  vans and over-loaded cars drive away than the incomers will show up and carry in a set of belongings that are at one and the same time identical to the outgoings items and yet, utterly different.  The items may be the same, but the assemblage and its meanings will be unique to that household.

I use the word ‘belongings’ in the preceding paragraph because I think that most accurately describes   our relationship with our ‘stuff’. To speak of ‘possessions’ suggests it’s a one way arrangement, and fails to make due allowance for the power we grant to our objects, particularly those in our homes. They are an expression of our subjectivity, but because we set them within a mesh of associated practices they have agency in constructing our identity. They perform a mediating function in the circumstances of our lives, but they’re not impartial in that mediation.

It was an interest in such processes of domesticity that prompted my investigation into the home-making practices of a specific sort of British women living in colonies of the British Empire (Genteel women: empire and domestic material culture, 1840-1910).  The women concerned were members of social elites, who adhered to a set of values, a highly nuanced form of knowledge known as gentility. Such individuals deemed themselves to be in a position of superiority, elevated above those around them, who were, by definition, considered to be ‘vulgar’. Genteel values were expressed through modes of behaviour in conjunction with material means. Put simply – they were accustomed to having access to, and using, a lot of ‘stuff’. Their ‘belongings’ were critical in negotiating the circumstances of their lives. How, I questioned, had such women not merely survived, but actually prospered when faced with the rigours of and, by their terms of reference, material deprivation of colonial life?

I wanted to see how their physical environments impacted on their cultural landscape. I identified genteel women who lived in the temperate zones of Aotearoa/New Zealand, south Australia and southern Africa and in the sub-tropical and tropical regions of northern Australia, India and West Africa. Selecting the geographical and temporal range – c1840-1910 -  permitted inclusion of women living in long-established British communities in India, the expanding and consolidating colonies of southern Australia and New Zealand and in newly emergent settlements of northern Australia and West Africa.

All the women I wrote about had relocated to set up homes in the company of a man to whom they were related by either blood or marriage. Their menfolk were working ‘out in the colonies’ – be it in a military, commercial, administrative or agricultural capacity – and one of the women’s primary functions was to support the men in their endeavours. Certainly his successes or failures would have been hers, but so too her contribution could develop and extend – or, horror of horrors, actually undermine their joint enterprise.

With so much hanging on their domestic management how had these women gone about not just setting up home, but actually making themselves feel at home? Where did they source all that complex material culture they held so dear? I chose to investigate their dress, living rooms, gardens and food management because they were the four areas seen by contemporaries as being the quintessential elements of genteel womanhood.

I started with such questions as: how did they get hold of a new corset, a set of dinner plates, living room curtains or seeds for  the garden, when a thousand miles or more and an ocean away from the retail riches of nineteenth century Britain, and what strategies evolved when one simply could not get hold of such items? The answers proved illuminating and a complex picture emerged, with gentility – both its ideology and expression – proving to have been responsive and adaptable to the many environmental changes it encountered. The women not only brought to bear a whole range of cultural competences acquired in their previous homes, they also developed different forms of genteel behaviours and practices as befitted their new location. Most striking of all, it’s evident that many women didn’t just become competent in the colonial site they developed a ‘sense of self’ in situ and became firmly attached to their new homes.

Perhaps it’s because the Spring sun is shining on my own garden that my thoughts turn to the work I did on the colonial women’s gardening practices. Initially I had my doubts as to whether I would be able to locate sufficient traces of this area of their homes, for by their very nature the gardens are long gone. My anxieties proved groundless, for the women so relished their gardens that they wrote about them constantly, and in great detail, in their letters and journals. Sarah Courage, who lived in New Zealand for 26 years, wrote ‘Whatever the employments of the day, I always contrived to find a little spare time for the flowers’ and Adela Stewart, who had been a complete novice on her arrival in the country subsequently reported ‘At the end of our 4th year I had become an enthusiastic gardener, and so continued, finding far more pleasure in growing flowers, vegetables and trees than in any other occupation.’ In addition to the women’s personal writing I was able to draw on seed and plant catalogues from Britain, Australia and India, gardening manuals from India and South Africa, memoirs from Nigeria and paintings and photographs made in Australia, India and New Zealand. There is ample material to underpin the argument that the spaces and practices of the women’s gardens had agency for the expression of gentility, and were highly significant in furthering these migrants’ attachment and sense of being at home, though far from ‘Home’.

I’ve become aware that the street is quiet once more, so perhaps I’ll leave this employment and ‘contrive a little spare time for my flowers...’

Dianne Lawrence is an Independent Scholar and the current holder of the Meryl Huxtable Bursary, as awarded by the Wallpaper History Society.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Greece vs. the Eurozone

The new Greek government that took office in January 2015 made a commitment during the election campaign that Greece would stay in the Eurozone. At the same time, it also declared that Greece’s relations with its European partners would be put on a new footing. This did not materialize. The Greek government accepted the continuation of the existing agreement with its lenders, the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank. This was the only way of ensuring Greece would not run out of funding.
Throughout the negotiations, the crisis in Greece received intense media attention. Again, the very future of the Eurozone became a subject of much discussion on the international stage. Following days of uncertainty, public opinion in Greece appeared to have endorsed the softening of the government’s position vis-à-vis its lenders. But doubts about the future remain. The most pressing problem to be tackled by the government is covering its funding needs over the next few months. Greece will have to make a tremendous effort to meet the terms of the agreement. Within the Eurozone, there is a growing feeling that Greece is particularly problematic. The perception that the ‘Greek question’ has not yet been settled and that new difficulties will arise in the future still persists.
This most recent phase in the Greek crisis allows us to draw some general conclusions about the future of the Eurozone. The Eurozone is a project that goes well beyond the joint endeavors of its member states to implement a common monetary policy. The Eurozone has evolved into a very close form of cooperation, a joint system of addressing economic problems and building tools for its economic governance. In this context, wider political considerations cannot be disassociated from the economics of running Europe’s single currency. The recently enacted Banking Union is further evidence of the Eurozone’s continually expanding remit. In this new, more intensive form of cooperation, member states have far less room to act independently. Greece’s desire to be a part of the club without fully committing to its rules is increasingly out of touch with reality. All member states that are committed to this joint endeavor cannot neglect their responsibilities or pursue their own ‘independent’ agendas.
Despite its recent reforms and expanded remit, the Eurozone remains an unsatisfactory system of governance. While the Eurozone is now better prepared to deal with future financial crises, its ability to address their deep-rooted causes effectively is still limited. The pace of economic growth in Europe is sluggish, and—despite contrary proclamations—the problem has not yet been dealt with effectively. The initial reaction to the Greek debt crisis in 2010 failed to adequately assess the country’s economic problems, making a bad situation worse. The inability of the Eurozone’s political institutions to articulate a coherent response to the crisis put the spotlight on the European Central Bank (ECB) as a key player in overcoming the deadlock. In January 2015, the ECB launched a massive program of quantitative easing in order to boost economic growth. The ECB, however, is not a democratically accountable institution and its activities are not the subject of parliamentary scrutiny. In this sense, the ECB should not be permitted to assume the duties of a government.

“Exit from the Eurozone, it seems, is not a feasible option.”

During Syriza’s confrontation with the Eurozone, many predicted a ‘Grexit,’ or a Greek withdrawal from the Eurozone. Ultimately, Greece’s lenders did not push for it although there was incomprehension of the Greek stance. Hardliners back in Greece who had previously claimed that the Russians, the Chinese, or even the United States would come to Greece’s rescue also hesitated to press the ‘Grexit’ nuclear button. Exit from the Eurozone, it seems, is not a feasible option. Any country that attempts it will risk financial ruin. For the Eurozone itself, the financial cost of a potential exit may be manageable but the reputational damage to the project is too high to bear.
Despite the widespread belief that the Greek crisis highlighted the need for greater economic and political integration in Europe, recent developments in Athens point to the reverse. The Eurozone’s problems persist not because member states act too fast, but because they procrastinate. These problems will only multiply if each country continues to follow its own fiscal policy or implement Treaty provisions at its own discretion. A fiscal union encompassing a common budget and a common European tax regime, redistributive policies to mediate inequalities in the productive base of different countries, and the pooling of European debt in order to support the development of less successful economies, are both desirable and feasible. They must all be linked to the strengthening of the European Parliament or the creation of a Eurozone Parliament so that the leadership of the Union can be held accountable.

These developments will ensure that no member state—Greece, in particular—will be able to pursue its economic future outside the context of the Eurozone. It is only through cooperation with other member states that a country can improve its negotiating position and change the balance of power within the Eurozone. Greece’s own desire to remain in the ‘core’ of the European Union is inextricably linked to overcoming its own backwardness, pursuit of continuous reform in the public administration so that it is more cost-effective and productive, changes in its economy in order to enhance the productive and technological potential of the country, persistent efforts to defeat clientelistic networks and free-riding attitudes, as well as a new thinking on how to promote social justice and cohesion. Greece must also adopt a European policy that breaks away from its ‘traditional’ attitude of seeking exemptions and defending the self-defeating notion of its own exceptionalism. It is in every country’s interest not to be seen as a perpetual exception—a ‘problem’ that never goes away.

The European debt crisis: The Greek case
978-0-7190-9578-8  £17.99

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

England in 1820

What can we learn from looking at England in 1820? On the one hand, a great deal, but having said that, our understanding of this period has been hobbled by habitual Anglo-centricity. Even broadening out the scope of things and examining all four kingdoms of the United Kingdom does not suffice.

Great Britain and Ireland have to be seen in the context of 1820 being a year of European revolution. In September of that year, a leading London radical wrote that Thomas Paine, who died over a decade earlier, had ‘thought that he lived in the age of revolution…but the present moment better deserves that epithet’.

The revolutionary climate of 1820 was without parallel until 1848 and the actions of the British government, led by a Prime Minister (Lord Liverpool) who had actually witnessed the storming of the Bastille in 1789, must be evaluated in that context.

The heir to the French throne was assassinated and there were revolutions in Spain, Portugal and much of present-day Italy. And if we look to the early months of 1821 as well, there was a further Italian insurgency, insurrections against the Ottomans in Moldavia and Wallachia, and the dramatic development of an independence movement in Greece.

1820 was the most testing year for any nineteenth-century peacetime government. Stringent measures to suppress radical political activity had been introduced by Liverpool’s Ministry in the wake of the Peterloo massacre the previous August. Their effect, however, was mainly to drive protest underground and make it harder to monitor, while simultaneously stimulating the popular press to yet-more innovative forms of expression. Against a widely rumoured background of revolutionary conspiracy, there were popular uprisings in Scotland and northern England. Bitter social conflict in western Ireland, expressed mainly through an elusive protest movement called the Ribbonmen, tied-down whole regiments of the army. Back in London elements within the Brigade of Guards were mutinous. And a conspiracy to assassinate the entire Cabinet was only narrowly averted.

On top of all this George IV forced an embattled and nervous government to secure his divorce from Queen Caroline. Unprecedented popular indignation ensued, much of it from women reflecting a new politics of gender. The Caroline affair also triggered what we would now call a media frenzy: an explosion of satirical cartoons and pamphleteering, often ribald and some of it downright obscene, but all of it pointing to a revolution in popular print and political opinion.

Yet the political and social stability of the United Kingdom was maintained. It’s very interesting to think about not only how government was tested to the limit, but also how the processes and mechanisms through which social and political stability were maintained. A sense of involvement in – and ownership of – government increased among ‘the middling sort’. Ratepayers, who fell below the threshold for parliamentary voting or for service as magistrates, were being given an increasing stake in the government of the communities in which they lived. This process even occasionally included women too.

However, this book suggests that the ‘age of reform’ was a drawing out of processes that had been established earlier. The survival of parliament’s authority in 1820 may have been severely tested but how it survived is enlightening about the social and political stability of the United Kingdom in the longer perspective.

My book, 1820: disorder and stability in the United Kingdom takes this single, fascinating year in the broader context of Europe, revolution, and the periods before and after, to give a far longer perspective on the social and political stability of the United Kingdom.