Category Archives: Books

‘Hope In The Dark’ by Rebecca Solnit

“Changing the story isn’t enough in itself, but it has often been foundational to real changes. Making an injury visible and public is usually the first step in remedying it, and political change often follows culture, as what was long tolerated is seen to be intolerable, or what was overlooked becomes obvious. Which means that every conflict is in part a battle over the story we tell, or who tells and who is heard.” Rebecca Solnit

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jul/15/rebecca-solnit-hope-in-the-dark-new-essay-embrace-unknown

I have yet to read this book but have it on authority that it will blow my socks off so I thought I might take the step of telling you all about it asap as my backlog of books is somewhat chronic as of late!

hope in the dark

 

Fred Kitchen – Brother to the Ox

fred kitchen

I was just sent a message telling me to research Fred Kitchen… his wikipedia page is here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Kitchen… Sounds like a super interesting guy.

I have just found out that Little Toller books is republishing his biography ‘Brother to the Ox’ in a few months time, which is great news as copies are going for silly money on the internet at the moment.

Michael Perelman and the Invention Of Capitalism

michaelPerelmanSome interesting brain food here which resonates with much else of what I have read:

“Perelman outlines the many different policies through which peasants were forced off the land—from the enactment of so-called Game Laws that prohibited peasants from hunting, to the destruction of the peasant productivity by fencing the commons into smaller lots—but by far the most interesting parts of the book are where you get to read Adam Smith’s proto-capitalist colleagues complaining and whining about how peasants are too independent and comfortable to be properly exploited, and trying to figure out how to force them to accept a life of wage slavery.”
http://www.filmsforaction.org/news/recovered_economic_history_everyone_but_an_idiot_knows_that_the_lower_classes_must_be_kept_poor_or_they_will_never_be_industrious/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Perelman
https://is.vsfs.cz/el/6410/leto2013/BA_ETD/um/3968033/The_Invention_of_Capitalism.pdf

Bristol Radical History Group pamphlets

brhgI have been really enjoying reading a number of pamphlets which I picked up recently from ‘Bristol Radical History Group‘ who seem to do a lot of great work down in the south west.

This one on Anglo-Saxon Democracy is of particular interest, although there are many others which I will write up at some point soon.

These few paragraphs are good food for thought, the italics in the last paragraph are mine:

———————————-

The Rise of the Church

If the major cause of the retreat of Anglo-Saxon democracy is the increasing use of charters to create bookland beyond the control of the local courts and thus the local community then it also has to be accepted that the use of charters to gain rights and privileges at the expense of the local populace was first introduced by the Roman Catholic church and all of the charters of pre-Conquest England were denrived from the form of the private charter of the later Roman empire.

In the late 7th century, the English church began to centralise and introduce a hierarchy of ecclesiastical authority that matched that of Rome which since the 4th century had created an organisation that had a bureaucracy based on the Roman army.

This was a level of organisation considerably more structured and bureaucratic than the secular English kingdom had managed. The missionaries from continental Europe who converted the English south of the Humber also brought with them their own views about the nature of political authority. Increasingly ideology from the Late Roman Empire and its early medieval successors under the Franks influenced how royal government was practiced in England.

The Anglo-Saxon view of a king as being chosen by the witan and whose most important duty was to maintain the peace and to ensure the security of the people was becoming replaced by the Frankish view of kings being chosen by God to protect the Christian faith and convert the pagan.

Edward Thomas writing about the state of the land and rights of access

southcountryEdward Thomas writing about the state of the land and rights of access taken from ‘The South Country’ (1906).

You can buy a lovely edition of the book from Little Toller here – http://littletoller.co.uk/bookshop/nature-classics/the-south-country/ or see a digital version here – https://archive.org/stream/southcountry00thomuoft/southcountry00thomuoft_djvu.txt

CHAPTER XVI

255-7 THE END OF SUMMER KENT BERKSHIRE — HAMPSHIRE SUSSEX THE FAIR

The road mounts the low Downs again. The bound-less stubble is streaked by long bands of purple-brown, the work of seven ploughs to which the teams and their carters, riding or walking, are now slowly descending by different ways over the slopes and jingling in the rain. Above is a Druid moor bounded by beech-clumps, and crossed by old sunken ways and broad grassy tracks. It is a land of moles and sheep.

At the end of a shattered line of firs a shepherd leans, bunched under his cape of sacking, to watch his black- faced flock dull-tinkling in the short furze and among the tumuli under the constant white rain. Those old roads, being over hilly and open land, are as they were before the making of modern roads, and little changed from what they were before the Roman. But it is a pity to see some of the old roads that have been left to the sole protection of the little gods.

One man is stronger than they, as may be known by any one who has seen the bones, crockery, tin and paper thrown by Shere and Cocking into the old roads near by as into a dust-bin; or seen the gashes in the young trees planted down Gorst Road, Wandsworth Common; or the saucy “Private” at the entrance to a lane worn by a hundred generations through the sand a little north of Petersfield; or the barbed wire fastened into the living trees alongside the footpath over a neighbouring hill that has lately been sold.

What is the value of every one’s right to use a footpath if a single anti-social exclusive landowning citizen has the right to make it intolerable except to such as consider it a place only for the soles of the feet? The builder of a house acquires the right to admit the sunlight through his window. Cannot the users of a footpath acquire a right, during the course of half-a-dozen dynasties or less, to the sight of the trees and the sky which that footpath gives them in its own separate way?

At least I hope that footpaths will soon cease to be defined as a line — length without breadth — connecting one point with another. In days when they are used as much for the sake of the scenes historic or beautiful through which they pass as of the villages or houses on this hand or that, something more than the mere right to tread upon a certain ribbon of grass or mud will have to be preserved if the preservation is to be of much use, and the right of way must become the right of view and of very ancient lights as well.

By enforcing these rights some of the mountains of the land might even yet be saved, as Mr. Henry S. Salt wishes to save them.^ In the meantime it is to be hoped that his criticisms will not be ignored by the tourists who leave the Needle Gully a cascade of luncheon wrappings and the like; for it is not from a body of men capable of such manners that a really effective appeal against the sacrifice of *’ our mountains ” to commercial and other selfishness is like to spring.

And those lone wayside greens, no man’s gardens, measuring a few feet wide but many miles in length- why should they be used either as receptacles for the dust of motor-cars or as additions to the property of the landowner who happens to be renewing his fence ? They used to be as beautiful and cool and fresh as rivers, these green sisters of the white roads — illuminated borders of many a weary tale. But now, lest there should be no room for the dust, they are turning away from them the gypsies who used to camp there for a night.

The indolent District Council that is anxious to get rid of its difficulties — for the moment — at the expense of a neighbouring district — it cares not — will send out its policemen to drive away the weary horses and sleeping children from the acre of common land which had hitherto been sacred — to what? — to an altar, a statue, a fountain, a seat? — No! to a stately notice-board; half-a-century ago the common of which this is a useless patch passed on easy terms to the pheasant lords. The gypsies have to go. Give them a pitch for the night and you are regarded as an enemy of the community or perhaps even as a Socialist.

The gypsies shall be driven from parish to parish, and finally settle down as squalid degenerate nomads in a town where they lose what beauty and courage they had, in adding to the difficulties of another council. Yet if they were in a cage or a compound which it cost money
to see, hundreds would pay for a stare at their brown faces and bright eyes, their hooped tents, their horses, their carelessness of the crowd, and in a few years an imitation of these things will be applauded in a ” pageant ” of the town which has destroyed the reality.

thomas_2099443ba

 

A History Of Community Asset Ownership by Steve Wyler

A-History-of-Community-Asset-Ownership_small Steve Wyler-1

A History Of Community Asset Ownership
By Steve Wyler

When my friend Sophie first told me about this book she said ‘Someone has written a book of the show!’

This is a brilliant overview of the last thousand years and what it lacks in a catchy title, it makes up for in compelling prose.

The book can be downloaded free from here as a pdf – http://locality.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/A-History-of-Community-Asset-Ownership_small.pdf or ordered from Locality – http://locality.org.uk/contact/

Owning The Earth by Andro Linklater

owning the earthOwning The Earth
By Andro Linklater

I’m only a little way into this book but am already enjoying it thoroughly. Highly readable and informative.

It brings a global perspective to the story and compares what happened in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland with other European countries and those further afield.

I will update when I’ve finished it.

The Making of the English Working Class by E.P. Thompson

eptThe Making of the English Working Class
by E.P. Thompson

Considered a definitive text for many years this book is dense, academically rigorous and utterly superb.

I needed a dictionary, wikipedia and a notebook to get myself through the first quarter but once up to speed with the authors style and concepts, it was as compelling a read as I have ever had.

This book has the advantage of being widely respected across all academic and historical fields in a manner which some of the other books I have read are not.

The Painful Plough by Roy Palmer

ppThe Painful Plough
by Roy Palmer

The full title is ‘The Painful Plough: A Portrait of the Agricultural Labourer in the Nineteenth Century from Folksongs and Ballads and Contemporary Accounts’ which pretty much does the job.

It tells the story of Joseph Arch, a farm labourer who went on to start one of the first agricultural labourers unions and eventually to become an MP.

A superb piece of work and a huge source of inspiration for the concept of the show ‘Three Acres And A Cow’.

A Ballad History of England by Roy Palmer

rp---bhA Ballad History of England
by Roy Palmer

Roy Palmer has spent much of the last thirty years hunting for ballads and using them to weave together a people’s history of England. He has mastered the art of this in a number of excellent books of which this is a great starting point.

This book is utterly superb and should be bought without hesitation. Each song has a melody and words, along with a page or two giving its historical context.

The Sound Of History by Roy Palmer

sound of historyThe Sound Of History
By Roy Palmer

This is an amazing book. Not specifically about land but it has a chapter on the topic.

I cannot stress enough what a legend this man and his writings are. This is not the first book of his you should read but it is certainly one you want on your reading list.

This Land Is Our Land by Marion Shoard

marionThis Land Is Our Land
by Marion Shoard

The definitive book on land both past and present, although it has sadly not been updated since the 80’s.

It gets a bit heavy going in places but the first third, which is a history from Roman times to the present, is totally gripping and a must read for anyone interesting in land and land rights.

I had to take quite a few breaks whilst reading it as sections of it made me really angry and/or sad.

The Long Affray: The Poaching Wars in Britain by Harry Hopkins

The Long Affray by Harry HopkinsThe Long Affray: The Poaching Wars in Britain
by Harry Hopkins

Published in 1985, this life changing book was given to me by Sam Lee.

“A beautiful telling of the age-old battle between peasant and landowner where for the price of a rabbit or a pheasant men were murdered, transported as convicts and executed.

This ancient struggle over game was not just about food for the poor poachers and their families, it was about social rank and the power of the landed gentry, the burgeoning class politics of the time and the harsh realities of rural life.”

A People’s History Of England by A.L. Morton

A People's History Of England by A.L. MortonA People’s History Of England
by A.L. Morton

A leading Marxist historian, book written in 1938. Recommended reading by Roy Palmer.

A.L. Morton’s wikipedia page – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._L._Morton

An absolutely riveting, disturbing and fascinating read which turned my world view of history on its head.

The Many-Headed Hydra by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker

hydraThe Many-Headed Hydra
by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker

This book gives much food for thought, bringing a fresh perspective to number of themes such as slavery and pirates which help put English peasant struggles of the time in a wider context.

Whilst I would highly recommend it, I would also advise with some caution as the scholarship is not as widely respected as it might be.

This review from the Guardian does a good job and it worth a look – http://www.theguardian.com/books/2001/jan/27/historybooks

 

Books on Peterborough and The Fens

pboroHere are the books which Hazel Perry brought along to the workshops localising the show for Peterborough…

Free Thinkers and Troublemakers: Fenland Dissenters / Harry Jones / Published by the Wisbech Society & Preservation Trust / ISBN 0951922076

Peterborough: A Story of City and Country, People and Places / (Peterborough City Council, published by Pitkin) / ISBN 1-84165-050-1

From Punt to Plough: A History of the Fens / Rex Sly / The History Press / ISBN 978-0-7509-3398-8

Peterborough (Britain In Photographs) / Lisa Sargood / Budding Books / ISB 1-84015-247-8

Peterborough Through Time (A Second Selection) / June and Vernon Bull / ISBN 978-1-84868-990-9

The Lost Fens / England’s Greatest Ecological Disaster / Ian D Rotherham / ISBN 978-0-7524-8699-4

Peterborough / HF Tebbs / ISBN 0900891300

Utopia by Thomas More

IMG_1274a

So powerful re-reading the words of Thomas More from ‘Utopia’ now I understand the historical context of his words.

The first part of the book is largely a critique of the society around him written in a fictional form to protect him from persecution…

“your sheep that were wont to be so meek and tame, and so small eaters, now, as I heard say, be become so great devourers and so wild, that they eat up, and swallow down the very men themselves.”

http://www.bartleby.com/209/55.htmlutopia

 

In short, communities were deprived of their access to land to make way for sheep. The wool from these sheep became the first resource to be mass produced and traded leading to massive accumulation of excess capital in the hands of a few large landowners.

This excess capital could be invested in ships which laid the foundation for empires and slavery bringing along the second big accumulation of excess capital.

Read the wikipedia entry here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia_(book)