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Fiery Particle

Lawrence Goldman: Red Ellen Wilkinson, 13 July 2017

Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson, Socialist, Feminist, Internationalist 
by Laura Beers.
Harvard, 568 pp., £23.95, October 2016, 978 0 674 97152 3
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... At first sight​ , a new life of Ellen Wilkinson appears to offer readers a return to ‘old Labour’ principles, as articulated and put into practice by one of the party’s most famous women leaders. Wilkinson came from the north, represented the shipyards of Jarrow and always spoke for the workers ...

How messy it all is

David Runciman: Who benefits from equality?, 22 October 2009

The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better 
by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
Allen Lane, 331 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 1 84614 039 6
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... 20 per cent of the population (the basic measure of inequality the authors use). The evidence that Wilkinson and Pickett supply to make their case is overwhelming. Whether the test is life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity levels, crime rates, literacy scores, even the amount of rubbish that gets recycled, the more equal the society the better the ...

Happy Campers

Ellen Meiksins Wood: G.A. Cohen, 28 January 2010

Why Not Socialism? 
by G.A. Cohen.
Princeton, 83 pp., £10.95, September 2009, 978 0 691 14361 3
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... of its morally reprehensible outcomes – for example, the kinds of outcome recently described in Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s The Spirit Level – it surely makes a difference whether those outcomes are produced by base motives or systemic imperatives.* This isn’t just a matter of the old philosophical conundrum about whether ...

Pop your own abscess

Rory Scothorne: Definitions of Poverty, 22 February 2018

The New Poverty 
by Stephen Armstrong.
Verso, 242 pp., £12.99, October 2017, 978 1 78663 463 4
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Poverty Safari 
by Darren McGarvey.
Luath, 244 pp., £7.99, November 2017, 978 1 912147 03 8
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... efforts to reinvent a British tradition of patriotic, elite paternalism were heavily influenced by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s book The Spirit Level, with its strange subtitle, ‘Why Equality Is Better for Everyone’. Its underlying assumption was that inequality could only be tackled by an appeal to the rationality and self-interest of those ...

We know it intimately

Christina Riggs: Rummaging for Mummies, 22 October 2020

A World beneath the Sands: Adventurers and Archaeologists in the Golden Age of Egyptology 
by Toby Wilkinson.
Picador, 510 pp., £25, October, 978 1 5098 5870 5
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... had a sideline as a set designer. Perhaps Egyptology equips people to create illusions. If Toby Wilkinson’s new book, A World beneath the Sands, is anything to go by, some Egyptologists operate under quite a large one: that the history of their field is something to celebrate rather than scrutinise. The drama plays out against palm trees, pyramids and ...


Peter Campbell: At Kew, 21 April 2005

... other landmarks which have bubbled up on the London horizon in recent years. The architects, Wilkinson Eyre, designed the Gateshead Millennium Bridge (also curvy) and are now working on, among other things, the King’s Waterfront Centre in Liverpool. A recent exhibition in a blacked out subterranean space at the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station at ...

Saying yes

Rupert Wilkinson, 19 July 1984

... making a number of smoothly-meshing points around central images – crusade, change, the future. Richard Nixon, for his part, was apt to jump from dignity to folksiness, as if the strain of keeping up a high tone was too much. The most deviant of the post-war acceptance speeches was Harry Truman’s in 1948. Today, if you read the speech rather than ...

Finding an Enemy

Conor Gearty: Sixty Years of Anti-Terrorist Legislation, 15 April 1999

Legislation against Terrorism: A Consultation Paper. CM 4178. 
by Home Office and Northern Ireland Office.
70 pp., £9.95, December 1998, 0 10 141782 9
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... on the evening before the Commons debate. In the words of the independently minded Conservative Richard Shepherd, all we ‘knew about the Bill was what I believe the country will come to detest more than anything – the manipulation, the spin, the press releases and all the covert ways of trying to secure the legislation of this country without reference ...

Elective Outsiders

Jeremy Harding, 3 July 1997

Conductors of Chaos: A Poetry Anthology 
edited by Iain Sinclair.
Picador, 488 pp., £9.99, June 1996, 0 330 33135 3
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Nearly Too Much: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne 
by N.H. Reeve and Richard Kerridge.
Liverpool, 196 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 85323 840 5
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Carl Rakosi: Poems 1923-41 
edited by Andrew Crozier.
Sun & Moon, 209 pp., $12.99, August 1995, 1 55713 185 6
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The Objectivists 
edited by Andrew McAllister.
Bloodaxe, 156 pp., £8.95, May 1996, 1 85224 341 4
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... more enclosed than they take themselves to be. Several of the writers here – Drew Milne, John Wilkinson and Caroline Bergvall, for example – opt understandably for a poetic strategy that allows no rest at all but the results are oddly stable. A delirious quest for the inconceivable seems to inform the work of John ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, 17 April 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel 
directed by Wes Anderson.
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... All the paintings there were by Klimt and all the music by Mahler. No, there were also special Richard Strauss evenings, and the cafés played Johann Strauss waltzes all the time. Everyone was analysed by Freud, but it didn’t make any difference. They were very rich and they had terrific furniture. Many of them were waiting for a bit part in La ...

He, She, One, They, Ho, Hus, Hum, Ita

Amia Srinivasan: How Should I Refer to You?, 2 July 2020

What’s Your Pronoun? Beyond He and She 
by Dennis Baron.
Liveright, 304 pp., £16.99, February 2020, 978 1 63149 604 2
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... as was only appropriate for ‘this age of improvement’. In 1868 the popular language columnist Richard White rejected a reader’s suggestion of en, from French (surprisingly not the more apt on), the virtues of which the reader had illustrated with the sentence ‘If a person wishes to sleep, en mustn’t eat cheese for supper.’ White, who favoured the ...

Staggering on

Stephen Howe, 23 May 1996

The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-31 
by Adrian Smith.
Cass, 340 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 7146 4645 8
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... In 1950 a venerable, once highly successful, long-ailing magazine quietly expired. Richard Usborne, the assistant editor in its dying days, later recalled an aficionado’s touching reaction. ‘When the Strand finally folded in 1950, my old sixth-form master wrote to me regretfully: “I loved the dear old Strand ...

A Whiff of Grapeshot

John Foot: Giovanni and Giorgio, 27 July 2023

Politics, Murder and Love in an Italian Family: The Amendolas in the Age of Totalitarianisms 
by Richard Bosworth.
Cambridge, 262 pp., £29.99, February, 978 1 009 28017 4
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... the streets, while others were forcibly sent to psychiatric hospitals. The regime was relentless. Richard Bosworth’s family saga focuses on the two most famous Amendolas – Giovanni and Giorgio, who became a high-ranking communist, a leading figure on the left in both fascist and democratic Italy. Giorgio later claimed that he first understood ‘hard and ...

Sleeves Full of Raisins

Tom Johnson: Mobs of Wreckers, 13 April 2023

Shipwrecks and the Bounty of the Sea 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 313 pp., £30, September 2022, 978 0 19 286339 3
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... in a Ship, as well as in the State’). A good woman was ‘like a ship’, the preacher Robert Wilkinson ventured, because ‘her countenance and conversation are ballasted with soberness and gravity’ – though she ‘must not have one quality of a ship, and that is too much rigging’.Beneath the bluster, however, was hard-nosed calculation. A lot of ...

Why name a ship after a defeated race?

Thomas Laqueur: New Lives of the ‘Titanic’, 24 January 2013

The Wreck of the ‘Titan’ 
by Morgan Robertson.
Hesperus, 85 pp., £8, March 2012, 978 1 84391 359 7
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Shadow of the ‘Titanic’ 
by Andrew Wilson.
Simon and Schuster, 392 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 1 84739 882 6
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‘Titanic’ 100th Anniversary Edition: A Night Remembered 
by Stephanie Barczewski.
Continuum, 350 pp., £15.99, December 2011, 978 1 4411 6169 7
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The Story of the Unsinkable ‘Titanic’: Day by Day Facsimile Reports 
by Michael Wilkinson and Robert Hamilton.
Transatlantic, 127 pp., £16.99, November 2011, 978 1 907176 83 8
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‘Titanic’ Lives: Migrants and Millionaires, Conmen and Crew 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Harper, 404 pp., £9.99, September 2012, 978 0 00 732166 7
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Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage 
by Hugh Brewster.
Robson, 338 pp., £20, March 2012, 978 1 84954 179 4
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‘Titanic’ Calling 
edited by Michael Hughes and Katherine Bosworth.
Bodleian, 163 pp., £14.99, April 2012, 978 1 85124 377 8
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... were the crowning glory of the century of progress. A White Star Line poster reproduced in Michael Wilkinson and Robert Hamilton’s collection shows the great hulk of the ship, sunlit, belching smoke out of three of its four funnels – the fourth was there only for effect – and cutting a swathe between a small sailing ship and a three-masted square ...

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