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Dorothy Thompon, The Dignity of Chartism: launch event & updated review

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2015 by kmflett

Launch event and review of Dorothy Thompson’s The Dignity of Chartism


June 05, 2015

Marx Memorial Library

The Dignity of Chartism celebrating the life and work of Dorothy Thompson

Join Sheila Rowbotham and Malcolm Chase to launch the new collection of Dorothy’s groundbreaking essays

Dorothy Thompson dedicated her life to the study of Chartism, reclaiming it as a full-blown working class movement. Thompson’s ground-breaking research intertwined a penetrating analysis of class with fresh archival research to uncover the role played by women in the movement. Through this, her work radically transformed the way that Chartism is understood and has influenced generations of scholars of the working class movement.

To mark the release of this major collection of Dorothy’s essay, The Dignity of Chartism (Verso, 2015), historian and leading figure in the women’s movementSheila Rowbotham and labour historian and chartist scholar Malcolm Chase will discuss Dorothy’s life and work, and the influence it has played on the study of 19th century history. The event will be introduced by Meirian Jump from the Marx Memorial Library who will give a short presentation on the library and its Chartist-related collections.

This event is free to attend. For all enquiries please email
Sheila Rowbotham was one of the leading figures behind the Women’s Liberation Movement in Britain. She is an Honorary Research Fellow in Sociology in the School of Social Sciences within the Faculty of Humanities at Manchester University and Visiting Fellow in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Her many books include the James Tait Black–shortlisted Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and LoveWoman’s Conciousness, Man’s World, A Century of Women: The History of Women in Britain and the United States in the Twentieth Century, Promise Of A Dream: Remembering the Sixties, and Dreamers of a New Day: Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century. She has written for, among other newspapers, the Guardian, The Times, The Independent, New Statesman, and The New York Times. 

Malcolm Chase is Professor of Social History at the University of Leeds. He is Vice-President of the Society for the Study of Labour History and a past Chair of the Social History Society. His work includes Chartism: A New History, Early Trade Unionism: Fraternity, Skill and the Politics of Labour, The People’s Farm, English Radical Agrarianism 1775-1840, and most recently 1820: Disorder and Stability in the United Kingdom. 

6.30pm – 8.00pm

Marx Memorial Library

37A Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU
United Kingdom




The Dignity of Chartism
Dorothy Thompson 
Verso 2015 
Paperback ISBN 9781781688496 
Hardback ISBN 9781781688489

Dorothy Thompson,The Dignity of Chartism, Verso, June 2015

It is reasonably well known that a key reason EP Thompson wrote on the English Working Class in the first and third quarters of the nineteenth century but said very little about the period from the mid-1830s to 1860s was that his long time partner Dorothy Thompson was working on the Chartists.

She published a series of well regarded and in some cases definitive volumes on Chartism.

Yet until now there has been no collection of Dorothy Thompson’s writings in the area beyond the books.

Verso and the book’s Editor, Chartist historian Stephen Roberts, have done a considerable service in bringing some at least of Dorothy Thompson’s lesser known or more difficult to access pieces on Chartism together in a new book, The Dignity of Chartism.

It is a book which deserves to be read not least by the considerable worldwide group of those who work in the traditions of EP Thompson, though the research of Dorothy Thompson stands as a related but distinct contribution to our knowledge of working class history.

It does demonstrate some of the ways that the two historians worked together, sharing ideas and sources, which may have been previously less than clear.

Roberts in a useful introduction, revised from an earlier piece, notes that Edward Thompson mined Dorothy Thompson’s research notes for some parts of The Making of the English Working Class

While the hard to find pieces by Dorothy Thompson which the book contains will nevertheless probably be familiar to some historians and researchers, the longest piece here is an unpublished essay written jointly by Dorothy and Edward Thompson on Halifax Chartism. It was commissioned for Asa Briggs 1959 volume Chartist Studies but was never published.

It is the long piece (even with footnotes edited down) however that provides a guide to Dorothy Thompson’s research methods and the kind of history she wrote. It is led not by a pre-set framework but by historical evidence found in archives, documents, papers and books. It is also densely detailed with examples of what, in this case, Halifax Chartists were thinking and doing

An interesting web published piece on women and Chartism shows Dorothy Thompson while taking a feminist perspective defending Chartism as a class based movement and explaining again on a research based basis the way in which women were active in it.

The final piece in the book ‘Reflections on Marxist Teleology’ reflects a speech Dorothy Thompson gave at the launch of the memoirs of John Saville and reviews what in her view is relevant and not relevant in the relationship between Marxism and historical research.

If there is one criticism it would have been useful to have had a bibliography of Dorothy Thompson’s published work.

I didn’t know for example that Dorothy Thompson wrote some reviews for the Times Literary Supplement. Some extracts are included here but I’m not clear if there are others.

However the key point remains. The Dignity of Chartism reminds us of Dorothy Thompson’s place as a major post-1945 socialist and feminist historian. It also provides some fascinating insights into her collaboration with EP Thompson and suggests that her reputation should be regarded in the same perspective as his.

Keith Flett, April 2015. Revised and Updated May 2015





Tim Sherwood competes with Brian Blessed for Hirsute Personality 2015 accolade

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2015 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Press release 30th May

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Brian Blessed

Tim Sherwood competes with Brian Blessed for Hirsute Personality 2015 accolade

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that with Beard Week set to bristle off to a start on 29th June it has launched the annual search for Hirsute Personality of the Year.

Last year Conchita Wurst beat Brian Blessed for the accolade

The shortlist comprises well known beard wearers, focusing not just on their place in the public eye but the gravitas and impact their beard adds to their public image and appearance.

Unlike the Beard of the Year in December, those on the short-list don’t need to have a full time beard. Rather they need to have been in the public eye while hirsute. Neither is the contest about who has the ‘best’ beard. Here Brian Blessed’s organic growth competes with Tim Sherwood’s near stubble

The winner of the on-line poll will be announced at the beginning of Beard Week 2015 on June 29th. Other Awards that feature during the week, designed to promote a positive image of beards, are the Beard Friendly Sandwich of the Year, Hirsute Broadcaster of the Year and the Beard Friendly Employer of the Year.


Vote here

Moeen Ali,cricketer

Brian Blessed,actor

Billy Bragg,musician

Stephen Crabb, Hirsute Parliamentarian

Frank Dobson, former MP

Michael Eavis, farmer

Graeme Fowler,cricket coach

Tomasz Schafernaker,weatherman

Tim Sherwood, football manager

Philip Wilton, cheesemaker

BLF Organiser Keith Flett We are looking for superb examples of hirsuteness in the public eye which also add gravitas. It means a beard plus presence. That is what we are looking for: maximum hirsute impact



Leeds Test: Beard Impact Index in pre-Ashes trial

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2015 by kmflett



For the Leeds Test the Beard Liberation Front, whose banner was a familar feature on TV during England’s recent Test series in the West Indies, is experimenting with a new system of measuring the impact of beards in a cricket match: the Beard Impact Index. For each activity that the beard wearer completes which makes an impact on the match points are allocated as follows:

For each 10 runs completed: 1 point

For each wicket taken by bowling: 2 points

For each dismissal by other means (catch, run-out etc) 2 points

For tone of beard during each day’s play: Maximum 5 points a day

Day Two Leeds

Ronchi Day1 10.5 Day2 2 catch ………………….12.5
Broad Day1 8.5 Day2 4 wickets…………………..12.5

Craig Day2 4 runs 2 wicket 2 catch 4 tone……12
Wood Day1 8 Day2 no update……………………..8
McCullum Day1 4 Day2 2 tone…………………….6
Ali Day1 3

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, The Beard Impact Index is very much an experiment at the minute and it will be interesting to see what results the Leeds Test brings prior to its full role out for the Ashes series later in the summer.


Leeds Test: Battle of the Beards Round 2- Moeen v McCullum

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2015 by kmflett

Leeds Test: Battle of the Beards Round Two- Moeen v McCullum

Beard Liberation Front


29th May

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266



The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that with the Second Test of the summer underway at Leeds on 29th May there is set to be a second round of battle of the beards between England batsman and spin bowler Moeen Ali and Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum.

Moeen comfortably won the first round both in an on-line poll and on the pitch itself as he contributed to the England victory with bat and ball and in the field.

Moeen has a full on organic beard while McCullum has a more hipsterish style commonly seen in parts of London such as Shoreditch and Dalston.

However the campaigners say that it is not just about the style of the beard but the impact that it makes in each day’s play and in the match overall.

For the Leeds Test the BLF is experimenting with a new system of measuring the impact of beards in a cricket match: the Beard Impact Index. For each activity that the beard wearer completes which makes an impact on the match points are allocated as follows:

For each 10 runs completed: 1 point

For each wicket taken by bowling: 2 points

For each dismissal by other means (catch, run-out etc) 2 points

For tone of beard during each day’s play: Maximum 5 points a day

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, The Beard Impact Index is very much an experiment at the minute and it will be interesting to see what results the Leeds Test brings prior to its full role out for the Ashes series later in the summer.


After the Queen’s Speech: can Cameron last, the lessons of the May 1955 Election

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2015 by kmflett

After the Queen’s Speech: Can Cameron last, the lessons of 1955?

26th May marked the 60th anniversary of the 1955 General Election.

The Election was called by Tory leader Anthony Eden when he took over from Winston Churchill who had been Tory PM since 1951.

The Parliament Channel re-ran the surviving three hours of footage (out of 17 hours) on 26th May and it was a fascinating piece of social history. The BBC programme was anchored by Richard Dimbleby and featured large numbers of well-spoken men often with military moustaches. Some token workers were interviewed, including a Welsh miner.

For those watching the current trajectory of the Liberal Democrats, the Liberal Party got 700,000 votes, 3% or so of the poll and a handful of seats. Rather more candidates were elected as National Liberals and Conservatives, reflecting the 1930s split in the party.

Anyway the outcome was that the Tories increased their Parliamentary majority from 17 to 60 and Eden became Tory Minister with, for that time, a very comfortable majority for the next few years.

Except it didn’t quite work out like that. In July 1956 Eqyptian leader Nasser nationalised the Suez canal. That was seen as a threat to UK (but not US) oil supplies.

Eden determined, along with France and Israel to attack Eqypt. US President Eisenhower did not support the attack (neither did the Labour Party), and with the Tory leadership itself split (future Tory PM Harold Macmillan threatened to resign) a ceasefire was called on 7th November 1956.

On 9th January 1957, Eden stood down as PM citing health reasons, Macmillan succeeded him and went on to win the 1959 General Election much to the surprise of some, as after Suez Labour had led in the polls.

What has this got to do with David Cameron? After all, as far as we know, he is not about to invade Eqypt.

He is however about to embark on protecting what he see as British (or perhaps English) interests by calling a Referendum on EU membership which is likely to prove controversial, not least with some in his own party.

The point is, unexpected things can happen in politics. You can take a view on whether the Fixed Term Parliament Act really does mean that there can’t be another Election until 2020. However Cameron, who has already said earlier this year, that he will step down before then, might ponder the fate of fellow Old Etonian Anthony Eden, sixty years ago, when he won an Election and embarked on a course of action the outcome of which was not fully under his control.


William Morris, £20 & the market

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2015 by kmflett

William Morris, £20 notes & the market

The Bank of England is canvassing opinion (until July)on who should be on the next design of the £20 note. The focus is on someone from the visual arts. A campaign has been underway for it to be the great Victorian socialist beard wearer William Morris (1834-96).

Morris was central to the Victorian art and craft movement. That’s not just the wallpaper but the idea that design was important and not about money but usefulness and beauty.

The campaign to get Morris and his beard on the £20 note was echoed by a Guardian Editorial on 25th May. Certainly it would be great to see Morris feature.

That said Morris would not have been in favour. In his great novel of the socialist future News from Nowhere, Morris envisaged wages and wage slavery abolished. People made things that were needed and did so in a pleasing way. Producing things to earn money without any other purpose was consigned to another world:

The wares which we make are made because they are needed: men make for their neighbours’ use  as if they were making for themselves, not for a vague market of which they know nothing,and over which they have no control: as there is no buying or selling

Would Morris, who had a ferocious temper to go with his beard, have lived with appearing on a bank note? As my letter to the Guardian (26.5) suggests, perhaps, if it was understood as a transitional phase to socialism….

Should William Morris appear on the new £20 note?


Campaigners back calls for William Morris to appear on £20 note

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2015 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front



25th May

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266



The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has backed calls for the great hirsute socialist and designer William Morris to appear on a new series of the £20 bank note.

The Bank of England has opened a public consultation which runs until 19th July and specified that the new £20 note will celebrate Britain’s achievements in the visual arts.

William Morris (1834-1896) was a noted artist, designer and socialist who also possessed one of the nineteenth’s century’s most distinctive beards.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, William Morris’s beard on the £20 note would gravitas to the currency and it would also be extremely difficult to forge.

Should William Morris’s beard appear on the new £20 note?




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