Alan Gibson

Who we are and how we got here

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We are all profoundly mixed up genetically, and our ancestors were always moving. These are just two of the discoveries that David Reich presents in this exciting book about the ancient DNA revolution.

Reich starts by explaining how rapidly analysis into ancient DNA has developed. Since 2001, when the human genome was sequenced for the first time, research has ballooned as costs have diminished and automation has mushroomed.

A Party With Socialists in it

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With the Labour Party’s swelling membership amid continuing tensions between the Labour’s left and right wings, a book that addresses the fortunes of socialists in the party could not be more timely. Simon Hannah has provided a good summary of their rises and falls, going back to the creation of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1893, the formation of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) seven years later, through to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and ensuing battles with the party’s right wing.

Brexit: limited options

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The process of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union is getting no easier for the Tories as time goes on. Alan Gibson looks at the perpetual backing-down Theresa May and her ministers are being forced into, as well as the considerable pressures bearing down on Corbyn.

The government’s Brexit secretary David Davis hailed the transition deal signed with the EU’s Michel Barnier in March as a major breakthrough. But it didn’t come without the Tories backing down from a series of positions and promises it had made about what would be acceptable.

As the Financial Time said, “Monday’s announcement showed that the EU, without a great deal of cunning, had managed to call multiple bluffs from Brexiters about the transition period.”

1968 began in Vietnam

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It was the Vietnamese who kicked off, 50 years ago, what became one of the greatest years in recent history for political advance — 1968.

On 30 January that year an 80,000-strong combined force of the Viet Cong and the People’s Army of North Vietnam carried out surprise attacks on some 100 towns and cities, including 36 regional capitals, in South Vietnam.

The Tet Offensive, named after the Vietnamese New Year Tet holiday, was aimed particularly at the major command centres of the South Vietnamese Army and its then massive US military support.

News in brief

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Fat cats grab the most

The richest 0.1 percent of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth by the same amount as the poorest 50 percent since 1980, says the World Inequality Report, published in December. Around 76,000 people — the 0.001 percent — grabbed 4 percent of the all new wealth created over the past four decades. The richest 5 percent in the UK have an average wealth of £3.7 million, compared with £68,000 for the bottom 90 percent.

Preparing for Trump

Protest: Stories of Resistance

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The question on the book’s jacket, “Whatever happened to British protest?” is silly, particularly given the 20 marvellous incidents it records. But don’t let that put you off a really good anthology about protest movements in the UK. Starting with the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and finishing with the anti-Iraq War demonstration of February 2003, a series of writers provide real colour to each protest or movement with often moving short stories.

Architecture for all

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Even the UK’s most stolid institutions are waking up to the fact that, post-Grenfell, things are changing. Rather than award its annual top gong to someone responsible for designing a posh museum, sports stadium or residential block for wealthy people, the architects’ association RIBA has this year chosen Neave Brown as the recipient of its Gold Medal.

The fine art of revolutionary manoeuvre

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The tumultuous summer months of 1917 in Russia saw the right regrouping in an attempt to reverse the gains of the February Revolution. Alan Gibson describes the twists and turns which brought the Bolsheviks and the moderates together — but also laid the groundwork for the October insurrection.

‘In the menacing hour of grave ordeals at the front and complete internal collapse from the political and economic disorganisation, the country can be saved from ultimate ruin only by a really strong government in the capable and experienced hands of persons who are not bound by narrow party or group programs.”

How Lenin set the course for October

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Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia in April 1917, five weeks after a revolution had overthrown the hated Tsar. Alan Gibson sets out the pivotal role Lenin played in arguing that the revolution must go further than change at the top. His April Theses are an object lesson in audacity and leadership.

‘This is the ravings of a madman.” So said Alexander Bogdanov about Vladimir Lenin’s speech in the days following his arrival at the Finland Station in Petrograd at the beginning of April 1917 — a speech that Pravda published as The April Theses.

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