Maggie Falshaw

Peterloo: The English Uprising

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The 16 August 2019 marked the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, where at least 18 people were killed by the military and 700 injured when some 80,000 people marched considerable distances to St Peter’s Field, Manchester to protest for parliamentary reform.

Mike Leigh’s film Peterloo has recently brought this to public attention. Leigh was outraged that a massacre of peaceful protesters had been effectively written out of English history. Leigh acknowledges the contribution that Robert Poole made to inform his work.

A woman who created and recorded history

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A fascinating new exhibition in east London shows the work of suffragette and photographer Norah Smyth. The images, mostly taken from 1914 to 1916, record the work of the East London Federation of Suffragettes. They are on loan from the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam and are displayed together for the first time.

Rebel Crossings

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This book is a fine example of someone on a mission. In the 1970s Sheila Rowbotham found a book in the British Library called Whitman’s Ideal Democracy and other writings by Helena Born, with a biography of the author written by Helen Tuffs.

Helena Born was a radical woman with some unconventional views. She came from a middle class family, became a socialist, was an active (and often leading) supporter and organiser of many strikes in the late 1880 and 1890s, during the period of New Unionism.

Red Ellen

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Laura Beers’ biography of Ellen Wilkinson, a prominent socialist in the early 20th century, is packed with detail. It is written in a lively style and gives a real sense of her as a person.

Ellen was born into a working class family in Manchester in 1891. She joined the Independent Labour Party at the age of 16. She was excited and inspired by the Russian Revolution and later had dual membership of the Labour Party and the Communist Party (which was permitted under Labour Party rules of the time).

Some Lives Not Done Justice

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Review of 'Confronting an Ill Society', Patrick Hutt with Iona Heath and Roger Neighbour, Radcliffe £19.95

David Widgery, the subject of this biography, was a socialist GP working in Tower Hamlets, east London. In addition to his day job he was instrumental in setting up Rock Against Racism in the 1970s, and was a campaigner who marched to free the Pentonville Five dockers, defended the NHS and supported the Hackney Empire theatre.

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