Reviews

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).

Redesigning Life

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John Parrington’s engaging and thoughtful book explains the science behind recent rapid advances in genetic engineering that mean it is increasingly possible to enact precise changes at a molecular level.

Genetic engineering tends to evoke images of glow in the dark bunnies, super tomatoes, or for me, the vast, rectangular football player in the novel Red Dwarf who has been engineered to be the exact size of the goal. But genetic engineering has been responsible for medical treatments that are now commonplace.

The History Thieves

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Nothing demonstrates the importance of Ian Cobain’s new book better than the secrecy that surrounds British involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen today. Not only will we never be told the truth by our masters but the records that could have exposed the truth to the light of day will almost certainly be destroyed to prevent any such eventuality. And this, as Cobain shows, is as it has always been.

The 'Russian' Civil Wars 1916-1926

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It has become fashionable in academia recently to see the Russian Revolution as only one part of a “continuum of crises” that engulfed the Tsarist Empire and the early years of the Soviet Union. This new history follows suit, rejecting the dominant view that the Civil War lasted from the summer of 1918 to 1921 in favour of ten years from 1916 to 1926.

Why 1916? Because that year saw a revolt in Turkestan against conscription to the Tsarist war machine fighting in the First World War.

Lenin on the Train

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There can be few more important journeys than the one Vladimir Lenin took when he embarked from his exile in Zurich on the “sealed” train that took him and an assortment of fellow comrades to revolutionary Russia in March 1917.

Catherine Merridale provides an exhilarating account not just of the journey itself, across war-torn Germany, through Sweden and Finland and on to Petrograd, but of the machinations that led to it, and the fantastic events of the February revolution that instigated it.

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