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  • seandodson 1:20 pm on April 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: general ludd, history, hudderfield, land of lost content, luddite, luddite uprising of 1812, revolution   

    The Luddite Uprising of 1811/12 

    One of the least-known things about my hometown of Huddersfield is that, nearly 200 years ago, it was the absolute capital of political unrest. The Luddite Uprising of 1812 dragged Britain closer to revolution than at any other time and the peak of that movement was in Huddersfield. I’ve just come across a blog (thanks Poumista!) that tracks the revolutionary fervour of the Luddites all across their bicentenary.

    It will be tempting for those on the left to celebrate the Luddites as proto-revolutionaries. But the truth, as always, in more nuanced than that. According to historian Richard Reid, in his Land of Lost Content, one of the finest history books I’ve read, the Luddites of Huddersfield, although radical, were almost certainly acting out of motives of self-interest rather than for reasons of class-consciousness.

    The Luddites of Huddersfield were all croppers. These were big, strong men who could wield 50llb shears and were incredibly well paid when compared to other workers. These men had stood by as the rest of the workers in the woolen textile trade of West Riding had been impoverished by automation and they only chose to fight the rise of the machines when there own, relatively privileged, livelihoods were threatened. If the Luddites have a present day equivalent they are something more akin to road hauliers, who blockade oil refineries to complain about the cost of fuel, rather than, say, students marching for the greater common good.

    • Luddite Bicentenary 8:40 pm on April 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Richard Reid’s book, whilst being an enjoyable read with a cracking narrative, is poor on political analysis of the Luddites, and is arguably somewhat revisionist. For a start, he completely excludes Nottinghamshire. This is huge omission!

      The historians to pay attention to for a proper evaluation of the revolutionary tradition the Luddites were undoubtedly a part of – but which large sections of ‘the left’ seek to ignore, to this very day – are EP Thompson & latterly Adrian Randall.

    • theelyricist 12:08 am on February 24, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      The Lawrence Batley Theatre is having a whole season of Uprising events this year to celebrate the 200 year anniversary – get involved! http://www.uprisingevents.org 😉

  • seandodson 9:36 am on October 28, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: encyclopedia, historiography, history, , ,   

    The Iraq War: A Wikipedia Historiography #iraqwar A set of books — every edit made to a single Wikipedia article on the Iraq War — during the five years between the article’s inception in December 2004 and November 2009. A total of 12,000 changes and almost 7,000 pages. Roughly the size of an encyclopedia. Flickr set here (via Simonsays)

  • seandodson 4:05 pm on August 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , history, , Sami Haapavara, Sergey Larenkov, William Egglestone   

    Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov reveals the Reichstag’s violent past 

    Thanks to my old friend Sami Haapavaara (himself Porvoo’s answer to William Eggleston) for directing me towards the work of Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov. I like his work a lot. His basic premise is simple enough: artist travels to various European cities – Berlin, Vienna, Leningrad – and revisits the precise locations of old war photographs and then reshoots the image from the same spot. The results, once merged, are as beautiful as they are haunting.

  • seandodson 10:19 am on May 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , history, ,   

    Reading the Thousand Autums of Jacob De Zoet 

    I have just started The Thousand Autums of Jacob De Zoet, David Mitchell’s latest novel. It revolves around the man-made island of Dejima built by the Japanese in Nagasaki bay for Dutch traders, during the country’s prolonged period of cultural isolation between 1639 and 1856.

    Here’s a rather charming scene of a Dutch dinner party from the period painted by Kawahara Keiga. Note the hook noses of the “southern barbarians” dining greedily on wine and huge plates of meat, their complexions as pale as porcelain. Notice also the Batavian servant in the background, beturbuned and barefoot and bringing a rather limp cut of meat to the table. It’s a fascinating period and a (so far) fascinating book

  • seandodson 6:50 am on September 22, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , history, ,   

    Things I have learnt or loved on late 

    First pictures of the stunning Church of Santa Monica in Madrid by Vicens & Ramos Architects (right) / Björk sings No Limits by 2Unlimited / Japan plans to build a space elevator: 22,000 miles into space / A whole new meaning to the office treadmill / The extraordinary heroism of Witold Pilecki, the man who deliberately got himself arrested and sent to Auschwitz (via) / Nick Cave to write the score for the movie adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. But does The Road need a score? Silence would seem a more appropriate accompanyment to the end of the world / That the Bristol Sound is back. And Mark Stewart with it / That highbrow magazines are putting on sales despite the gloom

  • seandodson 10:14 pm on May 27, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Alberro Santos-Dumont, , brazil, cartier, centennary of flight, dandy, , history, , watch   

    Alberto Santos-Dumont: the forgotten dandy of the skies 

    When most people think of the first aviators they think of the Wright Brothers who made the first manned flight. But in Brazil and elsewhere, many people think of Alberto Santos-Dumont, the first person to publically achieve sustained flight. It might seem like picking at hairs, but the Wrights early aircraft could sustain controlled flight, but only with assistance. Usually a favourable headwind or the use of launch rails and catapults. In other words, the Wrights’ early aeroplanes never took off under their own steam.

    Santos-Dumont made the first public flight in Paris in 1906. The Wright’s made their first public demonstration in 1908 (here’s how it was reported in Scientific American), although they claimed to have flown as early as 1903. No one disputes that the Wrights’ ground-breaking work on aerodynamics and propellers added more to the design of the aeroplane than anyone else.

    The Brazillian aeronaught was also a pioneer of airships and built the world’s first hybrid airship as early as 1905. In the days before air traffic control he would glide along Paris boulevards at rooftop level sometimes landing in front of a fashionable outdoor cafe for lunch. A notorious dandy, Santos-Dumont is credited with popularising the wristwatch. the story goes that in 1904, after celebrating winning an aviation prize at Maxim’s Restaurant in Paris he complained to his friend Louis Cartier about the difficulty of checking his pocket watch to time his performance during flight. He asked Cartier to develop an alternative that would allow him to keep both hands on the controls.

  • seandodson 1:43 am on May 20, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bob stanley, chapel market, , , etienne, , Geoffrey fletcher, geoffrey snowcroft fletcher, history, , james mason, , , nostalgia, , the london that nobody knows, Walter Sickert   

    Discovering the London that nobody knows 

    Thanks once again to the wondrous Things Magazine for pointing me towards The London that Nobody Knows, a wonderful documentary from 1967 narrated by James Mason (a fellow lad of Huddersfield). The film is a favourite of Bob Stanley of St Etienne, who describes the film as “No horseguards, no palaces, but Islington’s Chapel Market, pie shops, and Spitalfields tenements … Carnaby chicks and chaps, the 1967 we have been led to remember, [is] shockingly juxtaposed with feral meths drinkers, filthy shoeless kids, squalid Victoriana. Camden Town still resembles the world of Walter Sickert. There is romance and adventure, but mostly there is malnourishment.”

    Although I wouldn’t agree with him that “London looks like a shithole,” even the fluttering washing above a tenament in the East End looks beautiful when arranged above a courtyard of excited children playing in the midday sun. The London that Nobody Knows is based on a book by Geoffrey Snowcroft Fletcher of, funnily enough, The Daily Telegraph. Stanley calls Fletcher “the great forgotten London writer” and the book was first published in 1962.

    • paulmcdonald 1:39 pm on May 24, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      I love that film, I only became aware of it recently but it totally blew me away…just a shame it is’nt longer as theres so few films showing the ‘real’ London of that time.

  • seandodson 1:09 pm on December 11, 2007 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , history, , Turku   

    Take a trip to Turku 


    For a country of its size, it is surprising how little of Finland registers in the minds of British travellers. Helsinki in the summer and Lapland in the winter remain perennially popular, but the rest of the country tends to get the cold shoulder, despite covering an area larger than Poland or Italy. Soon, a third destination may squeeze itself in. Last month, the EU council of Ministers announced that Turku would be the joint European City of Culture in 2011, a status it will share with Tallinn. And while the Estonian capital is now familiar to British travellers, Turku remains almost unknown.

    The more you see of Turku the more this surprises you. After all it’s the oldest city in Finland, the country’s former capital, the seat of its oldest university and gateway to the beautiful Finnish archipelago. Because of its venerability, it also eschews the criticism levelled at many Finnish cities: namely that they are a bit too modern and efficient for their own good.

    Indeed, the old capital remains as quaint and as eclectic as an antique store run by a dotty old uncle. A compact city centre is bisected by the handsome River Aura which leads out to the archipelago and the Baltic Sea. There’s a castle, an old cathedral, a Dominican monastery that was consecrated in 1249, as well as sailing ships in the harbour and a wealth of traditional timbered houses.

    For a city of just 175,000, moreover, Turku has of the densest concentrations of culture anywhere in the Nordic region. Not only does it boast three universities (including one exclusively in Finnish-Swedish due to the large concentration of speakers there), the city boasts at least seven museums, (including one dedicated to Jean Sibelius), several theatres and an orchestra. And while you get the sense that Turku takes itself and its former capital status extremely seriously, it also knows how to have fun. The city plays host to three music festivals, encompassing elecronica, classical and heavy rock.

    But all you really need to sample Turku’s past is to take a night on the town. The Old Bank was recently voted as one of the top ten bars in Finland (one of only two from outside Helsinki). Around the corner is the bar Koulu, the former Swedish language school, which doubles as a restaurant and it triples as a brewery (its Christmas ale is sublime, full bodied with notes of cinnamon and cough candy). Then perhaps cross the river for a pint amid the wood panels of the Uusi Apteeki, or the new pharmacy, which paradoxically dates back to the early 20th century and has been restored by six friends who have turned it into a temple of beer (it has over 20 on tap). Finally, finish the night at the subterranean Puutorin Vessa a bohemian bar fashioned from an old public convenience. Old buildings never die in Turku, they just get converted into new places to drink.

    That, you soon realise, is the point of Turku. It is a city that clings defiantly to the past. Although the city remains the capital of Finland Proper, you get the sense that it has yet to reconcile itself to its loss of status. Then, there is the great fire, which gutted the city in 1827 to consider as well as the pounding it received from the red army during the Winter War. What is has it tends to hold.

    Even in the city’s trendiest bars and restaurants the past pervades. Bar Koku is stuffed full of retro Scandinavian furniture, all of which is for sale. Alvar (Alvar, 7 Humalistonkatu 231 4370) is named after Alvar Alto, Finland’s most famous architect, and the large eclectically decorated bar is housed on the ground floor of one of his buildings. The city’s chicest restaurant, Blanko, which offers both Scandinavian and Asian cuisine, is situated in a cross-domed cellar that once belonged to grand old house. After the kitchen closes the bar comes alive with guest DJs, playing house a mix of house music and bossa nova the night we were there.

    Turku is popular in the summer when boatloads of Swedes arrive across the Baltic from Stockholm. But Christmas also makes a good time to go. While most of us associate Lapland with Christmas, Finns are more likely to visit Turku. In December the city plays host to one of the largest Christmas markets outside Germany.

    One criticism of Turku is that it is not blessed with an abundance of great hotels. Omena, a new chain of self-service hotels, is a welcome addition, especially as its in the same Alto building as Bar Alvar. For good value for money and a central location The Sokos Hotel Hamburger Börs is hard to beat.

    Take a trip to Turku. It’s worth extra connecting flight or train ride from Helsinki and you will find a city packed full of culture, long before it becomes a capital once more.

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