An Age of Rage? A historical perspective on anger

Are we living in an age of anger? Why does everyone seem so steamed-up, aggressive or furious about certain aspects of today’s society? These are some of the intriguing questions that were posed by Zoe Williams, writing in the UK’s daily newspaper The Guardian on 16th May.

Shouting-Man

Whether it is angry householders complaining about the behaviour of their neighbours, or motorists engaging in extreme road rage, or people venting their racism or sexism anonymously on social media, or populist politicians openly engaging in whipping up the fury of crowds, it does appear that there is something about early 21st century society that is making people more prone to angry outbursts or signs of greater impatience.

From a historian’s perspective, is it possible to understand this better by detecting similar cycles of anger when we look back at the past? One discipline that has caught the attention of some historians is known as ‘cliodynamics’, which was apparently developed at the turn of this century. It is something that I must admit is completely new to me, but makes for some fascinating reasoning.

According to the Guardian article by Williams, it was a discipline developed by scientist Peter Turchin, and it plots historical events by a series of mathematical measures: ‘These measures yield a map of history in which you can see spikes of rage roughly every 50 years: 1870, 1920, 1970…’. Cycles of rage and violence are not always unproductive – they take in civil rights, union and suffragette movements, and so on. In fact, the Turchin model points out that all social movements of consequence start with unrest or anger, ‘whether in the form of strike action, protest or riot’.

Interestingly, as Williams noted, some situate economics at the heart of the social mood, and it may possibly be that the modern world economy, as it goes through cycles of low and high growth over time, creates a kind of stagnation which can always correspond with unrest or anger.

As support for this, Williams pointed to the views on this theory put forward by David Andress, a professor of history at the University of Portsmouth and the author of Cultural Dementia. This book is about how the rage of the present time we live in may indeed have an ‘economics’ context, rooted in things such as the insecurity created by inequality: as Andress has argued, ‘Economics is about scarcity and insecurity turns very quickly into anger and scapegoating’.

As Andress has also noted, there are periods in history not marked by fury, of course, but it may be that modern conditions today – for various reasons, including a new sense of insecurity on the part of more and more people – are producing this latest cycle of anger and rage.

Another perspective on our current seeming ‘age of anger’, one that may also be useful for historians, comes from the discipline of psychology. Williams in her article pointed to the work of Aaron Balick, author of The Psychodynamics of  Social Networking, a book which has highlighted the new availability of social media. As Balick himself has commented: ‘I think for sure anger is more expressed. What you see of it is a consequence of emotional contagion, which I think social media is partly responsible for. There’s an anger-bandwagon effect: someone expresses it and this drives someone else to express it as well’.

Far Right demo in Charlotesville

Indeed, social media may have given us a way to transmute our anger to every area of life; more worryingly, the recent resurgence of the far right in Europe may be partly a result of them tapping into this seeming fury about all aspects of current life. Moreover, as Williams pointed out, writ large on a world stage, politicians like U.S. president Donald Trump or Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban may have found ways to exploit such anger and vent this unmediated fury for political effect.

That is certainly food for thought. So, are we in the latest ‘cycle of anger’? If so, a silver lining in this dark cloud must surely be that this anger will at some point begin to decline. The challenge is really trying to pin down when that will be.

Dr. Steven Woodbridge is Senior Lecturer in History at Kingston University

(Images: WikiMedia Commons)

 

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Down and Out? The Decline of the British National Party

The recent local Municipal and Mayoral elections in England on May 3rd saw the far right British National Party (BNP) lose its last elected district Councillor, Brian Parker, who sat on Pendle Borough Council in Lancashire. After serving three terms in office, Parker chose not to stand again, and the party could not find a candidate to replace him in the contest. For observers, it said much about the current state of the BNP.

BNP-rosette-

A number of media commentators and anti-fascist activists have taken great satisfaction from this. Nick Lowles, for example, of the campaigning group Hope Not Hate, issued a statement saying the the BNP had been ‘finished for a while’ as a political force in Britain but its demise was now ‘official’.

Indeed, in many ways, the BNP, now under the leadership of Adam Walker, a former teacher with a criminal conviction, has declined dramatically in recent years, and is seemingly on the point of collapse. In fact, some estimates put the present membership of the BNP as low as 300, which is a major drop from the 10,000 or so the party could once claim under the previous leader, Nick Griffin. In the last General Election in Britain, the BNP could only manage to field 10 candidates, who received an average vote of just 0.9%.

Placed into historical context, the recent decline of the BNP is even more marked. Originally founded in 1982 by John Tyndall, who had previously led the National Front during the 1970s, the BNP spent much of the 1980s and 1990s struggling to have an impact or make any significant electoral headway. Although the party won a single local Council seat in London’s East End during the early 1990s, it quickly lost it, and Tyndall’s reputation as an inflexible ‘racial nationalist’ with a suspicion of ‘electioneering’ did not help matters.

Nick Griffin VE Day

This appeared to change after Tyndall lost a leadership contest to Griffin in 1999. Griffin (see photo), a former Cambridge University graduate, set out to ‘modernize’ the party and move it away from its ‘neo-Nazi’ image. In the first decade of the 21st century, this new and more professional approach appeared to be working. The BNP became Britain’s most prominent and well-known far right party, winning up to 50 local Municipal Council seats, various Parish Council seats, and even a seat on the London Assembly in 2008. Even more shockingly, nearly 1 million votes cast for the party resulted in the BNP gaining two Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in 2009. Against the odds, Griffin had managed to make the BNP into the most electorally successful extreme right party in British post-war history.

Historians of the far right watched all this with growing alarm. Was Britain now echoing similar patterns of growth in extreme right support found elsewhere in Europe? For a while, it appeared that a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances in Britain – economic problems, allegations of sleaze in Parliament, and continued panics over migration (often fuelled by the red-top newspapers) – would help the BNP make an even more dramatic ‘breakthrough’ at national Parliamentary level. The party itself had high hopes this would happen in the 2010 General Election, and mounted a huge propaganda effort.

bnp-election-poster-april-2010_w

But, thankfully, it did not win any seats, and since then – over the course of the last eight years – the BNP has seen infighting, loss of members and income, and serious fragmentation. In 2014, the party lost both of its MEPs, and Nick Griffin himself was also ejected out of his own party. In some ways, the BNP was only kept afloat by a series of big individual donations from elderly former members.

One consequence of all this has been the growth of numerous rival parties and groups to the BNP on the extreme right of the political spectrum, and a greater preparedness by far right activists and (in some cases) ex-BNP members to dismiss the electoral road and return back to a form of ‘street’ politics and direct confrontation with the state. Tellingly, Griffin has become very active in other countries, developing links with more explicitly neo-Nazi far right parties and figures in nations such as Hungary.

Moreover, it is now clear that some elements of the British far right, disappointed by the seeming failure of ‘ballot box’ parties like the BNP, are increasingly attracted to neo-Nazi terrorism. In late 2016, for example, the activities of a group called ‘National Action’ were sufficiently worrying that the Home Secretary decided to ban the group under terror legislation. Furthermore, as Mark Rowley, the outgoing assistant commissioner of the London Metropolitan police, commented earlier this year (in February, 2018), the extreme right terror threat is now ‘significant and concerning’.

Turning back to the BNP, the loss of its last Councillor is evidently a big blow to what is left of the party, and the BNP has tried to put a brave face on the loss. A BNP spokesman told the British media: ‘Brian Parker is the most successful BNP Councillor ever, serving three terms. We wish him well in his retirement’. The same spokesman also claimed the party still had ‘dozens’ of Councillors on Parish Councils: ‘Because our members are true patriots, they are honoured to serve their communities in the much under-appreciated positions as community, parish and town councillors. Over the years we have found that other political parties and indeed the media disgracefully discount these essential unpaid roles and are obsessed with paid positions only’.

One suspects that we have not yet seen the last of the BNP and, albeit in highly diminished form, it will hobble on, waiting in the wings to ruthlessly exploit any new uncertainties or economic crises that are bound to come in post-Brexit Britain.

Dr. Steven Woodbridge is Senior Lecturer in History at Kingston University

(Images: WikiMedia Commons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fears and Volunteers: Kingston and the General Strike of 1926

Just over ninety years ago this month, in May, 1926, Britain experienced a General Strike, called by the Trades Union Congress (T.U.C), and – for a few days at least – ‘normal’ life in the country was put on hold. In a previous blog I explored some of the impact of this strike on Surbiton. We can also trace some of the effects of the strike on nearby Kingston, as some of the official activities associated with trying to respond to the dispute embraced both towns.

The 1926 General Strike

The strike, which lasted from 3rd-12th May, saw ’emergency measures’ being put in place in Kingston from day one of the dispute (Monday 3rd).  Rightly or wrongly, there were genuine fears held by some members of the local town council that law and order might somehow break down and serious food shortages would occur. A representative from the central government came down to the Municipal Offices at Kingston and, with the assistance of the Mayor and the Town Clerk, the foundations were laid out for how the local network of the government’s ‘Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies’ (O.M.S.) and its volunteers could be organised to ensure food supplies and the maintenance of existing services.

An appeal was issued for more local volunteers in Kingston, who were asked to register at the Town Hall and other local Municipal Offices. It was decided that the most urgent requirements were for assistance in transport by road and rail, and the appeal stated that ‘offers of the use of motor vehicles will be especially welcome’.

Over the next two days (4th-5th May), the Town Hall was, according to the local Surrey Comet newspaper, ‘besieged by volunteers eager to help in the present crisis’. The paper noted that it was emphasised by the officials that ‘nothing in the nature of any attempt at strike-breaking was desired, the only purpose of the organisation being to maintain absolutely essential services’. In fact, in the Kingston district, by the Wednesday morning (5th May), a thousand volunteers had been registered, with the work divided up into clerical duties, motor-driving and general labour. As well as the main local police, the official ‘Special Constabulary’ was also called out for extra policing duties and used the Kingston Public Library’s lecture hall as their temporary headquarters. A number of volunteers were also enrolled as ‘Special Constables’, and equipped with emergency powers to detain troublemakers if necessary.

By 8th May, the Surrey Comet itself had been reduced in size and could only be published as an emergency edition. The paper’s mechanical printing staff, while showing loyalty to their Trade Union, had still allowed a special shorter version of the newspaper to come out, containing brief items of news about the progress of the strike. The Comet also posted news updates outside its offices in Clarence Street in Kingston.

The 1926 General Strike bus

The first two or three days did see some overcrowding on buses and considerable activity by volunteer car drivers, and the very few trains that ran into Waterloo were also very full. Overall, however, as with Surbiton, Kingston remained relatively quiet during the strike, with little sign that the lives of Kingstonians were being seriously effected or disrupted. As the Comet noted in its emergency edition: ‘There has been nothing in the nature of disorder in this district. The men as a rule have been loyal to their Unions, and have complied with the instructions given, though in many instances with very great reluctance’.

At the local utility depots in Kingston, there were some signs of tension, but nothing had really interfered with the supply of power to the town. Kingston Gas Company had managed to retain a full staff at work and had a good supply of coal, even though customers were still urged to make ‘greatest economy of use’. At the electricity plant, things were a bit more pressured, but still calm. Many of the workers at the electricity station had joined the strike, and had been replaced by 50 volunteers. Mr. T.A. Kingham, the Kingston Borough Electrical Engineer, admitted to the local press that he was having ‘a very strenuous time’, being practically chained to his office owing to depleted staff, but he was nevertheless ‘quite optimistic as to being able to keep up the supply of current’. He said he had been able to secure an adequate number of volunteers to ensure continuity of current.

Meanwhile, the local Conservative M.P for Kingston, Mr. F. G. Penny, issued an appeal to every citizen to ‘stand fast and be calm’ and to do ‘all in their power to assist the Prime Minister [Stanley Baldwin] in the very grave and anxious days which are undoubtedly before us’. He said he hoped ‘reason will prevail’ and a satisfactory solution would be found to end the dispute. Penny was also enrolled by the Mayor of Kingston as a temporary Special Constable, and immediately reported for duty.

Arguably one of the clearest signs of the strike in the town could be seen in the series of evening meetings arranged by the Kingston Strike Committee in conjunction with the local Kingston Labour Party. This series of meetings came to a climax on the first Saturday of the strike, when a ‘massed demonstration’ of the strikers of Kingston, Surbiton and Teddington was held in Kingston Market Place, in the centre of the town.

Estimated to be 1,000 in number, the crowd of strikers, which included men and women, heard a series of platform speakers. As the Surrey Comet noted: ‘Practically every speaker urged the strikers to keep calm and go about their legitimate duties as pickets and in other capacities in such a manner as not to arouse others to rowdyism, and to refrain from looting’.

In hindsight, there was very little likelihood of ‘rowdyism’ and looting breaking out in Kingston. The evidence suggests that many strikers were keen to get back to work as soon as possible, and there was probably a sense of relief when the T.U.C. called off the General Strike just a few days later.

Dr. Steven Woodbridge is Senior Lecturer in History at Kingston University

(Images: WikiMedia Commons)

 

 

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Volunteers and Vehicles: Surbiton and the General Strike of 1926

In May, 1926, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called a General Strike in Britain and, for about nine days (from 3rd-12th May), it appeared to many people that the country’s industrial relations had reached a low-point. The Armed Forces were put on alert by Stanley Baldwin’s government and troops were stationed at docks, electricity stations, and with food convoys.

The government also made use of the ‘Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies’ (O.M.S.), a voluntary network that had been indirectly created by the Home Office for use in precisely such an industrial emergency.

In hindsight, it all proved to be a very ‘British’ and mild affair. While various factories saw mass pickets at their gates and the transport system was seriously impacted in some of the major urban areas, in other parts of the country life carried on relatively normally and things remained surprisingly calm and quiet. There were no major shortages of food (as some people had feared) and the predictions of alarmist commentators at the time that the nation would somehow slip into turmoil and ‘Red’ revolution proved to be unfounded.

Special_Committee_of_the_General_Council_of_the_Trades_Union_Congress

In many parts of the nation, the strikers became fed up after just a few days and slowly drifted back to work. A special delegation from the TUC (see photo) eventually went to Downing Street and negotiated a ‘peace deal’ with the Conservative Prime Minister.

While there has been some research on how Kingston-on-Thames fared during the 1926 Strike, much less has been written about the impact of the event on the nearby town of Surbiton. So, how did Surbiton and its local municipal officials and inhabitants respond to the Strike? What arrangements were put in place for what some local dignitaries feared would be a long and drawn-out affair?

One key feature of the response of the local authorities was to issue what the Surbiton Times newspaper (on May 7th) called a ‘strongly-worded appeal for volunteers’, citizens who could offer themselves up on a temporary basis, and would act under the authority of the national government to help in the ‘feeding of the people’; they would be drawn from ‘all classes, irrespective of their views on the subject of the strike’.

A few days later, the local press gave details on the ‘strike measures’ that were enacted in Surbiton to cope with the national dispute. The chairman of Surbiton District Council, Mr. F.B. Ray, JP, explained the various measures that had been taken ‘to keep conditions of life normal during the Strike’. According to Ray, recruitment of local volunteers under the government’s scheme for maintaining efficient services had ‘proceeded well’, and ‘640 Surbitonians had volunteered’. Between 150 and 160 Special Constables had been enrolled and ‘valuable work’ had been accomplished ‘though the medium of a voluntary car service to enable business people to reach their work in London and elsewhere’.

Indeed, evidence suggests that local members of the National Citizens Union (formerly the Middle Classes Union), in conjunction with the O.M.S., were very active in organising the ‘Voluntary Car Service’ in the town. In particular, Mr. G. Owens-Beatty, of Beaufort Road in Surbiton, and who was a leading member of the National Citizens Union, appears to have put considerable time and energy into organising a large team of motor-car owners in Surbiton, with a special registration post at Surbiton train station. Commuters who were unable to catch trains into work due to the strike action on the railways were thus able to try and get a lift from the volunteer motor-car owners instead.

Sessions House Ewell Road Surbiton 1936

This ‘voluntarism’ in Surbiton was also seen in other ways, and local middle-class women seemed to be especially keen to encourage what they saw as a ‘community’ spirit during a time of emergency. Mrs. Amy Woodgate, for example, who was a member of Surbiton District Council (and chair of the Kingston and Surbiton Branch of the Women Citizens’ Association) helped register volunteers at Surbiton Council offices in Ewell Road (see photo), and the Association itself also registered as a body for volunteer service.

Similarly, to give another example, Mrs. W.A. Clowes took charge of a ‘rest house’ for the volunteer Special Constables on Surbiton Hill where, ‘assisted by a number of willing lady helpers’, she provided what the Surbiton Times called ‘a real home from home for the gallant volunteer policemen, who are intensely grateful for the benefits they derived from the hostel’.

On May 21st, the Surbiton Times, in an editorial which surveyed what had happened during the strike at local level, expressed great satisfaction about what it felt were the qualities on display by local people ‘in the face of direct adversity’, and proclaimed grandly: ‘The General Strike of 1926 will go down to history as an event which perhaps more than the Great War itself revealed the wonderful fortitude and resourcefulness of the British nation’. The newspaper’s editor also indulged in some rather stereotypical language and highlighted what he claimed was ‘that splendid spirit the true Britisher always displays in times of emergency’, when ‘thousands of volunteers came forward to render what assistance they could to prevent every-day life from becoming stagnant’.

While more research is required on the impact of the General Strike in Surbiton, the brief details above can perhaps provide us with some initial insights into the effects of the industrial action, and the response of various local people to this in the town.

Dr. Steven Woodbridge is Senior Lecturer in History at Kingston University

(Images: WikiMedia Commons)

 

 

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Dangerously Dictatorial? The nature of Viktor Orban’s ‘illiberal democracy’

Hungary’s General Election on 8th April, 2018, saw Prime Minister Viktor Orban win a landslide victory, giving him his third consecutive term in office. It is a major, but also very disturbing, achievement, and also creates all sorts of difficulties for the European Union (Hungary has been a member of the EU since May, 2004). Indeed, international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) pointed to the ‘intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric’ and ‘media bias’ seen during the election campaign.

Viktor Orbán

As a historian, I have watched Orban’s rise with grim fascination, and it came as no surprise to see that far right leaders from across western Europe queued up to congratulate Orban on his re-election victory. Gert Wilders, for example, who is leader of the anti-Muslim ‘Party for Freedom’ in the Netherlands, tweeted his congratulations to Orban on ‘this excellent result’.

Similarly, Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National in France, expressed her satisfaction at the success of Orban and his Fidesz party. Le Pen tweeted: ‘The inversion of values and the mass immigration that is propagated by the EU has been rejected once again’.

Extreme right activists on social media forums in Britain, Italy and Germany have also proclaimed delight at the Hungarian result, and see Orban as a ‘heroic’ figure, an assessment also shared by leading bloggers for the ‘alt.right’. But what is it about Orban that so pleases rightwing extremists in western Europe? A brief exploration of his key governing ideas and policies can perhaps offer some important clues.

When he studied law and political science as a student at University in Budapest in the early 1980s, Orban could plausibly be described at that stage as a liberal who merely wanted free elections and to see Soviet troops leave his country. Over the years, however, he has increasingly moved further and further to the right, has become extremely eurosceptic, and some commentators now suspect him of having worryingly autocratic tendencies.

Viktor Orban appears to be the latest example of a new type of ‘semi-dictator’ in central and eastern Europe who have emerged since the collapse of communism in 1989-91, controversial figures who present themselves as ‘strongmen’ and dedicated patriots (Vladimir Putin in Russia is something of a role model for them here). They are mainly nationalist politicians who have often exploited an ill-defined notion that their country is somehow being ‘short-changed’ and treated unfairly; often, this translates into a form of conservative, anti-immigrant populism – a xenophobic type of politics which flirts dangerously with fascist-style ideas but, at the same time, retains an image of democratic legitimacy, with plenty of references to the ‘people’ and the will of the ‘majority’.

Such leaders present historians with a big challenge: how should we label and categorize this new brand of populist politician? These men are not straightforward ‘fascist’ dictators, but neither can they be seen as ‘democratic’ in the usual and conventional meaning of the term. Orban himself has referred to his approach as ‘illiberal democracy’. A parliamentary institutional framework, plurality, opposition parties and the trappings of a constitution are all retained in Hungary but, at the same time, signs of authoritarian behaviour by the Prime Minister and his government can increasingly be detected.

Much of Hungary’s public media, for example, has come under the direct control of Orban’s government, while what is left of Hungary’s free media, especially any independent newspapers, have been subjected to harassment campaigns, intimidation, and other hostile pressures from the ruling party. Independent institutions and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in civil society have been targeted and seriously devalued. In fact, from 2010 onwards, Orban persuaded the Hungarian parliament to accept a new constitution, which he said would be based on Christian Conservatism and give priority to ‘family’ and ‘nation’. The new arrangements arguably weakened the country’s Constitutional Court and its ability to check the government’s growing powers, and serious questions can now be asked by commentators about the rule of law and whether Hungary today still has a genuinely free judiciary. Human rights have also been denigrated as ‘liberal’ and a tool of outsiders.

Equally alarming, and this is what has probably been especially attractive to western far right leaders, Orban has also appropriated some of the language and ideas of the more explicit form of fascism found in Hungary’s ‘Jobbik’ movement (the ‘Movement for a Better Hungary’), the country’s main far right party. While this strategy has undermined the growth and appeal of Jobbik, it is a highly dangerous and risky move by the Prime Minister: it has brought some of Jobbik’s ideas very much into the mainstream of the nation’s politics and, frankly, legitimised them. Indeed, Orban has emphasised the need for a ‘Hungarian’ Hungary, and has vowed to defend the country and its core Christian values from (to use his words) the ‘threat’ of a ‘mixed population’ with no sense of ‘identity’.

He has regularly played the ‘race’ card, stating that he seeks to protect Hungary (and Europe more generally) from an ‘invasion’ of ‘Muslim immigrants’ and ‘terrorists’ (he often conflates the two). The idea that Hungary is under ‘siege’ from ‘outsiders’ has evidently helped Orban create a sense of crisis in the nation, and enabled him to portray himself as a ‘strong’ leader who will steer his country through an emergency situation.

Victor Orban electoral posters illegalAs far as Orban is concerned, the EU itself has been too ‘soft’ on immigration, so he has been forced to seize the initiative and show other EU states what needs to be done. Significantly, the 2018 General Election saw Orban’s party make extensive use of giant billboards (see photo), with an eerily familiar image on an anti-immigration poster: a long and wide queue of migrants. This was a poster that was undoubtedly influenced by the now infamous and controversial ‘Breaking Point’ poster used by Britain’s eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) during the 2016 Brexit campaign.

Moreover, although he has denied this in interviews, Orban appears to be resurrecting a form of ugly racism which many commentators hoped had disappeared from modern Hungary: anti-Semitism. In 2017, the philanthropist George Soros became a particular target in Fidesz propaganda, and this was notably evident again in the 2018 election campaign. Soros was portrayed by Fidesz as a puppet-master, secretly pulling the strings of other people and organisations from behind the scenes (a classic anti-Semitic and conspiratorial idea).

Hungary election poster on Soros

Another manifestation of this racist theme in Orban’s campaign was to associate George Soros with a deliberate ‘plot’ to cut border fences and encourage more immigration into Hungary (see photo). There has also been a sustained campaign by the government to de-legitimize the Central European University (CEU), an institution which has partly benefited from finance provided by Soros. Tellingly, within days of his 2018 re-election, an emboldened Orban announced that he would push through new ‘Stop Soros’ laws.

Some commentators have taken to calling Viktor Orban ‘The Viktator’ and, despite his vigorous anti-Communism, he has been able to tap into a kind of nostalgia on the part of many Hungarians for the old pre-1989 days of ‘social order’ and a strong state. It may even be the case that some of Orban’s oldest voters look back fondly to the days of Miklos Horthy (1868-1957), who adopted the title ‘Regent’ and ruled Hungary as a rightwing dictatorship from 1920-1944.

Whether Orban is able to consolidate his own personal power even further will be interesting to see. Whatever happens, he will be watched with alarm by other EU members, but with relish by a whole range of extreme right movements across Europe. It is no exaggeration to say that Hungary now faces some very dark days ahead.

Dr. Steven Woodbridge is Senior Lecturer in History at Kingston University

(Photos: WikiMedia Commons)

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Upcoming British Library talks explore controversial aspects of America’s recent past

The British Library’s spring and early summer season includes a number of talks devoted to some controversial aspects of America’s recent history, such as the Vietnam war, the roots of ‘America First’, the evolution of Anglo-American relations, the impact of scandals on presidential power, and the role of ‘race’ in U.S. society.

Vietnam soldier 2

The Vietnam War Q&A: On Tuesday, 10th April, at 19.15-20.30 pm, filmmaker Lynn Novick, who is the long-term collaborating partner of Ken Burns, will discuss and showcase excerpts from their recent critically acclaimed 10-part 18-hour documentary, The Vietnam War.

Sarah Churchwell: Behold, America: On Wednesday, 9th May, at 19.15-20.30 pm, there will be a history provided of ‘America First’, one of President Donald Trump’s campaign slogans, but a concept which has a long and dark history rooted in ‘100 per cent Americanism’ and interwar isolationism.

Secret Affairs: Spies and the Special Relationship: On Tuesday, 15th May, at 19.00-20.00 pm, Gordon Corera will deliver the annual D.W. Bryant Lecture and explore how the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and America’s intelligence agencies has evolved, describing some of the challenges that lie ahead.

Donald-Trump-US-flagSurvivors: American Presidents and the Politics of Scandal: On Tuesday, 12th June, at 19.15-20.30 pm, there will be a discussion chaired by the author and broadcaster Gavin Esler on the various political scandals that have hit the White House over the years, and how some presidents have fared (Nixon resigned, while Clinton survived). Will Trump be engulfed in scandal?

From Black Lives Matter to the White Power Presidency: Race and Class in the Trump Era: On Friday, 22nd June, at 17.00-18.30 pm, a leading scholar of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM), Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, will discuss BLM, and race and class in America during the age of Trump.

British Library

Black Lives Matter in the US and UK Today: An Activist Panel: On Saturday, 23rd June, at 18.00-19.30 pm, American and British Black Lives Matter leaders will talk about why they are part of BLM, their goals and methods, and the challenges facing the movement today.

Further details of all the above sessions can be obtained from the British Library, Euston Road, central London (located between Euston and Kings Cross train stations), or you can visit:

www.bl.uk/whats-on

 

 

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