Rebel Footprints is effectively two books woven into one. First, in response to the statues celebrating imperialist and ruling class men that dominate the streets of London, David Rosenberg has written an exciting radical history of the capital. In addition, interspersed throughout the lively prose are delightful practical walking guides that the reader can use to explore the rousing accounts of resistance and rebellion Rosenberg has unearthed.
Focusing on the hundred years following the widespread disappointment of the so-called Great Reform Act of 1832, the book honours those who refused to accept the poverty-ridden, undemocratic status quo and who, as one newspaper said of Labour MP George Lansbury, were ‘impatient to put the world right’.
Refreshingly, Rosenberg balances familiar names, organisations and protests with less known history. Who knew that in response to the huge Chartist demonstration on Kennington Common in 1848 the Queen was evacuated to the Isle of Wight and 3,000 soldiers were sent to London? The dissidents of Clerkenwell and Bloomsbury get a chapter apiece – but so does the relatively little-known socialist agitation in Battersea, which led to the election of London’s first black mayor and first Communist MP. Turning to the women’s vote, Rosenberg skirts past Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union to highlight the work of her pacifist, class-conscious daughter Sylvia and the East London Federation of Suffragettes.
Rosenberg is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, who is particularly good at showing the myriad links between different campaigns. For example, as well as agitating for votes for women with the Women’s Freedom League, the vegetarian activist Charlotte Despard also set up a community centre, campaigning for socialist causes and Irish Home Rule.
‘London remains a vibrant and rebellious city,’ Rosenberg concludes, pointing to the Occupy camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral and ‘the uprisings’ in Tottenham in the 1980s and 2011. With a Tory majority government elected in May, Radical Footprints will hopefully inspire people to fight the next five years of austerity-driven class warfare.
#236: The War Racket: Palestine Action on shutting down arms factories ● Paul Rogers on the military industrial complex ● Alessandra Viggiano and Siobhán McGuirk on gender identity laws in Argentina ● Dan Renwick on the 5th anniversary of Grenfell ● Juliet Jacques on Zvenigora ● Laetitia Bouhelier on a Parisian community cinema ● The winning entry of the Dawn Foster Memorial Essay Prize ● Book reviews and regular columns ● Much more!
And you choose how much to pay for your subscription...
Owen Hatherley uncovers the imperial nostalgia fuelling proposals for a new geopolitical union
James Poulter looks at transformations in far-right organising and influence and how anti-fascists can respond
Rizwaan Sabir on discovering - and overcoming - the structures of state power and oppression.
Past successes and failures of trade unions can inform and inspire strategies for today, writes Jane Holgate
Claire Biddles reviews a radical rethinking of queer history and politics
Jake Woodier explores the purported widespread havoc of herbicide Glyphosate, industrial scientific sabotage and the destructive agricultural system