Social Science blog

Exploring Social Science at the British Library

90 posts categorized "Archival Research"

13 March 2024

Consulting Official Publications collections after the cyber attack.

 

This post, written by the Library's Content Lead for Official and Government Publications describes how readers can access official publications in the wake of the cyber-attack on the Library in October 2023.   Information about the restoration of services can be found on the British Library Knowledge Matters blog, and details of opening hours and current services are on the Library's website.

 

Following the cyber-attack on the British Library’s IT estate in October 2023, access to our official publications collections is limited, but will gradually improve.  At present, you can only consult print and microform materials that are either shelved in the Social Sciences Reading Room at St Pancras or in the St Pancras basements. In the reading room we have a selection of historic UK parliamentary and legal texts including:

Commons and Lords journals
The Official Report (Hansard) and Standing Committee Debates
Public General Acts, Local and Personal Acts and Private Acts
UK Statutory Instruments
House of Commons papers and bills on microfiche, 1801-2004/05
House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century reprint edited by Sheila Lambert

 

Reading room

Official publications on the open shelves in the Social Sciences Reading Room at St Pancras.

 

Basement 1 at St Pancras holds an eclectic mix of UK, US and United Nations publications in print which, in a leap back to the 20th century, can be ordered on paper tickets:

Bound sets of Commons and Lords papers and bills from 1801-
United States Congressional Serial Set 1817/18-1979/90
Electoral registers, 2002-
United Nations documents 1946-2012

 

Official texts were historically catalogued and shelved in series, not at the individual document level. Fortunately hard copy indexes are still available in the reading room and these will enable you to record the correct citation in the series so that the library assistants can locate your chosen document on the shelf.

 

Commons

Hansard: the official record of parliamentary debates in the House of Commons.

 

The St Pancras basements also hold a treasure trove of official materials on microform which can be consulted in lieu of electronic sources, such as:

The depository collection of US federal government and Congressional papers, 1982- on microfiche arranged by Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) code
US Congressional hearings on microfiche
Historic electoral registers for England, 1832-1937 on microfilm
HMSO controller’s library on microfilm
Government publications relating to Kenya, 1897-1963 on microfilm
Annual departmental reports relating to Sierra Leone, 1893-1961 on microfilm

 

There are printed indexes to these sets in the reading room that will help you to find the correct document codes and reel numbers so that you can place orders. There is also a card index of official microforms available for consultation.

 

Now for the bad news. Apart from these print and microform sets, all other UK, foreign national government, and intergovernmental organisation (IGO) publications are two hundred miles away on our Boston Spa site in Yorkshire. UK departmental publications and electoral registers 1832-2001 in print are kept in an automated store and cannot be retrieved as yet, although restoring this service is a priority.  However the historic collections of foreign national government and IGO documents are in static stores, and we aim to restart delivery around the end of March. You can find their shelfmarks in the interim catalogue or in the printed copy of the British Museum Library catalogue in the Social Sciences reading room.

 

Edinburgh council

An example of the electoral registers available at the Library.

 

Our world class collection of subscribed electronic resources is inaccessible at the moment, including full-text document collections such as the US Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994, Congressional Record to 1997,  Congressional Hearings, 1823-1979, US Territorial Papers, the US Foreign Broadcast Information Service, UK Parliamentary Papers, UK State Papers Online 16th-18th centuries, and British Online Archives databases, but in many cases there are print or microform alternatives available.  Originals of digitised UK government archives are available at the National Archives, Kew.  Recent UK, IGO and foreign national government materials can of course be found freely available on the internet.  Large and influential IGOs such as the United Nations, the IMF and the World Bank now make their electronic libraries available free as a public good:

World Bank Open Knowledge Repository 
United Nations Official Document System  
IMF eLibrary 

 

You will find records for electronic UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland government documents acquired through non-print legal deposit before April 2023 in the interim catalogue, but there is no access to the documents themselves at present. We are aiming to restore view access in June or July this year, so watch this space. However, prior to the cyber incident we received feeds of records with hot links to freely available documents published by the European Union, the US federal government and the Irish Republic government. These links work and you can view the documents from within the catalogue.

 

Access to full text of Scottish government and Parliament documents is available from the National Library of Scotland catalogue (Library Search). Queen’s University Belfast hosts the Northern Ireland Official Publications Archive, a repository containing Northern Ireland government documents. For current UK government and Parliamentary documentation you can of course search Gov.UK and the UK Parliament website.

 

Navigating the Library’s historic print and microform collections of government and IGO documents is challenging because they were catalogued at the series level (print) or set level (microform). To trace the correct citation of a document within a series or microform set you need to consult a range of printed indexes. Please ask our friendly and efficient reference team for help. They can be contacted in person in the Social Sciences reading room or by email at [email protected]

 

 

 

 

11 July 2023

Animals and social justice: readings on animals in literature

From 7 March – 9 July 2023 the British Library Treasures Gallery has had a small exhibition ‘From the Margins to the Mainstream: Animal Rights in Britain’, which follows the progression of animal rights from the enlightenment period until the present day.

 

To complement the exhibition guest Kim Stallwood, a highly respected international figure in animal welfare, has written a series of four blog posts of his own thoughts and opinions on key themes connected with animal rights in Britain and around the world. The articles are based on his own reading and research and aim to highlight some of the books held at the British Library that have helped shape his view. In 2022, the Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive and a few of the items from the collection are included in the exhibition.

 

The four posts in this series focus on ‘Animals and the Climate Emergency’, ‘Animals and Feminism’, ‘Animals and the Law’, ‘Animals and Social Justice’.

 

16-may-Composite_Kim-Stallwood

Copyright: Paul Knight, Image Courtesy of Kim Stallwood (2023)

 

Guest writer Kim Stallwood writes his final guest blog about books held at the British Library that have helped shape his understanding of the importance of animal rights in social justice:

 

Janina Duszejko lives alone in rural Poland near the Czech border. She teaches in a local school in the nearby town. She loves nature, particularly the woods where she lives, and supplements her income by maintaining nearby cabins owned by part-time summer residents. A vegetarian and supporter of animal rights, she mourns the disappearance of her two beloved dogs. She perseveres with her studies in astrology and continues to translate with her friend Dizzy the English poet William Blake (1757 – 1827). Studying helps her to grieve. She believes it may reveal what happened to her dogs. Or, indeed, the local hunters dead in suspicious circumstances.

 

Duszejko is the protagonist in the novel Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead (Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2018, shelfmark DRT ELD.DS.325469), winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2018. The book was originally published in Tokarczuk’s native language, Polish, in 2009 called Prowadź Swój Pług Prez Kości Umarłych (Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych, Olga Tokarczuk, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2009, shelfmark YF.2010.a.22348). Tokarczuk is recognised for her ‘narrative imagination that with encyclopaedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.’

        

Drive your plow over the bones of the dead cover

Polish Drive your plow Cover

Front covers of the English version of Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead and original Polish version Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych by Olga Tokarczuk. Credit: English: Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2018, shelfmark ELD.DS.325469 and Polish: Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych, Olga Tokarczuk, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2009, shelfmark YF.2010.a.22348

 

Novels entertain with their narrative imaginations. They engage readers with an infinite variety of human experiences. But, considering this is a guest post for The British Library’s Social Science blog, what has Duszejko’s imagined life got to do with animals and social justice? 

 

I choose not to use, as may be expected, an acclaimed nonfiction book or a trusted textbook to explore animals and social justice. I pick a novel instead. Novels often explore themes of social justice. Think Dickens or Dostoevsky, Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. But what of fiction about animals and social justice? Perhaps few people would consider the plight of animals a social justice issue. But clearly both the prize-winning author, Tokarczuk, and her narrator Janina, do. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is in the tradition of novels engaging readers with the infinite variety of human-animal experiences. There is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (Black Beauty, Anna Sewell, London: Oxford University Press, 1931, shelfmark 012199.e.4/49). Hackenfeller's Ape by Brigid Brophy (Hackenfeller's Ape, Brigid Brophy, London: Secker & Warburg, 1964, shelfmark X.907/1310). The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary (The Roots of Heaven, Romain Gary, pseud. Romain Kassef, London: White Lion Publishers, 1973, shelfmark X.989/19402). A Tiger for Malgudi by R K Narayan (A tiger for Malgudi, R.K. Narayan, London: Heinemann, 1983, shelfmark Nov.48695). Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons by J M Coetzee (Elizabeth Costello: eight lessons, J.M. Coetzee, Leicester: W.F. Howes, 2004, shelfmark LT.2013.x.1797), which won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay (The Animals in That Country, Laura Jean McKay, Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe, 2020, shelfmark ELD.DS.497335), winner of the Victorian Prize for Literature and Victorian Premier's Prize for Fiction in Australia in 2021.

 

Book spines close

Book spine covers of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Hackenfeller's Ape by Brigid Brophy, The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary, A Tiger for Malgudi by R K Narayan, and Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons by J M Coetzee. Credit: Black Beauty, Anna Sewell, London: Oxford University Press, 1931, shelfmark 012199.e.4/49. Hackenfeller's Ape, Brigid Brophy, London: Secker & Warburg, 1964, shelfmark X.907/1310, The Roots of Heaven, Romain Gary, pseud. Romain Kassef, London: White Lion Publishers, 1973, shelfmark X.989/19402, A tiger for Malgudi,  R.K. Narayan, London: Heinemann, 1983, shelfmark Nov.48695, and Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons, J.M. Coetzee, Leicester: W.F. Howes, 2004, shelfmark LT.2013.x.1797.

 

As you can see, animals are not an alien species to questions of social justice. Justice is sought in these books as imagined in society, respectively for horses; an imagined nonhuman primate sent into space; African elephants; a wild-caught tiger performing in a circus ring; and animals generally. Sewell and Narayan imagine the lives of animals and their stories as told by a horse and a tiger. The others are from our human perspective. I am fascinated by how novels with animal protagonists provoke our imaginations and jump-start our minds. (But, what of George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) you ask? I refuse to include it. It is not a book about them. It is about us.)

 

The Animals in That Country Cover

Front cover of The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay. Credit The Animals in That Country, Laura Jean McKay, Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe, 2020, shelfmark ELD.DS.497335

 

In Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Tokarczuk writes a whodunit served with an order of animal ethics. Duszejko speculates that the deer in the woods and the foxes freed from a fur farm have killed the hunters in revenge. Duszejko describes how Dizzy finds a video they watch on the Internet:

A handsome Stag attacks a hunter. We see it standing on its hind legs, striking the Man with its front hooves. The hunter falls over, but the Animal doesn’t stop, it stamps on him in a fury, it doesn’t give him a chance to crawl away on his knees. (Tokarczuk, 2019, p.224)

 

‘The World Turned Upside Down’ is a folkloric tradition where songs and art reverse power roles from human to human and human to animal. Women serenade men and give them roses. Working-class men instruct upper-class men to do manual work. Horses sit in carriages drawn by men, and even animal to animal when sheep chase lions.

 

Would animals do to us what we do to them? Would they fight back? (As they do in Gene Stone and Jon Doyle’s The Awareness (The Awareness, Gene Stone, Jon Doyle, New York: The Stone Press, 2014), when all animals suddenly gain conscious awareness of human domination.) Do they resist? What if humans and animals and their place in society were reversed? Is this what is meant by animals and social justice?

 

The Awareness

Front cover of The Awareness by Gene Stone and Jon Doyle. Credit: The Awareness, Gene Stone, Jon Doyle, New York: The Stone Press, 2014

 

In this series of guest posts, I have explained why animals matter in the climate emergency. Industrial agriculture may have provided us with cheap food in a lifetime but we need to move away from chemical-dependent, intensive factory farming to reduce the impact of climate change. I described the spaghetti junction of patriarchy, sexism, racism, capitalism, speciesism, and how the intersection of oppressions maintains its power and control, preventing us from establishing a caring society for all. I argued the greatest challenge facing the animal rights movement is making the moral and legal status of animals a mainstream political issue. Going vegan and speaking out for animals are important steps for people to take. But optional lifestyle choices must be complemented with initiatives that seek institutional, political, and legal change for animals.

 

In short, animal rights is social justice. The animal rights movement is a social justice movement. Novelists know it. So do some advocates. Our work is to make this everyday common sense. Animals are part of society. They deserve social justice.

 

Not wanting to give away what happened to Duszejko’s dogs or reveal any other spoilers, I urge you to read Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.

 

Read books. Change the world.

 

CC-BY Kim Stallwood is a vegan animal rights author and independent scholar. The British Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive in 2020. He is a consultant with Tier im Recht, the Swiss-based animal law organisation, and on the board of directors of the US-based Culture and Animals Foundation.

 

References

Brophy B. (1964) Hackenfeller's Ape, London: Secker & Warburg, shelfmark X.907/1310

 

Coetzee, J.M. (2004) Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons, Leicester: W.F. Howes, shelfmark LT.2013.x.1797

 

Gary R. (1973) The Roots of Heaven, London: White Lion Publishers, shelfmark X.989/19402.

 

Mckay, L. (2020) The Animals in That Country, Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe, shelfmark ELD.DS.497335

 

Narayan, R.K. (1983) A Tiger for Malgudi, London: Heinemann, shelfmark Nov.48695

 

Orwell, G. (1949) Animal farm, London: Secker & Warburg, shelfmark YA.1989.a.17407

 

Sewell, A. (1931) Black Beauty, London: Oxford University Press, shelfmark 012199.e.4/49

 

Stone, G., Doyle J. (2014) The Awareness, New York: The Stone Press

 

Tokarczuk, O. (2009) Prowadź swój pług przez kości umarłych, Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, shelfmark YF.2010.a.22348

 

Tokarczuk, O. translated Lloyd-Jones, A. (2018) Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, shelfmark ELD.DS.325469

22 May 2023

Animals and feminism: readings on the intersection of oppression

From 7 March – 9 July 2023, the British Library Treasures Gallery has a small exhibition ‘From the Margins to the Mainstream: Animal Rights in Britain’, which follows the progression of animal rights from the enlightenment period until the present day.

To complement the exhibition, guest writer Kim Stallwood, a highly respected international figure in animal welfare, has written a series of four blog posts of his own thoughts and opinions on key themes connected with animal rights in Britain and around the world.  The articles are based on his own reading and research and aim to highlight some of the books held by the British Library that have helped shape his view. In 2022, the Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive, and a few of the items from the collection are included in the exhibition.

The four posts in this series focus on ‘Animals and the Climate Emergency’, ‘Animals and Feminism’, ‘Animals and the Law’, ‘Animals and Social Justice’.

 

Guest writer Kim Stallwood writes about books held at the British Library that have helped shape his understanding of the link between feminism and animal rights:

16-may-Composite_Kim-Stallwood

Copyright: Paul Knight, Image Courtesy of Kim Stallwood (2023)

 

Becoming vegan in 1976 began a lifetime’s commitment to living with care, compassion, and a commitment to justice for all, regardless of species. My anger at the animal cruelty that I witnessed around me gave me the confidence to speak out. But, my lack of understanding meant my arguments were often ill-informed and undeveloped. I continue to learn how to express myself in ways that withstand challenges. One way I learn is by turning to books and the authors who write them. These people and the words they write figure prominently in my life. They continue to clarify my thoughts, unravel my feelings, and help me refresh what I put on my dinner plate. Philosophers, academics, artists, novelists, feminists, and even cookbook authors influence how I live and the compassionate world I seek to make.

 

Carol J. Adams is one of those figures who profoundly informs my understanding of social justice and my practice as a social justice advocate. Perhaps more than any other thinker and writer, she links feminism with veganism, uniting them in a progressive agenda regardless of how we see ourselves as separated by gender, age, race, sexual orientation, or species. As author and co-author, editor and co-editor, she has written an impressive library of books and articles (and talks) about feminism, ecofeminism, violence against women, veganism, and spirituality. She established her reputation in 1990 with her groundbreaking book, The Sexual Politics of Meat (The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Critical Theory, Carol J. Adams, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015, shelfmark YKL.2017.a.1903). Its provocative title signals it is neither humorous nor about cooking but as its subtitle indicates a feminist-vegetarian critical theory.

20230426_124213
Front cover of The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams. Credit: The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Critical Theory, Carol J. Adams, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015, shelfmark YKL.2017.a.1903

 

Dominant forces build and maintain the intersection of oppressions, Carol explains. This is the spaghetti junction of patriarchy, sexism, racism, capitalism, speciesism, and more. The intersection of oppressions maintains its power and control, preventing us from establishing a caring society for all. Dominant forces rely upon their ability to encourage division and manufacture competition where neither needs not exist. ‘Dominance functions best in a culture of disconnections and fragmentation,’ Carol writes. ‘Feminism recognizes connections.’

 

Human dominance over animals is nothing but disconnections and fragmentation. Conditioning stops us from seeing a burger as the charred remains of dead animals. Animals are here what Adams refers to the ‘absent referent’. ‘Once the existence of meat,’ Adams explains, ‘is disconnected from the existence of an animal who was killed to become that “meat,” meat becomes unanchored by its original referent (the animal), becoming instead a free-floating image, used often to reflect women’s status as well as animals’.

 

Feminists for animal rights

Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR) Semi-annual Publication, 1994-1995, Add MS 89458/4/91. Credit: Feminists for Animal Rights

 

The cover of The Sexual Politics of Meat includes a visual example of the absent referent. It reproduces a coloured drawing of a naked woman wearing a cowboy hat. ‘What’s your cut?’ she asks. Her body is drawn into cuts of meat to indicate where the rump, loin, rib, and chuck are. The naked woman and the dead animal become synthesised into one. Both are exploited. ‘The woman, animalized; the animal, sexualized,’ Adams writes. ‘That’s the sexual politics of meat.’ After the book’s publication, readers sent Carol many more images, which she collected and incorporated into her presentations. These included sexualised women’s bodies with chicken heads to advertise a restaurant and a woman with a pig’s head laying on her back with her stockinged legs in the air to advertise a pig roast. After collecting these images together Carol published The Pornography of Meat (The Pornography of Meat, Carol J. Adams, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020, shelfmark YC.2022.a.315) first in 2003, then revised and expanded in 2020 with more than 300 sexist and speciesist images.

 

20230426_124234

Front cover of The Pornography of Meat by Carol J. Adams. Credit: The Pornography of Meat, Carol J. Adams, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020, shelfmark YC.2022.a.315

 

After reading Carol’s books, I saw images of animalized women and sexualized animals hitherto invisible to me. Similarly, the greater my care for animals became the more I saw their exploitation everywhere. I also became sensitised to the sexualised way some women portray themselves in some animal rights media stunts and protests. I now see these events as sexist. Their motivation may be to bring attention to animal abuse but they also, consciously or otherwise, perpetuate the exploitation of women. There is no competition between women and animals. I want both to be the focus of social justice. For social justice advocacy to be effective, actions for the freedom of some cannot accidentally or wilfully perpetuate the oppression of others. Meat, for example, should not be served at fundraising events like barbecues for women’s shelters or animal sanctuaries. Social justice demands open hearts and open minds to all those who are oppressed. If you become the focus of any criticism consider it as an opportunity to reflect and ask yourself - am I perpetuating the intersection of oppression or weaving the web of care?

 

Stallwood Writing

Kim Stallwood’s draft paper exploring the influence of eco-feminism on his animal rights practice for the Marti Kheel Conference, 2012, Add MS 89458/4/91. Credit: CC-BY Kim Stallwood

 

But, remember this about social justice: The journey is more important than the destination. Perfection is not a requirement for every step along the way. Of course, as a longstanding vegan, I want everyone to be like me. But is it enough? Living as a vegan is more than just about the food we eat, or the clothes we wear. There is more to being vegan than a nonviolent material lifestyle. It is also about the ideas we have, the words we say, the emotions we feel, and the way we behave. How we speak and behave with others. ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world,’ as Mahatma Gandhi is often credited with saying. The practice of social justice challenges dominant forces and reveals the depths and intricacies that sustain their oppression. Not all of them are always visible. They hide, sometimes presenting themselves as an uncomfortable benevolence. Think of the call to look after you and your family before helping strangers.

 

Yes, we live in a complicated and continuously changing world. We must be vigilant, ready, and unafraid to confront dominant forces whenever they appear. Otherwise, the intersection of oppressions prevails. The web of care stays out of reach. 

 

Read books. Change the world.

 

CC-BY Kim Stallwood is a vegan animal rights author and independent scholar. The British Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive in 2020. He is a consultant with Tier im Recht, the Swiss-based animal law organisation, and on the board of directors of the US-based Culture and Animals Foundation.

 

 

References

 

Adams, C. (2020) The Pornography of Meat, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark YC.2022.a.315

 

Adams, C. (2015) The Sexual Politics of Meat: a feminist-vegetarian critical theory, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark YKL.2017.a.1903

Animals and the climate emergency: readings on the global impact of industrial animal agriculture

From 7 March – 9 July 2023 the British Library Treasures Gallery has a small exhibition ‘From the Margins to the Mainstream: Animal Rights in Britain’, which follows the progression of animal rights from the enlightenment period until the present day.

 

To complement the exhibition Kim Stallwood, a highly respected international figure in animal welfare, has written a series of four guest blog posts of his own thoughts and opinions on key themes connected with animal rights in Britain and around the world. The posts are based on his own reading and research and aim to highlight some of the books held at the British Library that have helped shape his view. In 2022, the Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive and a few of the items from the collection are included in the exhibition.

 

The four posts in this series focus on ‘Animals and the climate emergency’, ‘Animals and Feminism’, ‘Animals and the Law’, ‘Animals and Social Justice’.

 

Guest writer Kim Stallwood writes about books held at the British Library that have helped shape his understanding of the impact of animal agriculture and the need for change:

16-may-Composite_Kim-Stallwood

Copyright: Paul Knight. Image Courtesy of Kim Stallwood (2023)

 

When did a fact become a contradiction? The day I saw a roast chicken as charred remains of a dead animal, not as something delicious to eat. That day my fondness for food collided with my compassion for animals. That was fifty years ago, as I was a student learning how to cook French food and manage fancy restaurants. Instead of opting for work experience in a kitchen with haute cuisine, I spent the summer of 1973 employed in a chicken slaughterhouse.

 

Three years later, I was vegan, working at Compassion In World Farming and protesting against keeping chickens in battery cages too small to spread their wings, and pigs in stalls too narrow to turn around. Back in 1976, I was Compassion’s second full-time employee. The organisation’s notable growth from then to the present, now a pioneering international force for animals, is a reflection of people’s growing interest in food and what happens to it before it is on their plates. But that interest hasn’t resulted in the end of eating animals. The annual global number of animals killed for food increased from almost eight billion in 1961 to more than 70 billion in 2020. More than 1.2 billion farmed animals are killed annually in the UK and 55 billion in the USA.

Picture 1

Selection of leaflets from Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), 1976-2008, Add MS 89458/4/58.  Copyright Compassion in World Farming.  Image Courtesy of Philip Lymbery (2023)

 

Philip Lymbery, Compassion’s Chief Executive, has written about how ‘a growing human population is in a furious competition for food with a burgeoning farm animal population’. We need to rethink the overpopulation problem; eight billion people bring their own set of issues. But seventy billion plus farmed animals present problems of an entirely different magnitude. Industrial agriculture, including intensive factory farming, is a significant cause of climate emergency. Animals raised for food are the real overpopulation problem. In Farmageddon (Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, Philip Lymbery with Isabel Oakeshott. London: Bloomsbury, 2014, shelfmark YK.2014.a.16247), Philip Lymbery writes that ‘the global livestock industry already contributes 14.5 per cent of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions… more than all our cars, planes and trains put together’.

Eggs

Thousands of fertilised eggs lay in metal drawers placed on trolleys at a hatchery in Poland. Credit: Andrew Skowron/ We Animals Media (2018)

 

Fortunately, Compassion is not campaigning alone. There is a growing global movement of like-minded organisations seeking to improve animal welfare, protect the environment, end world hunger, and stop climate emergency. I also welcome the emergence of companies developing plant-based meat and cultivated meat products. Consumers increasingly buy alternative products to meat, eggs, dairy, and leather manufactured from non-animal sources. Not everyone will go vegan like me, but many people will, and already do, live a near-vegan lifestyle. Food production causes as much as 37 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, so this change in diet can be a tipping point for responding to the crisis appropriately.

Picture 2

Selection of ‘Ag.’ the Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) newsletter, 1976-1978, Add MS 89458/4/59. Copyright Compassion in World Farming.  Image Courtesy of Philip Lymbery (2023)

 

Philip is the author of three books, Farmageddon, Dead Zone (Dead Zone: where the wild things were, Philip Lymbery, London: Bloomsbury, 2017, shelfmark YC.2018.a.3994), and Sixty Harvests Left (Sixty Harvests Left: how to reach a nature-friendly future, Philip Lymbery, London: Bloomsbury, 2022, shelfmark DRT ELD.DS.708596) that are essential reading for understanding the link between animals and climate emergency. He also explains the negative impact of industrial agriculture on the environment, water, wildlife, human health, and animal welfare. Two books inspired Philip to write. The first, Silent Spring (Silent Spring, Rachel Carson, London: Penguin Book, 1999, shelfmark YC.2000a.4976), is Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book exposing the dangerous effects of chemicals used in farming in the countryside, first published in America in 1962. Two years later, Rachel wrote the foreword to Ruth Harrison’s Animal Machines (Animal machines: the new factory farming industry, Ruth Harrison, London: Vincent Stuart, 1964, shelfmark W21/1046), which foresaw the problems associated with industrial farming that Philip examines in his books. It was reading Animal Machines that prompted Peter and Anna Roberts, dairy farmers concerned with agriculture’s direction, to establish Compassion in 1967.

Picture 3

Front covers of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Animal Machines by Ruth Harrison. Credits: Silent Spring, Rachel Carson, London: Penguin Book, 1999, shelfmark YC.2000a.4976, Animal machines: the new factory farming industry, Ruth Harrison, Boston: CABI, 2013, shelfmark YK.2013.a.26354

 

Philip’s first book, Farmageddon, questions the efficiency and efficacy of industrial farming. He asks if the ‘Farmageddon scenario—the death of our countryside, a scourge of disease and billions starving—[is] inevitable?’ There is no such thing as cheap meat. It comes with a hefty price, with both our health and our countryside at risk. Half of all antibiotics used worldwide (up to 80 per cent in the US) are routinely given to intensively farmed animals. Increasing amounts of land used to grow soya and grain for cattle in feedlots, sows in stalls, and chickens in cages, take away vital habitats that are homes to wildlife.

Picture 4

Front covers of Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat and Dead Zone: where the wild things were by Philip Lymbery. Credits: Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, Philip Lymbery with Isabel Oakeshott. London: Bloomsbury, 2014, shelfmark YK.2014.a.16247, Dead Zone: where the wild things were, Philip Lymbery, London: Bloomsbury, 2017, shelfmark YC.2018.a.3994

 

His second, Dead Zone, explores the global impact of industrial animal agriculture on wild animals and birds. For example, the critically endangered Sumatran elephant, orang-utans, and tigers live in the tropical rain forests of Sumatra, one of the islands of western Indonesia. Sumatra is also, where oil palm grows. Its fruit produces palm oil. One of its by-products is added to the feed fed to factory-farmed animals. To supply this trade, Sumatran tropical rain forests are cleared to intensively grow oil palms. Consequently, the jungle—home to elephants, orang-utans, and tigers—disappears at an alarming rate. 

Further to the issues raised by industrial agriculture, including its impact on wildlife is the harm it causes to the soil. Our ability to stop climate emergency and improve the soil health are vital to ensuring the planet’s wellbeing and our survival. In Sixty Harvest Left, Philip describes how intensive crop production to feed farmed animals removed from the land to industrial confinement depletes the soil. He also reports the UN’s statement that ‘if we carry on as we are, there could be just sixty harvests left in the world’s soils’. ”

Cows

Firefighters stand near their fire engine as they attempt to stop a wildfire from reaching an area on a dairy farm where pregnant cows are kept, Tabolango, Region de Valparaíso, Chile, 2012. Credit: Renata Valdivia/We Animals Media (2012)

 

Industrial agriculture may have provided us with cheap food in a lifetime. But at what cost? We only have a lifetime to turn around present agricultural systems to address climate emergency and invest in the soil for future harvests. Societal change is required to refocus industrial agriculture away from chemical-dependent, intensive factory farming. ‘Switching to soil-enhancing regenerative and agro ecological farming,’ Philip advises, ‘using techniques that replenish soil fertility and capture carbon along the way’.

Flooded cows

Cows who survived Hurricane Florence, stranded on a porch, surrounded by floodwaters. North Carolina, USA. Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur/Unsplash (2020)

 

At an individual level, I interpret Philip’s advice as a call to go vegan. Boycotting animal products and ingredients reduces the consumer demand for them. To transition to vegan, try plant-based meat and cultivated meat products. If you feel you must eat meat, eggs, and dairy, only buy them from proven authenticated sources where the animals live free-range and drug-free. Add your voice as a newly minted vegan for the systemic changes we need to how food is produced.

 

Read books. Change the world.

 

CC-BY Kim Stallwood is a vegan animal rights author and independent scholar. The British Library acquired the Kim Stallwood Archive in 2020. He is a consultant with Tier im Recht, the Swiss-based animal law organisation, and on the board of directors of the US-based Culture and Animals Foundation.

 

References

 

Carson, R. (1999) Silent Spring, London: Penguin Books, shelfmark YC.2000a.4976

Harrison, R. (1964) Animal machines: the new factory farming industry, London: Vincent Stuart, shelfmark W21/1046

Lymbery, P. (2017) Dead Zone: where the wild things were, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark YC.2018.a.3994

Lymbery, P., Oakeshott I. (2014) Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark YK.2014.a.16247

 Lymbery, P. (2022) Sixty Harvests Left: how to reach a nature-friendly future, London: Bloomsbury, shelfmark ELD.DS.708596

22 March 2022

7 Days, Culture and the Arts

In 2020 the British Library acquired the papers of Anthony Barnett, best known as the founder of the campaigning organisation Charter 88 and the website openDemocracy. This series of six posts highlights a discrete part of the archive, consisting of documents and ephemera from Barnett’s time as a member of the collective behind the revolutionary weekly newspaper '7 Days'.  

Fifty years ago, on 22 March 1972, '7 Days' published an emergency issue that saw it go into ‘suspended animation’. Funds were sought for a relaunch but, apart from a special issue in May 1972 to commemorate the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, the paper disappeared. In this sixth and final post in our series, Maxine Molyneux recalls her time as Arts and Culture Editor and reflects on a unique experiment in cultural politics.

(The second post in the series was written by Anthony Barnett, the third post was by Graham Burchell, the fourth post by Bill Mayblin and the fifth by John Mathews.)

 

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Cover of the emergency issue of 7 Days, March 22, 1972. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Not long before the launch of the first issue I was invited by the 7 Days collective to take on the job of Arts and Culture Editor. At the time, I was stitching together a living as a freelance journalist, writing articles here and there, doing part-time editing and translation jobs and writing PR leaflets on art shows for the amusingly titled Tomorrow’s News. I was lucky to have a regular commission for the International Herald Tribune to cover exhibitions and fine art auctions, and write the odd feature and book review, for which I was paid $12 a piece, almost covering my weekly rent.

In 1971, London’s cultural scene was alive with radical groups of artists, film makers and playwrights who were part of the broader political ferment, not only of the student movement but of a generation. At various times in that transitory world I had found myself sharing houses and flats with activists and artists, one time with the founders of the Red Ladder agitprop theatre group, another with one of the leaders of the radical film activist group, Cinema Action. There was a feeling of excitement, of innovation about, but there was also an intellectual appetite for the radical cultural moments and thinkers of the past, whether in drama, art or film.

Young activists debated the work of Brecht and Eisenstein, read Freud and Lacan as well as Marx, Mao and Lenin. I recall attending a very serious weekly (or was it fortnightly?) - Theoretical Practice group [1] run by Kasim Kahn from his flat in Finsbury Park. We travelled up by car, me, the feminist artist Mary Kelly, and Clive Goodwin (our driver), literary agent and founder of the Black Dwarf. There, in our group of seven, we pored over passages of Althusser, Balibar, Pierre Phillipe Rey and learned that The Grundrisse marked a distinct break in Marx’s thinking.

My life then was lived in contrasting spaces – private views in the old art world’s Bond Street galleries – and the fringe world of art activism, politics and theory groups, and they would often collide. I remember being at some private view held at the Royal Academy when a group calling themselves ‘the Black Hand Gang’ let off a small smoke bomb leading to a dramatic evacuation of the assembled guests. Agitprop cinema and theatre, fringe performance and avante garde music, and some madness too – all were part of the wave of creative energy and radical politics of that time.

What was compelling about 7 Days was that it was a project of the independent Marxist left, and was fully committed to serious and critical coverage of culture. I was ready for a change, and without hesitation I accepted their offer and took the post of Arts Editor for the brief life of the paper.

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7 Days’ arts coverage attempted to bridge high and popular culture. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

I knew some members of the collective if not personally then by name. I had met Peter Fuller in his art critic days at an ICA exhibition of Picasso’s Minotaur prints which we were both covering, and got to know him as a friend. I had also met Fred Halliday earlier at the offices of Black Dwarf, on my return from a work trip to Argentina, and was serving as interpreter for some Latin American revolutionaries who were on a European fundraising tour. When Fred and I met again in 7 Days we ended up sharing a tiny office with grimy red lino, and freezing, but for a bar heater which my co-occupant would stand in front of to warm up while the backs of his trousers slowly burned ever larger holes. No one cared much about their threads on the 7 Days collective.

Reviewing the 21 issues of the paper half a century later I am struck by the breadth and depth of its cultural coverage. 7 Days aimed to transform what it saw as the regressive tropes contained in ‘British values’, racism, sexism, philistinism, homophobia and elitism among them.

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The first year of the gay liberation movement’s existence celebrated in 7 Days with a discussion of the London GLF group’s manifesto. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

More ‘Gramsci than Guevara” it was a platform for feminist ideas, and it was committed to anti-racist struggles and cultural interventions. In its arts coverage in particular it sought to create a bridge between high culture and popular culture. Short articles were accompanied by longer think pieces, underground and radical manifestos, analyses of advertisements, reviews of books like One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch. Thanks to being able to draw on a pool of talented writers sympathetic to 7 Days, there was no difficulty in finding a diversity of cultural content. Peter Wollen (aka Lucien Rey) on Realism, John Berger and Anya Bostock on a biography of Mayakovsky, but also a ‘Rock Special’ which included an interview with Jack Bruce ‘Life with Cream” and an appreciation of Miles Davis.

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Issue 4 ran a photo-feature on the 1971 Miss World protests by womens’ and gay liberation activists. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

By today’s standard 7 Days was neither egalitarian nor inclusive in its internal relations.

As Rosie Van de Beek observes, the collective was made up of ‘insiders and outsiders’. Nor was it as inclusive in its coverage – notably of Black artists and writers - as it would be today. A piece on Mustafa Matura’s play As Time Goes By was perhaps the exception.

Yet feminist content there was aplenty, thanks largely to the women in and around the collective. Articles included ‘A bash at Women’s Hour’; a review by Sally Beauman of Cosmopolitan, flagged up as ‘an odious new magazine for women’, a critical discussion of the Playboy exhibition, a special feature on Miss World and Mecca, a photo feature on what was described in somewhat patronising language as a ‘ large and satisfactory demonstration’ that ‘took place outside the Albert Hall’. This, along with critical coverage of vaginal deodorants - symptomatic of capitalism - a report on a revolt by members of the BFI against the governors, pieces on Surrealism, a Hogarth show, and Kathleen Tynan interviewing Germaine Greer on the publication of The Female Eunuch. Positive appraisals of Alexandra Kollontai and an extended interview with Simone de Beauvoir by Rosalind Delmar, and pieces by Laura Mulvey and Mary Kelly, brought feminist analysis and politics into art theory, film and popular music.

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Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive

It is sad to note how many of the active members of the collective and its supporters are no longer with us, friends Peter Wollen, Clive Goodwin, Peter Fuller, and dear Fred Halliday [2] among them. Also sad to recall others whose brilliant work in the cultural field has fallen out of favour - I think here of Trevor Griffiths whose play Occupations, on the Turin strikes of 1922, was a subtle exploration of Gramsci and left political strategy.

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Playwright Trevor Griffiths respond to Tom Nairn’s review of his play ‘Occupations’. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Since those times the work of the margins has mostly moved into the mainstream, and the members of the collective went into the academy, publishing, or into other professions. 7 Days was a short, intense, highly rewarding and formative experience for those associated with it. It was a space where politics, culture and radical ideas found expression. It forged some important and enduring friendships. When it folded I decided not to continue in journalism but to head for university, where I remained.

The times of 7 Days were so very different, shaped as they were by a young generation that believed that political progress and social change was possible. Important and positive things were achieved in and after the 1970s before reaction set in. Today we live in more threatening, darker times, but a new generation of radical activists has come into politics, incensed by growing inequality, corrupt elites, and the failures of governments to tackle the climate crisis. There is a revival of interest in Marxism and radical thought among students, and more urgent talk of the need for change. The work of cultural transformation continues, but proceeds by other means - the print media is joined by podcasts, social networking, blogs and much else besides. I suspect that if 7 Days were alive today it would be in one of those formats, or perhaps something entirely new, and, who knows, it might well have been able to survive and to flourish.

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‘Seven days to save 7 Days’. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

 

[1] Theoretical Practice started in 1970 as a reading group and set up other groups dedicated to thinking critically about Marx’s work and that of the French structuralists. It went on to produce seven issues of a journal also called Theoretical Practice, that published translations of leading theorists in the Althusserian school.

[2] Fred and Maxine married and had their son Alex in 1985.

24 February 2022

7 Days - Back then and now: a personal recollection by John Mathews

In 2020 the British Library acquired the papers of Anthony Barnett, best known as the founder of the campaigning organisation Charter 88 and the website openDemocracy. This series of six posts highlights a discrete part of the archive, consisting of documents and ephemera from Barnett’s time as a member of the collective behind the revolutionary weekly newspaper '7 Days', 50 years on from its publication.

In this fifth guest post, John Mathews recalls how he came to be part of the collective and considers the impact 7 Days had, for himself and others involved. (The second post in the series was written by Anthony Barnett, the third post was by Graham Burchell, and the fourth post by Bill Mayblin.)

 

In October 1971, when the first issue of 7 Days appeared, I was 25 years old, a young Australian who had been recruited to the newspaper’s collective by Anthony Barnett, then the editor of Black Dwarf. I had been travelling the world (Indonesia, Thailand, India) and had arrived in London a couple of years earlier, at the end of 1969, full of plans to make my mark in the great metropolis.

The way I did this (it is scarcely credible today) was to use my last hundred pounds to launch a film magazine, which in the irreverent style of the day I called Cinemantics – focused on the work of ‘New Cinema’ directors like Glauber Rocha and Jean-Marie Straub as well as emerging semiotic/semantic theories of cinema like Pasolini’s ‘grammar of film’. I had a background in cinema – having been President of the Melbourne University Film Society in my undergrad days – and simply wrote a couple of paragraphs as a manifesto and then went around asking people already writing on the new language of the cinema if they wanted to contribute. Enough of them – including Peter Wollen then working at the BFI – said yes, and the magazine was off. Favourable reviews by Dilys Powell in the Sunday Times helped, and my film reviews also attracted the attention of Anthony at Black Dwarf, and so I found myself drawn into a circle of New Left personalities.

When Anthony asked me in early 1971 whether I would like to join the group planning the launch of a new radical weekly, I jumped at the chance. I had no competing commitments (typical of the time) and saw the issuing of a regular revolutionary masthead as a blow against capitalism. I threw myself into the debates that then dominated our horizons, including how to raise the capital that we estimated would be needed to launch the paper. I participated in some of the fund raising and so earned my stripes as a full member of the collective.

As it turned out, our capital only lasted for the production of 21 issues of the paper, of 24 pages each (from 27 October 1971 to 22 March 1972) – the full set of issues is now available at the 7 Days online archive. We had the choice of stretching our meagre capital out by reducing our page numbers or print run but we never entertained such a possibility – we were too wedded to our own inimitable style of photo journalism, and for publishing ideas and exposes at length.

Those few months producing the paper stand out as a highlight of my youthful years to that point. Our collective boasted such stars as Alex Cockburn as the innovative and indefatigable editor; Anthony as roving ‘special reports’ editor, and Rosalind Delmar as production editor, holding it all together. Judith Ferguson and I fulfilled a floating ‘research/reports’ function. As such we would deal with the guardians of ‘desks’ like home affairs, foreign affairs, arts, life and special sections like ‘capitalism’ and ‘ideas’.

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‘Electro Convulsive Therapy’, No. 10, 5 January 1972, pp. 16-17. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Some of the memorable features I was involved in on 7 Days were the expose of the cruel practice of ECT (electro convulsive therapy) in mental health treatment; (#10, Jan 1972), the narrative of the trial and sentencing of Jake Prescott and Ian Purdie (co-authored with Judith Ferguson #7, 8 Dec 1971) accused in connection with a bombing campaign carried out by the Angry Brigade; and an expose of the phoney psychology that claimed to support cosmetics manufacturers – a story headlined ‘Making Up Psychology’ that I thought was one of our better efforts.

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‘Conspiracy and Corruption’, No. 7, 8 December 1971, pp. 6-7. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

My own favourite contributions were my columns on the Advertisement of the Week, where I provided mock reviews of advertisements like the White Horse whisky ads (‘You can take a White Horse anywhere’) or Parkinson Cowan cookers running on North Sea gas (‘The cooker that rises from the sea’) treating them as examples of high bourgeois art with a capitalist twist. I was quite pleased with these efforts at cultural critique – and even had the dubious honour of finding my work sometimes memorialized in the ‘Pseuds’ Corner’ section of Private Eye.

It came as a huge disappointment when we published our final issue #21, on 22 March – followed by a further ‘final’ effort to revive the paper with a special issue on Vietnam in May, ‘Who’s for the chopper?’. The expectation we all shared was that the launch of the paper would generate such excitement and growth in readership that it would start to cover its costs and eventually become a profitable and radical, uncompromising journal of ideas and reportage (with its own slant on photo journalism, ably expounded by Bill Mayblin in an earlier contribution to this series of blogs). This was not pie in the sky – after all, it was how media barons like Rupert Murdoch operated, creating media titles that would pay for themselves as their market reach grew. But there wasn’t time for that to happen in the case of 7 Days.

After the paper folded, Anthony had to pick up the pieces and we all went our separate ways. Some of us pursued illustrious careers, like Alex Cockburn who ended up as a leading columnist in the US writing each week for the Village Voice (and blazing a trail that would later be followed by Christopher Hitchens). Our home affairs editor Peter Fuller dived deep into art criticism; our ‘ideas’ correspondent Peter Wollen took up academic film studies and wrote several film scripts; our foreign affairs editor Fred Halliday eventually took a chair in international relations at the LSE.

After the collapse of 7 Days, I dabbled in freelance journalism, securing a commission from the Sunday Times Insight team to adapt a story we had carried in 7 Days on illegal cash-in-hand contract work known as “The Lump”. I also engaged in some serious translation work, taking key texts from French and Italian and presenting them to the English-speaking world. And actually I was pretty good. My translation of some of the political writings of Jean-Paul Sartre (published as Between Existentialism and Marxism, NLB 1974) attracted a highly favourable review in the Times Literary Supplement. And I had the experience of translating the early political writings of the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, published by Lawrence & Wishart as Selections from Political Writings, 1910-1920, edited by Quintin Hoare. This gave me a lifelong admiration for Gramsci and a sensitivity to his capacity to ride the political wave in the Turin of these years, then the birthplace of Italy’s automotive industry and FIAT (the acronym formed from Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili di Torino) as well as of the Italian Communist Party.

But I elected not to pursue these freelance possibilities and instead turned to full time degree-crunching, at the LSE and Imperial College, culminating in my securing a PhD from Imperial College in cybernetics. I pursued the PhD as a ticket of entry into the great debates raging at the time – energy, nuclear power, ecology. I have enjoyed a varied career using my doctoral qualifications ever since. But it was the collapse of 7 Days that lit a fire under me and drove me to get some serious qualifications and take serious career steps. I then worked for the white collar union ASTMS as (I believe) the first PhD to work full-time for a union in the UK, helping the white-collar membership develop policies on prevention of occupational diseases like cancer. It was stimulating and thrilling work – and perhaps the ‘we can do anything’ attitude that we all shared on the 7 Dayscollective was a material advantage for me in meeting these subsequent challenges. I returned to Australia in 1979, to take up a similar role at the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), helping to contribute to the ban on nuclear power that still holds in Australia. There followed a stint working in the state Labor government of Victoria, before shifting to the university sector and taking a chair in business strategy at Macquarie University in the year 2000. Thus is a career generated from unlikely beginnings.

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‘Long live nature’, No. 19, 8 March 1972, p.20. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Going back to the issues of 7 Days I am delighted to rediscover that we ran one of the first and most credible debates over capitalism and ecology. Historian Gareth Stedman-Jones threw an intellectual grenade with a critique of the ecological left (‘Down with Nature’ – by which he meant an end to the romanticism of nature worship). This attracted a robust response from David Fernbach and Aubrey Walter in the next issue: ‘Long live nature’ which is still more or less the position of the Greens and the ecological left (7 Days #19, 8 March 1972) as of any sane commentator on prospects for curbing global warming. It is a delight to see how these debates foretold my own more recent work on The Greening of Capitalism (2015) and Global Green Shift (2017). So our efforts on 7 Days continue to resonate.

27 January 2022

Designing 7 Days

In 2020 the British Library acquired the papers of Anthony Barnett, best known as the founder of the campaigning organisation Charter 88 and the website openDemocracy. This series of six posts highlights a discrete part of the archive, consisting of published and unpublished material, editorial documents and ephemera from Barnett’s time as a member of the editorial collective of the revolutionary weekly newspaper '7 Days', 50 years on from its publication.

In this fourth guest post, Bill Mayblin recalls his role in the production and design of the paper and the shifting media and cultural landscape for newspaper publishing in the early 1970s. (The second post in the series, written by Anthony Barnett, is here, and the third post by Graham Burchell is here.)

 

In 1971 I was twenty three years old, which would have made me one of the younger and certainly one of the less noticeable members of the 7 Days editorial collective. I would be  surprised if many surviving members even remember me. But together with Alan Turkie, who was even younger (but perhaps more noticeable) we were the production team responsible for designing, pasting up and delivering the weekly edition of 7 Days for print. For my part I was thrilled to be part of something as exciting and worthwhile as this brave venture, but also slightly in awe of the fierce intellects and articulate egos that made up the rest of the collective.

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Cover of the 9th February 1972 issue which dealt with the events and the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry, using photographs to powerful effect. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

 

Design is perhaps too grand a word to describe my role on the paper. All basic design decisions – grid, fonts, masthead – had already been taken before I joined. Layout and paste-up would be more accurate to describe my job and this involved cutting up photoset galleys of type, laying out the page and pasting copy onto grid sheets with Cow Gum – the standard technology of the day for offset litho printing.

Photographs we would mark up separately for the printer to size, screen and drop in. Every Tuesday would see a marathon all-night session to put the issue together in the cramped offices in Shaver’s Place, SW1. And on Wednesday morning one of us, tired and bleary-eyed, would take the train to Colchester to deliver the artwork to the printer.

My overriding memory of those all-night sessions is of fighting for space – space on the page, that is – in order to use photographs large and to have sufficient ‘air’ around the typography. It was often a losing battle. There was always too much copy. ‘Alex, we need to lose thirty lines here.’ would be a recurring refrain. Alex Cockburn, our calm and indefatigable editor would pore over the galleys and cut what he could, but inevitably pages would often look as if text and photos had been squeezed in with a shoehorn.

The truth is that 7 Days was never a design-led publication, members of the collective were far too politically focused for that. I don’t remember a single meeting at which the paper’s design was specifically or seriously discussed. Whatever design ethos it did have was already embedded at the very genesis of the project. 7 Days was to be a tabloid format, 24 page paper that embraced the documentary power of photography.

When talking of the paper with people at the time I would habitually describe it as a ‘leftwing photo-journalistic weekly’. Only now as I write that down, fifty years on, does it occur to me how strangely old-fashioned this description feels today. Three words that still have perfect currency on their own, but together seem to belong to a distinctive period of 20th century history that was perhaps already coming to an end when 7 Days was launched.

It’s the photo-journalism bit that dates it. With the sheer saturation of photographic and video images in today’s mainstream and social media we can forget just how novel and powerful documentary photography was for much of the last century. From the 1920s onwards modernist graphic design had championed photography, with its promise of objectivity and truth, as the prime if not the only ‘modern’ way of making images. The photo-journalist was born and it was the black-and-white photograph, often radical, dramatic and shocking that gave us our memorable images of the world through peace and war.

Growing up in the nineteen fifties and sixties I can remember the impact of publications like Life, Paris Match and Britain’s own Picture Post (a conscious model for 7 Days), and in the late sixties the Sunday broadsheet supplements, particularly the Sunday Times under the influence of art editor David King, brought us powerful photo essays such as Don McCullin’s images of the Vietnam war. It was this tradition that 7 Days was proudly stepping into.

But times were changing, and art and graphic design are perhaps where it could be seen first, and most clearly. The sixties had also given us psychedelia, pop art and the counter culture. If we talk of modernism we must also acknowledge the beginnings of postmodernism, a rejection of ‘Truth’ and of the photograph as its embodiment, and an embrace of complexity, playfulness and irreverence.

A memory stands out for me here. Alan and I were working to lay out pages for the week’s issue and someone brought in the latest issue of OZ magazine. We flicked through it, slightly sniffy but also fascinated at its chaotic energy full of radical free-standing artwork, vaguely pornographic cartoons, whole articles printed in yellow type reversed out of a pink background (totally illegible – tut-tut). And yet exciting and in tune with a particular zeitgeist.

It was not our target readership of course and although it was clearly anti-establishment and loosely in our camp we could chuckle dismissively at its outlandish graphics. And yet there was always the nagging feeling that at some cultural level this was what our paper was now competing with for readers. In 1971 even before computers and the internet our media and cultural landscape was shifting and 7 Days was perhaps stranded on one particular shore.

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Inside page from the 9th February 1972 issue focusing on the events and the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

 

Looking back on 7 Days’  brief existence I am amazed and proud at the breadth and depth of its coverage through a tumultuous time of home and global politics. The sweep and standard of its journalism, in words and images, was high. But as one of its design team I feel entitled to admit that its ‘look’ was not always so good. There were many pages, with cramped type and wonky sub heads, that make me wince when I see them now. But there were also occasions when we won the battle for space, and designed memorable spreads, pages that sit more proudly in that modernist tradition of photo-journalism.

Sadly in the spring of 1972 7 Days produced its final issue and a talented group of people went their separate ways. As for me, I went on to design numerous other publications many of which I am more proud of from a simple design point of view. But I have to admit they tend now to merge together in my memory. But 7 Days, that six months in 1971-2, working through the night in Soho with Alex Cockburn, Alan Turkie, (my close friend to this day) and assorted members of the collective who would drop by to discuss, argue and generally get in the way – that was something special.

Bill Mayblin, 2021.

 

16 December 2021

‘You Cannae Eat Ships’: 7 Days and industrial news.

In 2020 the British Library acquired the papers of Anthony Barnett, best known as the founder of the campaigning organisation Charter 88 and the website openDemocracy. This series of six posts highlights a discrete part of the archive, consisting of published and unpublished material, editorial documents and ephemera from Barnett’s time as a member of the editorial collective of the revolutionary weekly newspaper '7 Days'.

In this third guest post, Graham Burchell recalls his role as industrial correspondent for '7 Days' and reflects on the industrial relations landscape of the early 1970s. (The second post in the series is here.)

 

Looking back on my experience on 7 Days, I find I am very surprised that I was ever invited to become the full time “industrial correspondent” for this New Left, revolutionary, but hopefully commercially viable, photo-news weekly. It now seems to me extraordinary.

You Cannae Eat Ships

‘You Cannae Eat Ships’, 3 November 1971. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

Apart from a brief experience of trade union activity, through involvement in an unsuccessful attempt to form a “breakaway” union of telecommunication workers, separating from the large postal workers union (UPW), I had no experience and little knowledge of the world of industry or trade unionism.  It was a brief experience-experiment:  the national postal strike of 1971 put an abrupt end to the plans of the new union, forcing its handful of members to choose either to join the UPW strike or become strike-breakers, “scabs”.  It also put an end to my trade union experience.

My involvement came about as a result of my decision to ‘boycott’ my final exams at university, abandon academic life, and philosophy, and throw in my lot – irrevocably, I imagined – with the working class and its struggle.  I became a trainee overseas telegraphist in the Post Office.  Anthony Barnett’s approach to me came after I had reconsidered this decision, left the Post Office, sat my finals, and rediscovered my interest in philosophy.

As well as my lack of experience and knowledge of industrial matters, of economic policy or trade unionism, I had no experience of journalism and the kind of investigative activity and writing it involved.  Moreover, I was temperamentally unsuited for the job:  24 years old, I was too self-conscious and too intimidated by the people I needed to interview to be able to approach them with any confidence or authority.  I was frequently in the office, not knowing what to do, and I recall Peter Fuller, in charge of Home news, and a real journalist, impatiently telling me that I should be “out there” getting stories. But I had very little idea of how to go about this. 

Indeed, the high points of my experience on the paper – a visit to Glasgow to report on the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ “work-in”, to Coventry to interview engineering workers facing the prospect of unemployment and striking for the first time since the war, an eye-opening trip down a coal mine, an interview with the miners’ leader Lawrence Daly, and a journey to Kirby and Liverpool with the playwright John McGrath to report on a factory occupation – were all initiated and arranged for me by others.  On the trip to Liverpool, I was little more than John McGrath’s awestruck passenger observing how all the people we met in Liverpool – union organisers, shop stewards in the occupied plant, and everyone in the bar of the Everyman Theatre – seemed to know and greet him as a friend.

From Militant Miners

‘From Militant Miners the News ‘It’s All or F**k All’, 15 December 1971. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

The term “industrial correspondent” is not used much today.  The social, political and economic landscape in which journalists with this title once operated – a world of major national industries, large national trade unions, and the quasi-corporatist “industrial relations” and economic management set ups which had governed the relations between employers, workers and national governments since the Second World War – has disappeared.

 

The Miners Week One

The Miners: Week One, 19 January 1972. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

7 Days was launched in what we can perhaps now see was an important moment in the early stages of this transformation.  It was an imaginative venture, an attempt to get free from old models of a militant Left journalism tied to the policies and positions of a political organisation, to create something radical and independent that would speak to the new forces and movements we felt ourselves to be part of, even possibly to represent. But, despite our aspirations, perhaps we failed to identify what was in fact new in what was happening.  In 1970, Edward Heath’s Conservatives were elected on a radical ‘free market’ manifesto.  Harold Wilson derided the Conservative programme as the work of “Selsdon Man” (after the hotel in which the manifesto had been drafted).  He depicted it as the product of a kind of paleo-conservatism.  This set the tone for what became a persistent critical theme:  that the Conservative programme came from, and would take us back to, the past.  But maybe “Selsdon Man” was not a paleo-conservative relic, but something new, albeit perhaps still inchoate, foreshadowing the neoliberalism that would come to dominate the future?

In 1971, a record number of people were involved in “industrial disputes” and more days were “lost” through strikes than in any year since 1926.  The reform of “industrial relations” was at the heart of the Conservative government’s agenda. A new Industrial Relations Act, introduced quickly and coming into force in 1971, sought to shift the balance of power between employers and trade unions in favour of the former, on the one hand, and in favour of the power of official trade union leadership over shop-floor organisation and their ‘unofficial’ actions on the other.  At the same time it gave greater powers of intervention and sanction to the State.

Forcing Unions

‘Forcing Unions to Break the Law’, 23 February 1972. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

The first steps in the government’s attempt to dismantle the post-war tri-partite consultative arrangements inaugurated a long period of bitter and intense struggles.  When the first issue of 7 Days  appeared, the Upper Clyde work-in had been underway for a number of weeks, other kinds of factory occupations followed elsewhere, a battle between engineering workers and employers was brewing in Coventry, the first national miners’ strike since 1926 seemed likely, and the trade unions were gearing up their opposition to the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act. I had a great deal to learn, and it had to be learned ‘on the job’.  7 Days gave me the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the people engaged in these struggles – shipbuilders on the Clyde, engineering workers in Coventry, manufacturing workers in Kirby, miners in Kent – even if I may not have known how best to learn from them and remedy my ignorance.

In January 1972, under the headline “A Great Year for The Thirties”, I summed up 1971 as a “year of revivals”: “The traditions that hang like a fog around the British labour movement had their moment in a nostalgic resurrection of the Thirties”, I wrote.  While it was true that some trade union and Labour leaders, as well as many on the far Left, frequently evoked the past when describing Conservative policies – referring to a “class struggle” being “resurrected” by the Tories, for example – both headline and article failed to do justice to the reality of the struggles I reported on.  Moreover, they did not accurately represent what I myself had found and written about, which could not be reduced to this summary judgement. 

 

Great Year for The Thirties

‘A Great Year for The Thirties’, 5 January 1972. Credit: CC BY-NC 4.0 by 7 Days, Image courtesy of Amiel Melburn Trust Archive.

In my brief experience as a journalist, in the rapid background research I had to undertake and in meetings with those directly involved, I inevitably had to get to grips with the always specific features of the different struggles I had to describe and the ways in which the past was present and active within them.  Behind the grand historical references, the images and narratives evoking a deep continuity between past and present struggles, I quickly encountered a more messy history present in the form of agreements struck in the past, court judgements, laws, constitutions and rule books, traditional forms of working practices, divisions between different groups of workers, and so on, which shaped the various struggles and which I had to try to understand.

My article alluded to the familiar Marxist trope of experiencing the present through models, characters and images borrowed from the past:  the famous quotation from the opening lines of Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.  But I was, of course, oblivious to the fact that my criticism applied equally, indeed with greater justification, to myself.  In an ‘Ideas’ piece, written a few weeks later, I summed up my strictures on the inevitable limits of the workers’ “economic struggle” by looking back to the Russian Revolution and invoking – resurrecting – the thoughts of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin as my authority!

“Industry” was, of course, only a small part of 7 Days, and it was far from central to the concerns and interests of the paper’s contributors and readership. My impression is that we thought we were living in an exciting and optimistic historical moment in which it was not unrealistic to think of ourselves as protagonists of a process of revolutionary change.  It may be that in looking for signs of the possible existence of a “revolutionary situation”, we failed to detect other powers knocking on the door. 

I think it unlikely that the kind of politics 7 Days  wanted to promote and represent would have survived subsequent political-economic developments – the collapse of the Soviet empire and the inexorable rise of neoliberalism in particular – but it still seems to me a great shame that the ambitious project of a commercially viable independent, radical photo-news and ‘ideas’ weekly paper did not survive longer and have a chance to develop and change.

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