What are you reading? – 11 May 2017

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 11, 2017
Person reading books in library
Source: Alamy

Gulcin Ozkan, professor of economics, University of York, is reading Andrew Mango’s Atatürk (John Murray, 1999). “The turmoil since the Arab Spring in the largely Muslim countries of the Middle East and Africa has created much interest in the period that oversaw the formation of modern Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. Andrew Mango does a superb job in giving an account of this period through his portrayal of Kemal Atatürk. The result of his inside knowledge of the country, the language and many years of research is a masterpiece. The book tells the story of how Atatürk, widely viewed as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, transformed an empire, devastated by years of war, into a modern republic in which women were given the right to vote and to be elected to office in the early 1930s. It really is a must‑read.”

Matt Cook, professor of modern history, Birkbeck, University of London, is reading Brighton Trans*formed (Queenspark Books, 2014). “This is a moving collection of extracts of oral histories gathered from people living in the city of Brighton and Hove and identifying in various ways as trans. The testimonies provide fresh and diverse perspectives on the everyday – in relation to family, work, socialising, gender, relationships, sex, desire, age (interviewees range from 18 to 81) and much more besides. In addition, they suggest the particularity of Brighton: many moved there precisely because of their experience of their gender; others found language, support and courage in the city to work out for themselves what that might be. Gender and space are mapped vividly on to each other, not least through the beautiful photographic work by Sharon Kilgannon. The book came out of a Heritage Lottery community history project – the first it funded specifically on trans issues. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting.”

Bruce Macfarlane, professor of higher education, University of Southampton, is reading Bruce Truscot’s Red Brick University (Faber & Faber, 1943). “During the 1940s and 1950s, this was possibly the most influential book about British higher education. Written by a professor of Spanish under a pseudonym, it coined the phrase ‘red brick’ to describe the ‘modern’ universities of the age, such as Liverpool and Birmingham, as opposed to the ‘ancients’, such as Oxford and Cambridge. Truscot argued that research, rather than teaching, should be the primary role of the university, a controversial message long before British universities started reinventing themselves in many of the ways that he suggests, including compulsory lecturer training and evaluation of the research productivity of professors (whom he regarded as singularly unproductive). Truscot’s recommendations were radical for post-war Britain but look pretty insightful today. A long-forgotten classic written in a provocative and highly entertaining style.”

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