What are you reading? – 16 January 2020

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers 

January 16, 2020
piles of books
Source: Reuters

June Purvis, emeritus professor of women’s and gender history at the University of Portsmouth, is reading Eve Colpus’ Female Philanthropy in the Interwar World: Between Self and Other (Bloomsbury, 2018). “In the aftermath of the First World War, four remarkable but diverse British-born women – Evangeline Booth, Lettice Fisher, Emily Kinnaird and Muriel Paget – became well-known philanthropists. Although much has been written about Victorian philanthropy, this book breaks new ground in seeing philanthropy as formative to identity, shaping women’s understanding of themselves as they made sense, and reflected upon, changes in the modern world. Occupying a global stage through their networks of action in central, eastern and southern Europe, North America and South and South-east Asia, each of the four women studied reshaped personal models of charity. A stimulating book that helps us understand how philanthropy is a creative endeavour.”

Carina Buckley, instructional design manager at Solent University, is reading Anna-Marie Crowhurst’s The Illumination of Ursula Flight (Atlantic Books, 2018). “Born in 1664 as Halley’s Comet passed overhead, Ursula Flight is a young woman who wants to be a playwright, and who continues to want to be a playwright despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles (her class and status; her early marriage to an older, pious nobleman; the general fact of being a woman) thrown in her way. A feminist before the term existed, Ursula strives to be an independent woman in an unforgiving society. The scripts that pepper the book in place of prose provide both immediacy and humour in the way they convey her perspective on particular situations. Rich in detail and characterisation, this is a book that picks up speed and multiplies its rewards as you progress through it.”

John Anchor, professor of international strategy at the University of Huddersfield, is reading Ken Livingstone’s You Can’t Say That: Memoirs (Faber and Faber, 2011). “‘He is the only truly successful left-wing British politician of modern times,’ claimed the editor of The Daily Telegraph, towards the end of Ken Livingstone’s second term as mayor of London. This entertaining, if overextended, read helps to explain the popularity of Livingstone. He comes from a working-class Tory background, got into politics by accident and does not have the intellectual baggage of those brought up with Marxist texts. The title reflects an irreverent sense of humour which burnished his ‘cheeky chappy’ public image. I enjoyed his reference to going to Tony Benn’s house for the first time as being the equivalent of being invited to a royal garden party! It is perhaps ironic that Livingstone will be remembered best, as a result of his anti-discrimination initiatives, for his contributions to liberalism (some would say political correctness) rather than socialism.”

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