What are you reading? December 2021

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 6, 2021
Stack of books
Source: iStock

John Anchor, professor of international strategy at the University of Huddersfield, is reading Martin Sandbu’s The Economics of Belonging: A Radical Plan to Win Back the Left Behind and Achieve Prosperity for All (Princeton University Press, 2020). “Liberal democracy is under threat from populists, particularly on the right, who have been boosted by the growth in inequality in Western societies. A significant part of the electorate feels that they do not have a stake in their societies. The Anglo-Saxon countries demonstrate this phenomenon most clearly (Trump and Brexit), but so do the continental European ones. Social democrats have suffered most from these trends. Sandbu believes that the reduction in belonging in the West has been caused by policy mistakes during the past half-century, rather than by social changes, which is the explanation offered by other analysts. The solutions lie in new micro- and macroeconomic policies, a reformed financial system and innovative tax policies. Perhaps the most important part of the analysis is the identification of technological change, rather than globalisation, as the cause of the loss of jobs in manufacturing and its threat to do the same in services.”

June Purvis, professor emerita of women’s and gender history at the University of Portsmouth, is reading Sarah Lonsdale’s Rebel Women between the Wars: Fearless Writers and Adventurers (Manchester University Press, 2020). “This interesting book explores the lives of some determined women who, between the wars in 20th-century Britain, were keen to make their mark in the masculine public sphere. Drawing on letters, diaries and published commentary, Lonsdale paints a vivid picture of the motorist Claudia Parsons, the reporter Margaret Lane, the mountaineer Dorothy Pilley and the journalist Shiela Grant Duff, among others. While personal papers have been carefully preserved for many of these figures, the journalist Edith Shackleton proves a more elusive figure because she left no diary and very few letters. Informative and absorbing, this book adds much to our knowledge of how some neglected women in the 1920s and 1930s dared to break free from social convention.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history at the University of Winchester, is reading by Antony Dale’s Fashionable Brighton, 1820-1860 (Country Life, 1947). “Published before Brighton was vandalised by modern redevelopment, Dale’s book is good on the chronology of post-Regency development in this premier 19th-century resort. Chiefly an architectural history, it devotes most space to the emergence of the squares, crescents and terraces of Kemp Town and Brunswick Town and the projectors, architects and builders associated with them. Sadly, the social history it contains is largely an antiquarian recital of the names of the best-known visitors and residents who included – apart from members of the extended English royal family and the exiled Louis Philippe of France – politicians such as Peel and Palmerston, novelists such as Thackeray and Dickens, the artist Edwin Landseer and even (fleetingly) the singer Jenny Lind and the waltz king Johann Strauss the elder.”

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