How Not to Matriculate to University

I first applied to university at age 18 – my birthday is the 6th October – and entered Warwick University on my 21st birthday, October 6th 1967. The three years in between were a painful example of how a working-class boy with little cultural capital experienced the admissions process in the mid 1960s – and sadly my experience has many lessons to give over half a century later. The university admissions system then was an obstacle race for working class children – and it still is.

Continue ReadingHow Not to Matriculate to University

Lessons From Afghanistan

If history is to have any value the lessons it can teach have to be learned. The latest disaster in Afghanistan from military intervention, where the failure of American (and NATO) troops have followed failure by British and Soviet forces, make this clear. The start of the process in the Victorian period has been a very well-known story. The first Afghan war 1838 to 1842 should have been a warning to policy makers not to invade Afghanistan expecting success.

Continue ReadingLessons From Afghanistan

New History Mysteries Section

Lone research is not easy and the last 18 months set new records for difficulty. Even if the pandemic ends soon the obstacles to accessing libraries and other archives will remain challenging. Zoom discussions have their uses, but involve a relative few. The time has come to extend the discussion. I am therefore setting up a History Mysteries project to widen the focus, and hopefully discuss with others some key issues.

Continue ReadingNew History Mysteries Section

Charlie Chaplin, the Black Patch and Me

Many moons ago, when I was still in short trousers, my parents let me join the Cubs, the junior Boy Scouts. I learned nothing useful save how to tie the reef knot, essential for survival in the urban jungle, of course. But I enjoyed the Christmas Parties. The Cub leader would set up an ancient movie projector and show us the black and white films of his own childhood – Abbot and Costello, the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and the greatest of them all, Charlie Chaplin.

Continue ReadingCharlie Chaplin, the Black Patch and Me

On Knowing Stuart Hall

This is a review of my academic relationship with Stuart Hall (1932-2014) who supervised my first Masters Degree, at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University and was written from memory before the Bill Schwarz biography appeared.

Continue ReadingOn Knowing Stuart Hall

The Return of the Working Class Hero?

For most of the last century –specifically between the Representation of the People Act 1918 and the 2019 election – socio-economic class was the main definer of political behaviour in the UK, outside Northern Ireland. This was the case even when Labour did badly – as at the 1931 and 1935 General elections, or 1950-51, 1979 and 2015 when the Party’s endless factional battles dominated the headlines.

Continue ReadingThe Return of the Working Class Hero?