Author: Ben

Book: The Politics of the Judiciary, by J. A. G. Griffith

JAG Griffith, The Politics of the Judiciary (5th edn, HarperCollins 1997), 376pp I can’t help but feel ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, it has a number of flaws, some of which were unavoidable, but which were disappointing either way. On the other hand, the subject matter is significant enough to make it worthwhile […]

Book: Small Wars, Faraway Places, by Michael Burleigh

Michael Burleigh, Small Wars, Faraway Places: The Genesis of the Modern World, 1945–65 (Macmillan 2013), 608pp In short: this is a dreadful book. There is, of course, no such thing as an unbiased work of history, and the most biased authors are generally those who think they’re unbiased but are instead just blind to their own […]

Thoughts on Atheism, Religion, and Equality

In the last couple of days, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has resigned over what he felt to be a conflict between his religious beliefs and his leadership position. There’s been plenty of speculation on the precise nature of this conflict, especially in light of his previous insistence that his personal religious beliefs did not […]

Book: Capitalism & Slavery, by Eric Williams

Eric Williams, Capitalism & Slavery (2nd edn, University of North Carolina Press 1994), 307pp This has been on my “to read” list for a couple of years now, ever since coming across it in a British Empire seminar, and I finally picked it up for my dissertation. It’s pretty much a seminal, though not uncontroversial, work […]

Commodity Fetishism and Technological Solutions

A common observation among my group of friends is that “you can’t apply a technological solution to a social problem”; broadly speaking, that if a problem is fundamentally caused by human behaviour, technology can provide, at best, a temporary fix, until humans modify their behaviour to bypass the solution. Technology can’t, in many (perhaps not all) cases, address the […]

Book: Empire of Cotton, by Sven Beckert

Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Vintage 2015), 640pp I got the impression, when reading this, that Beckert may have simply wanted to write a history of capitalism; on the other hand, perhaps cotton really was the original subject, and the sheer scale of its impact on capitalism came later. Either way, this really is […]

Revolutionary Art

Recently the Guardian published an article about a (then-upcoming) exhibition on post-Revolution Russian art at the Royal Academy, specifically referring to it as “brutal propaganda” and worrying that our admiration of it “sentimentalises one of the most murderous chapters in human history”. Unfortunately, the author seems deeply confused not only about what the exhibition represented […]