It’s 10 chapters of radical protest, documenting both campaign successes and failures throughout various bits of London – from Battersea to Bermondsey and Clerkenwell to Shoreditch. It is populated with the most amazing people, union organisers, radicals, protesters, MPs, councillors, suffragettes and ordinary people putting up a fight against terrible conditions and poverty.
The best thing is that every single chapter, which covers various themes, has a map and a proper walk that you can do to trace some of the remaining remnants of these radical campaigns. I want to go on every single of the walks in the book, many places I’ve been before without even realising the significance of them. Though in the conclusion, David Rosenberg states:
“It would seem fitting to mount a plaque at the former site of the Gardiners corner in Aldgate, where a mass blockade prevented the fascists from entering the East End in 1936 and forced the police to try, unsuccessfully, to reroute the march via Cable Street. But where could such a plaque be meaningfully mounted when the corner itself is monopolised by glass towers providing luxury flats and posh city offices?”
As he states a bit earlier that there aren’t many monuments to these radicals and what remains will, with time, succumb to the ebb and flow of London’s changing nature. But what a history! Firsts of every stripe! Mass solidarity, community organising to better the area when the government was unwilling or incapable of doing better. The battle of Cable Street (with its 80th anniversary next year).
I basically want to read proper biographies of everyone, from John Archer, the Stepney Tenants Defence League, Minnie Lansbury and Shapurji Saklatvala. I look forward to walking the streets where all this history happened and seeing some of the remaining buildings from those radical campaigners. One I go to often, that being Conway Hall!
London is a marvel. London’s history is marvellous. What a brilliant book.