Saturday, February 04, 2017

What is Steven Parfitt reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Steven Parfitt, author of Knights Across the Atlantic: The Knights of Labor in Britain and Ireland.

His entry begins:
Over the Christmas break I’ve been reading two books, both of them non-fiction and both, not by any conscious design, dealing with quite similar subjects. The first is Barry Gustafson’s His Way: A Biography of Robert Muldoon. It’s about one of my native New Zealand’s longest-serving Prime Ministers (1975-1984), Robert Muldoon, who dominated the political lives of my parents. I already knew Muldoon as the man who called an election drunk in 1984 when his slim parliamentary majority seemed in danger. I knew him as a conservative bullyboy who intimidated journalists and other politicians with his quick memory and sharp tongue. This was someone who did not shrink from depicting the Labour Party as dancing Cossacks in thrall to the Soviet Union, or from publicly outing an opposition MP as gay at a time when homosexuality was still illegal.

Gustafson points to another side of Muldoon’s character. He remained a conservative but was also a Keynesian. His commitment to full employment and the welfare state – and to what he called “the ordinary bloke” – is no longer matched by most conservatives, and even by many who claim to be on the left. His ill-fated, alcohol-fuelled decision to call an election in 1984, which he lost, put a Labour Government in power. It might surprise people outside New Zealand to learn that it was Labour, and not the conservative National Party, which launched a wave of deregulation and privatisation even...[read on]
About Knights Across the Atlantic, from the publisher:
The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, the first national movement of the American working class, began in Philadelphia in 1869. Millions of Americans, white and black, men and women, became Knights between that date and 1917. But the Knights also spread beyond the borders of the United States and even beyond North America. Knights Across the Atlantic tells for the first time the full story of the Knights of Labor in Britain and Ireland, where they operated between 1883 and the end of the century. British and Irish Knights drew on the resources of their vast Order to establish a chain of branches through England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland that numbered more than 10,000 members at its peak. They drew on the fraternal ritual, industrial tactics, organisational models, and political concerns of their American Order and interpreted them in British and Irish conditions. They faced many of the same enemies, including hostile employers and rival trade unions. Unlike their American counterparts they organised only a handful of women at most. But British and Irish Knights left a profound imprint on subsequent British labour history. They helped inspire the British "New Unionists" of the 1890s. They influenced the movement for working-class politics, independent of Liberals and Conservatives alike, that soon led to the British Labour Party. Knights Across the Atlantic brings all these themes together. It provides new insights into relationships between class and gender, and places the Knights of Labor squarely at the heart of British and Irish as well as American history at the end of the nineteenth century.
Learn more about Knights Across the Atlantic at the Liverpool University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Knights Across the Atlantic.

Writers Read: Steven Parfitt.

--Marshal Zeringue