Currently showing blog posts for: June 2016 - . Go BACK to view all posts.
Peter Murray

 

CgTsHNtWIAEb_OgUp in Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station

by Peter Watts, Paradise Road, 2016, £20.

Review by Terence Bendixson

Opponents of the power station did not mince their words. Pollutants from it would ‘kill every green thing within two miles of Battersea, rot all buildings and bleach all the babies’. Thus wrote Edward Young, MP, to the Private Secretary of the Prime Minister in 1929. Even chain- smoking King George V, recovering from lung surgery at Bognor, joined in. ‘His Majesty feels the greatest concern at the prospect of the atmosphere of London being still further polluted…’ his secretary wrote to Neville Chamberlain, then Minister of Health.

It is not controversy about air pollution that dogs (pun intended) Battersea’s giant power station today, but what Will Self has called ‘class cleansing’ and domination by foreign – in this case Malaysian – capital. Could it have been otherwise? Might a sister organisation to the Coin Street Community Association have risen up to devote the power station to the dreams of Londoners? Might another Nicholas Serota, whose boldness and imagination have made Bankside the most popular museum of modern art in the world, have ridden in on a shining installation and rescued Battersea from commercial exploitation?

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Peter Murray

51EefVKoDrLThe Story of the Tower of London

by Tracy Borman. Merrell, 2015. £19.95. merrellpublishers.com

Review by Giles Waterfield

For dozens of recommended London Books, check out the London Society Book Service in association with John Sandoe Bookshop

The long history of the Tower of London – one of a very small group of buildings in Britain that has been continuously occupied for 1,000 years or so ó has been frequently interpreted and reinterpreted. The Tower has been seen, particularly in the 19th century, as the epitome of English history, notably in the endlessly popular Tudor period. Its complex tradition, as palace (or at least royal residence in times of crisis), fortress, prison, place of execution, armoury, garrison, showplace, menagerie and village, has given it a particular resonance. Anyone experiencing it on a summer afternoon today (or indeed a winter morning), buffeted by tourists from around the world, can see how powerful its appeal remains.

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Peter Murray

 

cf4b2f697fef642c773de38f5be6cf06The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production

by Peter Marsh. Yale University Press, 2012. £25

Review by David Michon

There’s something happening in the world of business, says Peter Marsh. But, isn’t there always? Not quite like this, he says. We are in the midst of an industrial revolution – the world’s fifth, which began roughly in 2005. Set to unfold over the next two and half decades, this shift can be attributed, according to Marsh, to several factors, including: an increasingly connected and expansive global manufacturing circuit; smaller, niche production, with more customisation; environmental responsiveness; and the opening up of China.

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Peter Murray

wpbb920153_19_06The Trebor Story

by Matthew Crampton, Muddler Books, 2012. £12.08. On sale in bookshops or at muddlerbooks.com

Review by Ben Derbyshire

Matthew Crampton is a historian, a modern day wassailer, and a person who communicates infectious enthusiasm for diverse obsessions such as the music hall, and, in this case, the alchemists who turned raw sugar from east London’s Silvertown refinery into delicious sweets and in so doing transformed an East End micro-business into an international giant.

I suspect we will be hearing more from Mr Crampton at The London Society, and look forward to the full range of his storytelling and musical accomplishment on these subjects and others in the near future. Excuse the spoiler, but in his own words: “Trebor is a story of Britain’s industrial past. Its founders rode a wave of new technology, explored fresh ways of working and pioneered new sales techniques and export activities. They coped with two world wars. They coped with the ensuing peace. They coped with times of plenty and times of poverty. And when it became hard for a private company to compete with global competitors, they sold the business, as decently as they could and much more decently than they needed.”

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Peter Murray

dirtyoldad

Dirty Old London: the Victorian Fight against Filth

by Lee Jackson. Yale, 2014. £20. dirtyoldlondon.com

Review by Jonathan Manns

By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the British Empire was at its greatest extent, covering some 23 per cent of the surface of the globe. During the preceding century, the country’s imperial ambitions, mercantile culture and naval superiority, fuelled by the Industrial Revolution, had changed the world. The journey to reach this point also had profound domestic implications. The Victorians had reshaped London with a preoccupation for technology and sanitation; but for many citizens the experience remained, as Jack London described in 1903: “Helpless, hopeless, unrelieved, and dirty.” These experiences, which defined the daily life of everyday people, are the subject of Lee Jackson’s Dirty Old London.

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