You may remember that back in April we posted an appeal for the anonymous author of a particularly interesting pamphlet from Senate House Library’s Ron Heisler collection to come forward…
…little did we think that they actually would!
Anyway, we saw this as a good opportunity to quiz the author as to how far their views had changed in the thirty years since Bigot was published, and the interview, as well as the full text of the magazine itself, is reproduced below.
Are you still a vegetarian? The page with the picture of the butchered carcass is perhaps the most visually arresting in the magazine – did you draw it yourself?
Yes I’m still vegetarian and yes I drew all the cartoons/graphics in Bigot. I came to vegetarianism through animal rights and the punk scene in the 1980’s. It was part of the ‘package’. But I think if a person’s primary reason for this becoming vegetarian is for animal rights reasons (ie, conscience and altruism) then it’s hard to reverse that, as the reasons are so heart-felt. It’s not the same if you did it for your own health reasons. I know a lot of now ex-veggies that have been vegetarian foremost for their own health benefits, but have reverted to eating meat again as they have read some report that suggests they should do so. I’m still mostly vegan in fact. I’m now a professional photographer shooting outdoor/adventure editorials so I travel a lot and to a lot of remote places and ‘developing countries’. Vegan is hard to do on some of the trips, but I’ve stayed vegetarian and haven’t eaten meat or fish for 32 years.
I suppose the main thing is how much of a continuum there has been between this publication and your later life, whether in a sense you still recognise yourself here, and whether the people around you would recognise you from it?
I think I could really do with seeing a copy of Bigot again to best answer some of these questions. Unfortunately (?) I don’t have one. But as I remember Bigot, then yes I see quite a lot of continuation in my thoughts, ideas and passions 30 years or so later. I have the same base politics (anarchism) but as with most people, it has become diluted as I have become incorporated into the working world. I wouldn’t say I have sold-out, just maybe more realistic. In fact a very good friend sees me as still being a prime example of the punk message –to just go and do it and not worry about what others think or expect of you.
I’ve changed jobs/career paths several times, leaving solid, secure jobs to go traveling etc, and now work for myself as a freelance photographer. I think for me it’s easy to feel like I have compromised in many parts of my life though, for example I photograph advertising campaign images that are used to encourage people to consume more – but I am choosy about who I will work for. I have turned down work for a major cigarette company and Coca-Cola, and I know who I wouldn’t work for – McDonalds for example. All the brands for which I photograph commercially are involved in the outdoor industry. Yes, they sell products but the products encourage and enable people to get outside, get into the wilds, get fitter, discover the world, nature etc, so I guess that helps placate my own unrest/unease about participating in encouraging consumerism. The ‘great outdoors’ has played a big part in my own passions and lifestyle.
I think the underlying continuum is that I still have a ‘do unto others as you’d wish them to do to you’ ethos. I think people need to take responsibility for their actions, but I still believe that we’re not encouraged to do so, nor largely allowed to do so. When people are not encouraged to take real responsibility in society then the resulting breakdown allows the excuse for increased restrictions, laws, oppression. Don’t confuse me with ‘libertarians’ that want freedom to do whatever they want (and to heck with the rest of society), rather that I still believe that everyday distractions (TV, iPhone, Facebook etc) and the image we’re sold of what life is meant to be we are not responsibility or allowed to really see the truth. That hasn’t changed since I put together Bigot. The distractions are there, but they have changed slightly with technology.
Some would argue that most people don’t want to see the truth, and want to get on with life as they have it. I think that’s a cop out excuse.
Oh and I still love hummus.
Is this publication something that your friends and family would know about, do you talk about it or did you forget all about it?
One of my 2 brothers would know about it, but not other family members or most current friends (aside from a couple of old friends from that era in Swansea.) I think it’s important to understand the era in which Bigot was made, and the fact that police harassment (eg, stop and search of our cars and phone tapping) was something we genuinely had to deal with once your name was known. I was involved in a lot of direct action and certainly producing a political magazine like Bigot was not something you publicised that much, hence the anonymous PO box contact. And there was nothing to gain from putting your own name on it anyway. It’s not like I was entering the Booker prize. We made magazines like this to politicise what we thought was (and I believe still is) an ignorant and apathetic population, it wasn’t to get your name out there and win friends or status.
There was a great slogan back then that read ‘just because they say you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you’, or something similar. I might even have included it in Bigot?
Were you part of a community at Swansea sharing things like this or was it really an individual effort?
I was involved in many group actions and political action/campaign groups in Swansea. We hosted punk gigs as benefit fund raisers for causes like Rape Crisis Centre and the striking miners etc. We had Chumbawamba play a few times, back when they released their critique of Live-Aid/charity ‘Pictures of Starving Children sell records’ LP. They’d all sleep on our bedroom floor after the gig. We played in our own (punk) bands too. Producing Bigot was another output for my political ideas and a step in my own social development. It was perhaps a way for me to re-enforce my own beliefs too, and for me to address my own controlling tendencies. I was involved in making another political paper at the time called Swansea Black Sheep, with two other student anarchists. It was a great paper but I felt like I had to compromise a little doing that, so I wanted to put produce something that was solely my own editorial, hence Bigot. It probably played some cathartic role. I sold it at punk gigs around the country and in the local community bookshop (called “Emma’s”, named after anarcho feminist Emma Goldman). I went on to be involved in other political (anarchist) national papers for years afterwards until about 1996.
Interestingly the title Bigot (and cover cartoon I drew) came to mind after another argument with my own mum, when she accused me of being a bigot because I wasn’t “willing to listen to others” (her words). Meanwhile I was trying to explain to her that we live in a pseudo-democracy where our idea of freedom and free speech is dictated to us by those in power (I still believe this is the case). I was trying to show her that I wasn’t the bigot, but those in power, holding the reins over a sham of free speech, are the bigots. The idea of the middle and upper class raping the world and then shouting bigot at the few underdogs as they struggled for change society seemed to sum up the idea that I should call it Bigot. It was sic / tongue in cheek.
One of the things that strikes us looking at Bigot is that it comes from perhaps the last generation of students who would have turned primarily to print, and we suspect that now this sort of content would be published in blogs and personal websites. Do you have any feelings about what that shift means in terms of getting your voice heard?
I believe print had its place and still does. It was and still is an important way of getting your voice heard. Its physical form and presence exerts more resonance, especially nowadays when most media is digital and so easily passed over, to be forgotten after 30 seconds. I think yes if this kind of voice is now on blogs etc, then it is largely swamped by the online media tsunami that is the internet. I’m thinking that the town I am in now needs a printed newsletter, distributed for free, rattling the cage and pointing out the inadequacies of the local council to try to embarrass them into (re)actions. Print was (is) all about taking it to the people, selling papers on the streets, handing out pamphlets. People wont find these political messages on the internet unless they go looking for it, and then the readership is likely already sympathetic. That’s good as it helps build solidarity, but it doesn’t take your message to the extra people, the critical mass that will make the difference, whether it is through making changes to their own personal lives for climate change reasons or putting pressure on the authorities for change, be it local or global.
On the plus side I’m amazed at how responsive and quickly online things can get done, organized and achieve results. For example, petitions can get a million signatures in a week and protests and news from protests can be seen and shared so quickly on twitter etc. The downside of online is how easily the message can be bastardized, become misaligned, challenged and ridiculed through half truths or misinformation and the same channel that was meant to deliver your message can become the soapbox for the opposition.
I don’t know how much contact you have with students today, or how much you are still involved in campaigning groups, but I suppose the obvious question is whether you think young people today are politically engaged as you very obviously were?
I don’t really have any contact with students nowadays. I live much of the time in France and am not that involved in campaigning groups –those that are active locally where I live are too liberal and wishy-washy in their methods for me to really want to be involved with them. I do talks and presentations that raise money for causes and I donate my photography work to charities to use. But from what I see around me, no I don’t think young people are as socially-politically engaged as we were in the 1980s. The 80s were a pretty challenging decade – we had the real threat of nuclear war hanging over us, and it was easy to identify the ‘enemy’. Today the enemy is harder to define as a single focus for our energy, the protest movement is so fractioned, and there are so many distractions for young people that politics is lower down the list of priorities. I hope it’s just that I am out of touch. I think I could safely say that Bigot and the politics I was into then was pretty marginal, and I am aware that most people in the 80s actually didn’t give a toss about much either, just as people are today.
I do think there is a rising tide of dissatisfaction in young people again though. People are worried about their futures, the rise of the right wing and the destruction of our planet. Things are hotting up and I think there will be a lot more protest to come. It’s in the pipeline.
What issues do you think you would be writing about if you were doing another issue of Bigot today?
Unfortunately I think it would be the same issues. That’s a depressing thought isn’t it? The same issues face us now as they did then (albeit without the same threat of nuclear annihilation – although as I write seem to be spiraling back towards some 1980s Armageddon-threatening era of fear). The only thing that would be different in a new Bigot, would be in its delivery – a more upbeat production perhaps, although I seem to remember using cartoons to make it more penetrable and accessible to people?
I see a lot of what we shouted, protested and warned about in the early-mid 80s as having come true: increased state control and powers under the guise of anti-terrorism, CCTV on every corner, ignorant Kardachian-mania (replacing Princess Diana-mania), xenophobia, mindless consumerism having more importance than protecting the planet, the rise (again) of racism, the pervasion of sexism (made ‘acceptable’ again by a strange post–PC laddish attitude). Not much has changed really. They even voted to renew Trident yesterday 30 years after we spent a decade living in fear of being blown away. Insane. We’ve xenophobically got out of Europe and the USA is about to vote a bigoted racist in as president. These are worrying times.
Personally, three decades of head-banging-against-wall feelings gets tiring and it gets me down. But there is still something in me that refuses to give in, to let the bad win.
Bigot was obviously fairly counter-cultural – how does it feel that it has been added, without your knowledge, to a major academic library?
We need academics. I’m not a ground zero Maoist. There’s nothing wrong with education, study, academia, and so on if it benefits society. We need people to theorise and think. I think its easy to see ‘counter-cultural’ as the same as anti-everything. It isn’t. It’s subjective. It depends on the culture. It’s the same trap people see about punk too. Punk was originally about DIY music and disaffected youth escaping the drudgery of life (and about art school students making money), but it soon became a political stage that was also about protesting against the capitalist-governed society. That’s where bands like Crass, Flux of Pink Indians, Conflict and Chumbawamba came in. Yet people on the outside only see it as being about smashing things up. It’s easy to label protest movements, to compartmentalize and misrepresent them so that their true messages are conveniently side-stepped. Bigot wasn’t about the overthrow of everything we know, but about highlighting the wrongs of the world and praising the good (like hummus).
It seems the wrong question to ask about a magazine that deplores capitalism and quotes Marx, but it must have been reasonably expensive to print – did you make a profit do you remember? Or was it maybe quietly put together on Swansea University equipment without too much cost?
Bigot didn’t cost much to make, although for a student it felt like it did at the time. I did all the artwork, layout etc myself, and got a local printer to print. I seem to have a figure of £60 in my head for the printing and paper. I have no idea how many copies I printed – maybe 1000? Maybe 500? I sold it for whatever it cost to print per issue. Was it 20p? No profit. I seem to remember insisting on using recycled paper, even back then. That was important.
Trade card of Phillip Hunt, cabinet maker at ‘ye Looking Glas & Cabinet’ at the east end of St Pauls Church yd, c. 1690 (British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings, Heal Collection Ref. 28.104). <http://www.britishmuseum.org/collection>, British Museum, online [accessed 17 October 2016].
We are delighted to announce the launch of the first phase of the English Furniture Makers Online project (EFMO), a collaboration between the Furniture History Society and the Centre for Metropolitan History. The first phase of the project, generously funded by the Furniture History Society (as part of their 50th anniversary appeal) marks the beginning of a larger research project to investigate the nature and historical contexts of the artisans and craftsmen involved in the English furniture trade in the period 1600–1900. The wider project will combine scholarly research with advanced digital resource creation to enhance our understanding of the industry – the patronage, commissions, designs, production and methods of retailing in the period – and then to make the sources and analysis available to a broad audience. This audience will be made up of groups with varied interests, but will include furniture historians, architectural historians, social, economic and cultural historians, museum curators, as well as collectors and the commercial market.
At the heart of the wider project is the 1987 publication of the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers (DEFM). Digitising this resource, and making it available with a sophisticated interrogative user interface to allow rich interaction and detailed analysis, will mark a significant advancement in the study of English furniture makers and the trade in its own right. However it is proposed that a second phase of the project will build upon the work of the DEFM with new scholarship that has emerged in the thirty years since its publication, and with new archival and material research that has been identified in recent years.
The study of English furniture was originally conceived as an adjunct to art history at the beginning of the twentieth century. The subject has conventionally been approached through object-based examinations with the primary aim of establishing provenance. This methodology depends on the survival of labelled artefacts or documentary evidence which links objects to particular makers and consequently limits the examination to rare survivals, most of which are attributed to tradesmen at the top of the furniture-making hierarchy. This project will include furniture makers across the spectrum, from cabinetmakers who supplied royal households to humble artisans at the opposite end of the supply chain.
The Restoration is an era considered to have witnessed the birth of modern English furniture and London furniture makers were at the heart of this innovation. Furniture historians often argue that the single most important cause for this advancement was the jubilant restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The story goes that an influx of continental craftsmen came to London following Charles II’s return from exile and brought inspiration to the capital’s artisanal communities after the turbulent years of the civil wars and the dour, joyless decade of the Commonwealth. There is clearly some truth to this interpretation as the return of the king and his court certainly benefited the decorative arts financially: the Lord Chamberlain’s accounts document substantial payments to various types of craftsmen to rebuild and refurnish royal palaces. This had an effect on the wider community. Middling sorts were keen to emulate the social habits and lifestyles of their betters, thus spurring a consumer revolution of sorts which some economists have termed ‘the Veblen effect of emulative spending’. The seventeenth-century economist and financial speculator Nicholas Barbon wrote in 1690 that ‘it is not Necessity that causeth the Consumption. Nature may be Satisfied with little; but it is the wants of the Mind, Fashion and the desire of Novelties and Things Scarce that causeth the Trade’.
However, in over-emphasising the idea that the return of the monarchy was responsible for the birth of modern English furniture, historians neglect the influence of Asian and continental European designs and styles in England before the Restoration, and underestimate the prowess of London furniture-makers. Living conditions were unarguably difficult: standards of living in London during the late 1640s represented the worst slump since the 1590s. First-hand accounts describe the reality for tradesmen: the London turner, Nehemiah Wallington lamented that ‘workmen are gone and trading is dead’, and the Venetian ambassador recounted that ‘all shops are kept shut by order of Parliament with loss to merchants and inconvenience to the inhabitants’. Nevertheless, these circumstances should not obscure the fact that prior to 1660 many English artisans were already highly skilled and well versed in contemporary decorative styles and designs.
The late 1660s proved a pivotal period in transforming London into a modern European capital and the furniture trade made a substantial contribution to this manufacturing boom with the introduction of fashionable new objects that captivated retailers and consumers alike. Daniel Defoe remarked that in London, ‘the poorest citizens live like the rich, the rich like the gentry, the gentry like the nobility, and the nobility strive to outshine one another’.
We start this week with The Ministry of Nostalgia by Owen Hatherley, as Charlotte Riley recommends a compelling exploration of one way in which the British political establishment and the British public (mis)interpret, (mis)remember, and (fail to) engage with history (no. 2008).
Next up is Matthew Strickland’s Henry the Young King 1155-1183 by Matthew Strickland. David Crouch praises a book whose study of the Young King is carried off with thoroughness and an enviable mastery of the chronicle and literary sources (no. 2007).
Then we turn to what I am sure the reviewer won’t mind me gently saying is a slightly overdue review (the sequel is already out!) – Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends by Mary Sperling McAuliffe. Charles Sowerwine praises a great read for professional historians and the educated lay reader alike (no. 2006).
Finally we have a review article covering The New Deal: A Global History by Kiran Klaus Patel and Great Exception: The New Deal & The Limits of American Politics by Jefferson Cowie. Gabriel Winant believes that in the distance between these two books, a range of new questions to debate for years ahead emerges (no. 2005).
Henry’s reign began inauspiciously. He was crowned on 28 October 1216 in some haste at Gloucester Abbey. The coronation was overseen by the papal legate and Henry was anointed by the bishops of Worcester, Winchester and Exeter; the archbishops of Canterbury and York being unavailable. The royal crown had gone missing and he was crowned with his mother’s circlet. All this in the midst of the Barons’ War caused by his father the “bad” king John. To reinforce his royal authority he had a second coronation in 1220.
Henry III’s coronation (Cotton Vitellius A. XIII) Wikipedia
“Henry’s capacity to play for very high stakes, and yet lose, was truly remarkable”
His reign was to end just as inauspiciously. His claims to the lost Angevin empire were renounced by the treaty of Paris (1259), factional court fighting and another baronial revolt led to yet another civil war. Though the war was won by Henry the last years of his reign were marred by fears of further rebellion.
The online publication of the Henry III Fine Rolls has opened a new episode in research on Henry as well as the politics, government, local-central relations, law, relations with Wales and Ireland and society in general – an episode well documented in The Growth of Royal Government under Henry III which uses the Rolls to offer new interpretations of the reign.
On Friday 28th October, the IHR Library will host a screening of the documentary ‘Little America‘ (2016) exploring the history of the US Embassy at Grosvenor Square and examining its role as a physical representation of the ‘Special Relationship’ and as a site of protest.
The film was commissioned to mark the Embassy’s departure from the Square as it moves to its new home south of the river at Nine Elms. The move marks a significant historical departure, with the US having been associated with Grosvenor Square since the late eighteenth century when John Adams, the first United States Minister to the Court of St. James’s, lived from 1785 to 1788 in the house which still stands in Grosvenor Square on the corner of Brook and Duke Streets.
The documentary records the history of both the people and the place that came to be know as ‘Little America’ and encompasses archive footage alongside oral histories from numerous British and American diplomats, journalists, politicians and activists, including Tony Blair, William Hague, Jack Straw, Jon Snow, Justin Webb, and the current ambassador, Matthew Barzun.
The screening will be preceded by a short introductory talk from Emily Gee (Historic England and IHR Fellow) focusing on the historical and architectural importance of the building.
What is History Day? And how can it help your research?
Historical research requires a rich ecosystem of libraries, archives, associations, publishers and other organisations to flourish. Part of the process of becoming a historian, or understaking research with a historical element, is attempting to come to grips with this dense, rewarding – and sometimes confusing – network. While many online resources, such as The National Archives’ Discovery system, which provides access to over 32 million record descriptions from across the UK, or Copac, which provides a way of searching over 90 specialist research libraries, help to find the sources that might be out there, there is often no better method than speaking to a librarian or archivist, and asking them, ‘this is what I am interested in. What do you have that might be useful to me?’
History Day 2016 is the annual analogue equivalent of Discovery or Copac. On 15 November 2016, The Institute for Historical Research (IHR) and Senate House Library, with the help of the Committee of London Research Libraries in History, are bringing together over thirty libraries and archives, from the Bishopsgate Institute to the Weiner Libary. All sizes of institutions are represented, from the British Library and The National Archives, to specialist archives and libraries such as the Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society. Members of their staff will be on hand to discuss their collections and your research.
You can get a flavour of some of the materials that they have in their collections in the series of blog posts, based on the Being Human theme for this year, ‘hope and fear’. The selected items include Scrofula and the Royal Touch (KCL), human physonomie (Wellcome), photograph of London’s first gay pride rally (Bishopgate Institute Library).
Like last year, History Day includes a number of talks and debates on the nature of history and the process of historical research, starting with a discussion on the varieties of public history, chaired by the IHR Director, Prof. Lawrence Goldman, with contributions from Dr Alix Green and Dr Suzannah Lipscomb. Later in the day, the relative merits of libraries and archives will be debated, and there are panels on digital history and business archives. History Lab and History Lab Plus will be on hand to help put graduates and Early Career Researchers in touch with one another, and to offer a sofa and a cup of coffee. We are also pleased to welcome the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a number of historical organisations and a selection of historical print and digital publishers.
Bishopsgate Institute Library
Black Cultural Archives
Business Archives Council
Caird Library and Archive, National Maritime Museum
Dana Research Centre and Library, Science Museum
Geological Society Library
German Historical Institute Library
Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery
History Lab Plus
Institute of Historical Research
King’s College London Library Services
Lambeth Palace Library and the Church of England Record Centre
Library of the Society of Friends
Lindley Library, Royal Horticultural Society
London Metropolitan Archives
LSE library services and The Women’s Library @ LSE
The National Archives
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Queen Mary University of London Archives
Royal Astronomical Society Library & Archives
The Royal Society, Collections
Royal United Services Institute, Library of Military History
Senate House Library
Society of Antiquaries Library and Collections
School of Oriental and African Studies Library
TUC Library collections at London Metropolitan University
UCL Library Services
We start this week with The Radical Right in Late Imperial Russia: Dreams of a True Fatherland? by George Gilbert, as Geoffrey Hosking and the author discuss a good general guide (no. 2004, with response here).
Next we turn to Jonathan Hogg’s British Nuclear Culture: Official and Unofficial Narratives in the Long 20th Century. Richard Brown recommends the first major contribution to what promises to be a significant sub-field of British nuclear history (no. 2003).
Then we have John Owen and English Puritanism: Experiences of Defeat by Crawford Gribben, as Elliot Vernon praises a fluent biography of a difficult historical figure (no. 2002).
Finally Ronan Fanning’s Eamon de Valera: A Will to Power is reviewed by Brian Girvin, who believes this book sets the bar high for any future assessments of de Valera (no. 2001).
You might remember that I started an internship a couple of weeks ago. I’d just like to comment on a couple of things.
Bad things that could happen on an internship:
Having to get there in rush hour
An awful boss who makes you do all their dirty work
Ending up having nothing to put on your CV
Just making tea all the time
Thankfully, absolutely none of these things happened to me while working for IHR (Institute of Historical Research). I worked hours that fitted around my commute, everybody was lovely, I did a huge range of things, and I actually got brought tea. Which was just as well as I found out that my tiny arms were too weak to lift their massive red teapot with one hand.
The work I did while I was there was varied. I proof read, put things online, wrote abstracts, and ended up doing some work for my dissertation. I also did some company tweeting, which gave me a disproportionate sense of power. So a lot of things to put on the CV then.
Also, it was just a nice place to work. Everybody was lovely, there were always biscuits, I had access to a fantastic library, and there was always somewhere interesting to wander to in my lunch hour.
I’m not saying it was all sunshine and roses. I forgot the codes to the doors a couple of times, and after having about 15 cups of tea a day brought to me I’ve started waking up craving the stuff. Damage has been done.
Genuinely, this is a great experience, which gives you a lot of skills to take home. A couple of interns are taken every year from the pool of History students at Leicester, so I’d definitely recommend applying next year. On a related note, I also wrote a post for them on using one of their online resources, Connected Histories, which was immensely helpful. Stick around if you need a hand finding sources.
October’s update includes an entry on the artist Tirzah Garwood (1908-1951), who was married to Eric Ravilious, who becomes the 60,000th person to be added to Dictionary.
The October update also adds 35 biographies of early nineteenth-century slave-owners, who were recipients of compensation from the Commissioners of Slave Compensation after the passing of the Abolition Act in 1833. These biographies have been researched and written in collaboration with the new Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership at University College London.
New figures include John Stewart (1789-1860), a slave owner in Berbice, who was probably of African descent. As an MP, Stewart represented the concerns of the West India interest while establishing business interests in the City of London: he is thought to have been the first MP of black or mixed race.
The October update also adds 40 biographies of men and women associated with the city of Hull, which is UK City of Culture, 2017. Among those now added to the Dictionary are Ethel Leginska (1886-1970)—who was born in Hull, and became a noted composer and the first woman to conduct some of the world’s leading orchestras—and Jean Hartley (1933-2011) who published The Less Deceived—the first volume of poems by Philip Larkin, following the poet’s arrival in Hull.
October’s update also adds 2500 new links from ODNB entries to externalresources, offering additional biographical information. These include:
2000 gallery pages in Art UK, allowing readers to view art works in public collections by artists with entries in the ODNB.
Highlights from the new edition are available here. The Oxford DNB is the national record of 60,000 men and women who’ve shaped all walks of British life, worldwide, from the Roman occupation to the 21st century.
To mark our 2000th review we have a special Somme centenary piece, centred around a reappraisal of Martin Middlebrook’s classic The First Day on the Somme.
How is that that a Lincolnshire poultry farmer changed the course of Somme historiography with his first book? In the first of a two-part centenary article on the bibliography of the 1916 Battle of the Somme, Ross Davies shows how Martin Middlebrook ‘prised open a window’ upon a battle that for a century has haunted the British and their Commonwealth allies. Himself haunted by the close-packed Somme military cemeteries, Middlebrook turned to the survivors with the-then novel idea of interviewing them rather than relying solely upon the accounts of the politicians and the generals, and the Somme veterans depicted an ‘almost indecipherable chaos’ on the opening day of the vast British infantry assault. This review explains the significance of this book and its approach in terms of the evolving historiography of the battle, and will be followed by a detailed overview of Somme centenary publications.