Archive for the ‘Nineteenth Century’ Category

The book describes Casement’s evolving nationalist sympathies.  Casement’s description of impoverished typhus sufferers in Connemara as ‘the white Indians of Ireland’ illustrates his inner journey.  As further proof, Goodman cites Casement’s assertion that no race could be trusted with power over another, and that only Irishmen and Irishwomen could resolve the typhus outbreak in Co. Galway.  Goodman does not pursue these claims.  At this time, in fact, overwhelmingly nationalist local councils had responsibility for fighting contagious disease.  Records from Dublin city and county show how effective councils could be in fighting such alarming outbreaks.  Any failure to tackle typhus in Connemara therefore, could be largely attributed to Irishmen and Irishwomen.  It is significant too that these ‘white Indians’ lived in the remote and Gaelic west, inspiration for so much nationalist mythologizing.  The more familiar, and inconveniently modern, urban poor were regarded less romantically.

Such criticisms should not detract from the importance of this book in highlighting the personal courage of a significant and complex personality in modern Irish history.  For a rising diplomat, concerns with the oppressed in Africa and South America were neither popular nor profitable.  Casement’s dogged pursuit of the facts, and his determination to hunt down the perpetrators, are a testimony to the power of the individual to make a difference.  The book’s subtitle is ‘One man’s struggle for the Human Rights in South America’s Heart of Darkness’, but it also reveals the many individuals and organisations that drove the Putumayo campaign.  It is heartening to realise that even at the zenith of the imperial age activists could use ethical and moral pressure to force governments to act.  Less encouraging is the fact that the debate on policing multinational companies, begun a century ago, continues to perplex legislators today.

Click here for more on Jordan Goodman’s The Devil and Mr Casement.

Or click here to read the full article in the Irish Left Review.


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In this year of Darwinian celebrations, Verso publishes The Pure Society, André Pichot’s polemical history of the dark side of evolutionary theory.

In this book, Pichot, a prominent French historian of science, exposes the connection between Darwinian biology and social oppression, as a supposedly objective scientifically-themed ideology was used to justify and extend projects of eugenics and racism.  The success of Darwinism in science is in fact due to the usefulness of Social Darwinism to those in power.

The New Humanist has just carried a positive review of this extensively-researched book:

Layout 1“Eugenics, argues Pichot, was not the work of a few cranks and Nazi ideologists, it was the mainstream and its opponents were the intellectual “eccentrics”…Pichot’s work is a salutary warning.  As he notes, the malignant ideologies of eugenics have not disappeared, but are now privatised with the pressure of the market, the media and medicine encouraging us to breed our own “perfect” offspring.  The key question The Pure Society poses is how we can defend human beings against being reduced to mere raw material, or animals fit for breeding, without relying on the usual religious models of the sacred inviolability of human life.”

Support local independent bookshops by buying The Pure Society from them.

This book is also available from Verso, Amazon and The Book Depository.

Praise for the French Edition:

“This book is terrifying and sends shivers down one’s spine…With a methodical, surgical but also indignant pen, André Pichot painstakingly tracks these ordinary crimes [of eugenics]…One of the great merits of his work is that it calls on us for a spirit of critical vigilance”  Télérama

“André Pichot is an excellent historian…Pichot analyses [this complex history of eugenics] with finesse.  He destroys the false ideas, the “fables” which were completely invented to justify a priori ideas.  A very rich book, which is based on abundant documentation.”  Études

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Sheila Rowbotham, author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love, will be at Bishopsgate Insitute to talk about Iain Sinclair’s latest book, Hackey, That Rose-Red Empire on 26th March, 2009.

Join Iain, Sheila and a panel of East London luminaries, Rachel Lichtenstein, Patrick Wright and Michael Rosen, as they discuss Iain’s examination of a borough that has been persistently revived, reinvented and betrayed.

Click here for more information

Buy Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love from Amazon and Book Depository

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