Radical Turns: Literary Intellectuals, Communism and British Publishing in the Late 1930s

Drawings for Harold Heslop's Last Cage Down
Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 2:00pm

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Room 38
121 Wall St.
New Haven, CT 06511


Jackson Brothers Fellow
Ben Harker
University of Salford

'Between 1935 and 1939' wrote George Orwell in 1940, 'the Communist Party had an almost irresistible fascination for any writer under forty.' This talk re-visits the 1930s radicalization of sections of the English intelligentsia via the story of Lawrence & Wishart, formed in 1936 as the in-house publisher of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and whose records are held in the Beinecke Library. The questions the talk asks include: what did the literary intellectuals who put their energies and expertise into running Lawrence & Wishart (Edgell Rickword, Douglas Garman and Ernest Wishart) expect from the Communist Party, and what did it expect from them? What were the fault-lines and tensions over the years ahead? And what new light does the early story of Lawrence & Wishart—that of a coalition between established men of letters and organised Communism—shed on the cultural politics of a tumultuous period?

Ben Harker is Lecturer in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Salford. His first book was Class Act: The Cultural and Political Life of Ewan MacColl (Pluto Press, 2007) and more recently he co-edited British Communism: A Documentary History (Manchester University Press, 2011). His articles on culture and the Left in Britain have appeared in journals including History Workshop, ELH and Literature & History. He's an editor of Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism and is currently writing two books, one provisionally entitled The Cultural Formation of the English Popular Front and the other Cultural Communism. While at the Beinecke he will be researching the records of the publishers Lawrence & Wishart.


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