Memories of People and Places, 1918-2013
By Michael Barratt Brown
Michael Barratt Brown sets each chapter of his long and eventful life, from the 1920s to 2013, within the frame of world events. Thus, after childhood and youth, at the end of one world war and the start of another, he writes about his service in a Quaker Ambulance Unit. There followed work for the United Nations and, subsequently, in documentary films, in workers’ education, in industrial democracy, in socialist economics, in resisting nuclear warfare, in honest academic research, and in Fair Trade among co-operative organisations. In so doing, the author recalls something of the places, people, family and friends with whom he has been seeking to find a way to live a decent life, and to help others to do the same. Not always successful in these endeavours, he has nevertheless found wonderful love and friendships, as Seekers makes clear. The struggle goes on.
A courageous and exhilarating book, Michael Barratt Brown provides a remarkably honest narrative of his struggles both to live a good life on his own account and to improve the lot of others ‘from below upwards’ through his work in adult education and Fair Trade. Michael seems to have known almost everyone who mattered. As a child in 1930, he sat on Gandhi’s knee. The stories of his loves and friendships give the reader a fascinating insight into the networks of the 20th century intellectual Left.
Biographer and cultural historian
Michael Barratt Brown brings alive the struggles for socialism, and for peace and justice, in the 20th century with fascinating and sometimes very funny stories of everyone that a 21st century radical socialist would want to meet, plus a few that you will be glad to have missed! As important is that, through his stories and reflections, Michael conveys powerfully the potential of a transformative, radically democratic and feminist tradition which has long existed on the Left across Europe. During much of Michael’s amazing life, this tradition was marginalised. We need to draw on it now to inspire the alternatives that are so urgent today. So Seekers is a valuable resource as well as a riveting read.
Red Pepper co-editor
Fellow of the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam
John Field – Vol 33(4) of International Journal of Lifelong Education