What We Are Reading Today: Workers’ Tales

Updated 24 October 2018
0

What We Are Reading Today: Workers’ Tales

  • In Workers’ Tales, acclaimed critic and author Michael Rosen brings together more than 40 of the best and most enduring examples of these stories in one beautiful volume

Edited by Michael Rosen

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, unique tales inspired by traditional literary forms appeared frequently in socialist-leaning British periodicals, such as the Clarion, Labour Leader, and Social Democrat.
Based on familiar genres— the fairy tale, fable, allegory, parable, and moral tale— and penned by a range of lesser-known and celebrated authors, including Schalom Asch, Charles Allen Clarke, Frederick James Gould, and William Morris, these stories were meant to entertain readers of all ages — and some challenged the conventional values promoted in children’s literature for the middle class. In Workers’ Tales, acclaimed critic and author Michael Rosen brings together more than 40 of the best and most enduring examples of these stories in one beautiful volume.
Throughout, the tales in this collection exemplify themes and ideas related to work and the class system, sometimes in wish-fulfilling ways. In “Tom Hickathrift,” a little, poor person gets the better of a gigantic, wealthy one. In “The Man Without a Heart,” a man learns about the value of basic labor after testing out more privileged lives.
And in “The Political Economist and the Flowers,” two contrasting gardeners highlight the cold heart of Darwinian competition. Rosen’s informative introduction describes how such tales advocated for contemporary progressive causes and countered the dominant celebration of Britain’s imperial values.


What We Are Reading Today: Empires of the Weak by J. C. Sharman

Updated 19 January 2019
0

What We Are Reading Today: Empires of the Weak by J. C. Sharman

  • New book demonstrates that the rise of the West was an exception in the prevailing world order.

What accounts for the rise of the state, the creation of the first global system, and the dominance of the West? The conventional answer asserts that superior technology, tactics, and institutions forged by Darwinian military competition gave Europeans a decisive advantage in war over other civilizations. 

In contrast, Empires of the Weak argues that Europeans actually had no general military superiority in the early modern era. J.C. Sharman shows instead that European expansion from the late 15th to the late 18th centuries is better explained by deference to strong Asian and African polities, diseases in the Americas, and maritime supremacy earned by default because local land-oriented polities were largely indifferent to war and trade at sea. Europeans were overawed by the mighty Eastern empires of the day, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Bringing a revisionist perspective to the idea that Europe ruled the world due to military dominance, Empires of the Weak demonstrates that the rise of the West was an exception in the prevailing world order.