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Germinal (St. Ives)

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The Raj At War: A People's History Of India's Second World War
The Raj At War: A People's History Of India's Second World War
by Dr. Yasmin Khan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raj at War, 9 Sept. 2015
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Yasmin Khan's `The Raj at War' is a good book overall but does suffer from a few flaws.

The strengths: very well written, accessible language, short chapters that are then subdivided for easy dipping in and out. The `people's history' approach works well as major events, the war, death, loss, suffering, political resistance, growing religious divide, the apartheid style racial classifications imposed by the British, the famine of 1943, the fate of labourers building the road to China, Quit India agitators, soldiers at home and abroad - India had a volunteer army of 2 million - are all real and personalised as the generalised experience is illustrated by the personal experiences and words from the individuals themselves. A picture emerges that makes continued British rule after the war as untenable.

The weaknesses: the book is too short, despite being 320 pages, issues that deserve more attention and detail don't get it and some issues are not covered at all. For example, the activities and actions of grassroots Quit India campaigners could have a lot more detail as could the repressive measures in response by the imperial state. For a book about India at war, the war itself, the battles, the front line barely rate a mention. Some aspects such as the building of the road to China and the casualty rate amongst labourers could be explored more deeply - a British officer who recalls 600 labourers who died at one spot being just one possible glimpse of the death rate. The `people's history' approach means that high politics and their impact upon people and people's actions and their impact upon high politics is sometimes disjointed - for example, the Congress offer to the British to support them in return for post-war independence is mentioned but the content of the offer is not, so a reader unaware of the content would be left stumped as to what the offer actually was. The mutiny of the Indian navy, a key event in the disintegration of Britain's ability to control India, is skipped over and less significant issues such as the treatment of disabled war veterans is given more prominence. I find it an odd `people's history' that skips over the collective actions of people making history.

Criticisms aside, this is a good book that brings a neglected aspect to WWII to light and will hopefully encourage wider interest in Indian history.


The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire
The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire
by Kent Flannery
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Inequality - it's not human nature, 8 Sept. 2015
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This is a well researched book that traces the development of human societies from egalitarian hunter-gatherers to class divided, unequal societies such as monarchies.

Flannery and Marcus argue that the first human societies were ones dominated by generosity, sharing and altruism. These societies also had numerous internal checks to try and protect that egalitarian nature. For instance, Inuits have been shown to have used marked hunting arrows to determine who killed an animal. Other people's like the !Kung mixed up these arrows so no one really knew who had been the successful hunter. These two societies, and many other hunter-gatherer communities, used ridicule and humour to downplay success and prevent anyone gaining a position above others. While successful hunters were cherished, they were expected to downplay their skills and share the fruits of their victories.

These hunter-gatherers developed technology and skills and their social organisation developed as well. With the development of clan based societies, it was possible for inequality to appear. At first this could simply be the difference between someone who had skills or experience over those who didn't and so age appears to have been an early form of inequality or access to knowledge such as religious belief and practice. But with the rise of agriculture, the ability to store surplus food meant that "Big Men" could arise who could give others food because they had come to control the surplus. None of this was inevitable and the mechanisms by which inequality could arise are not always easy to discern.

All of this and much else contained within this book is welcome news to someone like myself, a Marxist, as it helps towards confirming the view that social inequality is not some natural or eternal condition of humanity but, rather, something which has developed and something which we have made ourselves.

I do have some quibbles, more like frustrations really, with parts of the book. I tend to think that the relationships that people enter into when producing the means of their existence is important in influencing the structures of the societies in which they live. Yet in this book that insight from Marxian thought could have helped explain apparent conundrums such as the native North American people who kept a store of food for `the poor' without any explanation of who the poor were or how they became poor or another example, again from North America, of slaves kept, it seems as no clear explanation is forthcoming, as trophies or status symbols by families who would also have access to the best fishing grounds with no indication whether the slaves were used as labour or not and if not, why not?

Quibbles aside, this book is a really valuable source for arguing that inequality is not a product of human nature.


Springbank 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
Springbank 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 31 Aug. 2015
The smell. What hasn't it got? Nothing really. My wife makes Scottish tablet and it smells like that when it's cooking. Salted caramel. Sherry sweetness. Light but very definite smoke to the extent that it catches in your throat. Peat? Yes, a little. Floral notes? Yes. Fruit? Yes....lychees in syrup as it happens.

All that is replicated in the taste. Very, very smooth. Again the smoke catches in the throat and takes the breath away.

Like the 15 YO the finish goes on in waves of mouth drying and re-salivation except with the 18 YO the waves crash a bit more.

Astonishingly good whisky.


Glengyle Kilkerran Work in Progress 7 Sherry
Glengyle Kilkerran Work in Progress 7 Sherry

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WIP 7, 12 Aug. 2015
Aroma of hazelnuts, marzipan, cake mix - the usual stuff you expect.

Taste is lighter than I expected but still spicey - nutmeg and cinnamon with cloves lurking. Slight smoke - maybe. Some salt there.

Finish of toasted nuts, honey, salt and dryness.

It's 46% and there's a bit of burn and so I added some water. That brings out fruitier, muscovado notes in the smell. The taste now goes all salted caramel and the finish like cooked pears in toffee sauce.

Kilkerran have been releasing WIPs for a few years now so that whisky anoraks can taste the whisky as it progresses towards the release of a 12 YO in 2016. The latest, and last, WIP is No 7 released in a sherry cask and a Bourbon cask finish. I assume that the 12 YO will be some sort of marriage between these two cask finishes.

So, I've tried a little experiment and attempted a pre-emptive creation of what next year's Kilkerran 12 YO might be like. I've taken 25ml of each, married them together and mixed in 5ml of water.

The result? An aroma of salty honey heather with dark fruit and sugars. The taste is a smooth muscovado fruityness with the sherry dominating and the salty coastal stuff toned down from a few days back. Medium spice and salt on the finish.

Given that they will marry in a possibly different proportion and then cask the whisky again for a year and it will be better than my experiment. But I'd be more than happy drinking what I have today - and looking forward to next year's new release


Kilkerran Cask Strength Bourbon Wood WIP 7 54.1% 70cl
Kilkerran Cask Strength Bourbon Wood WIP 7 54.1% 70cl

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WIP 7, 12 Aug. 2015
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Smell: new mown grass, apples, cloves, vanilla custard, honey.

Taste: creme brulee and salt. Apple tart. Subtle smoke. Is there peat? Maybe.

Finish: salted burned fruit.

Interesting. Not sure why it's getting rave reviews. 54% and so I added some water - smell is now apple crumble with vanilla custard, taste is not very describable - salty gooseberries? Finish is smoky, salty, gooseberries.

A few days after opening and The Bourbon wood has become a lot smoother and is much much better.

Kilkerran have been releasing WIPs for a few years now so that whisky anoraks can taste the whisky as it progresses towards the release of a 12 YO in 2016. The latest, and last, WIP is No 7 released in a sherry cask and a Bourbon cask finish. I assume that the 12 YO will be some sort of marriage between these two cask finishes.

So, I've tried a little experiment and attempted a pre-emptive creation of what next year's Kilkerran 12 YO might be like. I've taken 25ml of each, married them together and mixed in 5ml of water.

The result? An aroma of salty honey heather with dark fruit and sugars. The taste is a smooth muscovado fruityness with the sherry dominating and the salty coastal stuff toned down from a few days back. Medium spice and salt on the finish.

Given that they will marry in a possibly different proportion and then cask the whisky again for a year and it will be better than my experiment. But I'd be more than happy drinking what I have today - and looking forward to next year's new release.


Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion
Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion
by Charles Townshend
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easter Rising, 10 Aug. 2015
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I am glad I persevered with this - I nearly didn't as on p31 Townshend extolled "the characteristic British values of reasonableness, compromise and non-violence.." Historians, serious ones anyway, should steer clear of crass statements like that. Still, at least Townshend has made clear early on where his sympathies lie and, to be fair to him, he does succeed in presenting a reasonably balanced account.

Good overall, I would say. Equal weight to British and Irish Republican actions and views and mistakes - of which there appear to have been many all round. I'd have liked more on a general background of Irish politics, Unionist politics and actions and how that fitted in to British rule and more on Connolly and how his socialist politics fitted, or not, with the nationalism of the Republicans.

Good on assessments of aftermath and how 1916 fitted into future Irish events. Poor on explaining why, post-1916, revolt became more of a working class phenomenon. I would also have liked a more nuanced view of Irish nationalism which doesn't just locate it as part of a European romantic nationalist current with origins in the nineteenth century but which does actually have deep roots in the experiences of Irish history and, surely, owes much to the American and French Republican traditions..


Springbank - Rundlets & Kilderkins - 2001 10 year old Whisky
Springbank - Rundlets & Kilderkins - 2001 10 year old Whisky
Offered by The Grapevine
Price: £199.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Has everything, 8 Aug. 2015
This whisky has been aged for just 10 years but in small casks, Rundlets and Kilderkins, which has intensified and accelerated the maturation process.

The result is an intense sherry, oaky, peaty, salty experience - it is a whisky that literally gives everything.

There were only 9,000 produced and, sadly, mine is finished but, if you ever get the chance , try it if you can. I can promise that you will not be disappointed.


The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic
The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic
by Peter Linebaugh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Motley Crew, 20 July 2015
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The title of the book is a reference to Hercules' heroic slaying of a monster in Greek mythology. As capitalism emerged in its early days, the emergent working class fought back against the effects of enclosures, enslavement and exploitation, and the chroniclers of early capitalism frequently referred to the many-headed hydra as a metaphor for this new monster that needed to be tamed.

The book is also about the conquest of the sea which established a new stage in human history and enabled the emergence of a globalising capitalism. Alongside this, however, there was a trans-Atlantic circulation of experience and struggle. Poorly paid, malnourished sailors were thrown together with slaves, transported criminals and conscripts in circumstances which created a common bond. So Linebaugh and Rediker trace a continuity of radical and revolutionary tradition that commences in the English Revolution with the Levellers, takes to the sea, continues and informs revolutionary, radical and democratic movements. A key feature of the book is the Motley Crew of the pirate ship a multi-coloured or indeed multi-ethnic group and such a motley crew was to be found on the ships that sailed the Atlantic stirring up a revolutionary current. Pirate revolts loom large - but not the stuff of Hollywood movies but the creation of radical democratic communities at sea. The book brings to life the multi-ethnic and internationalist nature of a whole series of struggles including the English Revolution, the Masaniello revolt in Naples in 1647, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution and the anti-slavery movement in Britain.

It's a great book that brings obscure movements and individuals to life, rescues them from mainstream history and provides us today with some inspiring moments.


War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century
War and Revolution: Rethinking the Twentieth Century
by Domenico Losurdo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effective demolition of Cold War liberal historiography, 29 Jun. 2015
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This is a political-philosophical critique of a strand of historiography. The book is composed mainly of articles from the mid 1990's that appear in English for the first time. The target is the Revisionist school of historiography that I would term Cold War liberalism - one that seeks to say, in a nutshell, that Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia are basically the same and that both stand as opposites of Western liberalism.

Losurdo follows the genesis of these ideas and the influence upon it of a variety of philosophical traditions associated with the counter-Enlightenment. He's highly adept at skewering thinkers like Furet, Nolte and the authors of 'The Black Book' with contradictions within their own texts, turning their methodologies around to use against them and highlighting the omissions they make. Losurdo's dialectical logic is unrelenting and a joy to read.

Losurdo is particularly concerned to identify the de-contextualisations and de-compartivisations that are common to this school - to take their blinkers off as it were.

The one new chapter is one taking on British imperial revivalism in the shape of Niall Ferguson and Losurdo basically gives Ferguson an intellectual fisting which is a joy to read - in fact there comes a point where one begins to feel sorry for Ferguson.


Benromach 10 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl
Benromach 10 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky 70 cl
Offered by The Grapevine
Price: £36.94

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Speysider, 15 May 2015
The aroma is light, floral fruityness - it doesn't offer much to begin with but after a few minutes there comes a distinct whiff of smoke and barbecued sweet peppers. Subsequent sniffs bring out butterscotch toffee

The mouth feel is pretty full and silky with a taste of toffee apples, roasted nuts, toasted fruits.

The finish is soot, charcoal, prunes, smoke and hints of muscovado.

This is my first Benromach and I am impressed. It describes itself as a 'Classic Speysider' which I guess it is. Very drinkable with lots going on and at C£30 is good vfm.


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