Category Archives: Book Review

Markets Not Capitalism: A Review

by Cory Massimino

Markets Not Capitalism: A Review

Markets not Capitalism is a wonderfully compiled set of readings spanning 150 years of the market anarchist tradition. We must first commend Gary Chartier and Charles Johnson on their work in bringing all this great literature together and bundling it in a fantastic book for those interested in what market anarchism truly has to offer, as stated by its most ardent supporters of both past and present.

It’s hard to believe the number of genius thinkers who have writings in Markets not Capitalism: Benjamin Tucker, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Voltarine de Cleyre, Karl Hess, Roy Childs, William Gillis, Kevin Carson, Roderick Long, and Sheldon Richman to name a few. The compilation truly blends together the 19th century individualist anarchist tradition with the modern left libertarian thinkers who are following in the former’s footsteps. Continue reading

Daniel Harding Reviews The Break

‘The Break’ is the latest book by Sean Gabb, and another that explores another alternate timeline of the UK, as well as the amusing political outcomes of said universe. ‘The Break’ is set in the UK in 2018, in the aftermath of a disastrous event (the break) that has taken modern Britain and thrown her back near enough 1,000 years in time, or put her in an alternate universe in the more accurate sense. Most of the story is based around the quest of a young girl who needs to find her parents who have gone missing during her time abroad in Normandy. The other main character is the nephew of a Byzantine diplomat who have come to England to meet her rulers. Continue reading

Review of Richard Blake’s “Curse of Babylon”

The Curse of Babylon

by Richard Blake

Amid the plotting, revolts and wild hedonism of the remains of the Roman empire at the beginning of the seventh century, English adventurer Aelric faces his hardest challenge as he tries to stop a Persian invasion – and deal with a determined and dangerous woman. Continue reading

Richard Blake on the Byzantine Empire

Heraclius: Emperor of Byzantium
Walter E. Kaegi
Cambridge University Press, 2003, 380pp
ISBN 0 521 81459 6
Reviewed by Richard Blake

This is the first biography of Heraclius in over a century, and the first ever in English. That a biography was worth writing should be clear from the book’s cover note:

This book evaluates the life and times of the pivotal yet controversial and poorly understood Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (AD 610-641), a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad. Heraclius’ reign is critical for understanding the background to fundamental changes in the Balkans and the Middle East, including the emergence of Islam, at the end of Antiquity.

Though few in England know of him, Heraclius is one of the most astonishing figures in history. Except they are true, the facts of his life read like something out of legend. He seized power in 610 just as the Persians were turning their war with the Empire from a set of opportunistic raids into an attempt at its destruction. During the next ten years, every Imperial frontier crumbled. After a thousand years of control by Greeks, or by Greeks and Romans, Persia and Egypt fell to the Persians.. The Slavs and Avars took most of Greece. The Lombards and Visigoths nibbled away at the remaining European provinces in the West. Africa aside, the Empire was reduced to a core that covered roughly the same area as modern Turkey. Continue reading

“Monk” Lewis: The Dan Brown of 1796?

The Dan Brown of 1796?

Some years ago, when everybody else was was reading it, I read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. It was pretty ridiculous, but it had an uncanny ability to keep me turning the pages to find out what was going to happen. (RAW fans will recall that the main source material for the book also was used in RAW’s earlier novel, The Widow’s Son. Dan Brown’s lawyers apparently missed the chance to use The Widow’s Son as part of their defense in plagiarism trial.)

A few days ago, British writer Sean Gabb talked me into reading The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis. I asked Dr. Gabb why he listed Lewis as one of his favorite writers, and he replied, “The Monk is a gloatingly lurid tale of lust and horror. Lewis was seventeen when he wrote it. I was that when I read it. Unable to put it down, I took it into an A Level Mathematics exam. Dickens and Wilkie Collins much admired it. My mother read it some years back, and was surprised when I showed her the publication date.” So I read it (or more precisely, listened to the free LibriVox audiobook, ably read by James K. White.) I thought it was ridiculous, but I was hooked. I had to keep going to find out what would happen to its poor, tormented characters. Continue reading

How To Have Law Without Legislation

by Murray Rothbard

How To Have Law Without Legislation

[Adapted from Rothbard’s book review of Freedom
and the Law
by Bruno Leoni. This review first
appeared in
New Individualist Review ,
edited by Ralph Raico.]

[In his book Freedom and the Law,] Professor [Bruno] Leoni’s major thesis is that even the staunchest free-market economists have unwisely admitted that laws must be created by governmental legislation; this concession, Leoni shows, provides an inevitable gateway for State tyranny over the individual. The other side of the coin to increasing intervention by government in the free market has been the burgeoning of legislation, with its inherent coercion by a majority—or, more often, by an oligarchy of pseudo-“representatives” of a majority—over the rest of the population. In this connection, Leoni presents a brilliant critique of F.A. Hayek’s recent writings on the “rule of the law.” In contrast to Hayek, who calls for general legislative rules as opposed to the vagaries of arbitrary bureaucracy or of “administrative law,” Leoni points out that the real and underlying menace to individual freedom is not the administrator but the legislative statute that makes the administrative ruling possible. [1] It is not enough, demonstrates Leoni, to have general rules applicable to everyone and written down in advance; for these rules themselves may—and generally do—invade freedom. Continue reading

Keir Martland Reviews “The Break”

It’s Like ‘Atlas Shrugged’, Only Good!

Birthday presents rarely come with IOUs attached to them, but maybe this general maxim doesn’t extend to birthday presents given by novelists. And so, the below, is my feeble attempt at repaying the debt I incurred to Sean Gabb, author of ‘The Break’, by ageing a year.

To call the setting of the novel ‘futuristic’ would only be the half of it. The Break is the colloquial name given to a freak accident whereby Nature – or God – saw fit to plonk 21st century England right in the middle of the 11th century AD. On mainland Europe, then, the Byzantine Empire still breathes, the Crusades have not yet been called, and William the Bastard is Duke of Normandy. In Britain, there is a veritable police-state run by a matching – if slightly amplified – set of demagogues to those ruling Britain today. If I were living in the post-Break England, I know where I’d go. But that’s just it: contact with ‘Outsiders’ is expressly forbidden! Continue reading

The Break, Reviewed by Robert Groezinger

Is the Past the Future?

By Robert Groezinger

July 5, 2014

Imagine waking up one day and discovering that, although your country has not changed, the rest of the world has. You find that while your immediate surroundings have not altered, everything outside your country has inexplicably reverted to a time of about a millennium ago.

This is the setting of Sean Gabb’s new novel The Break: In the year 2017, after days of violent storms, which ground all planes and force all ships into harbour, modern Britain, with all its cars, TVs, smartphones, CCTV cameras, unaccountable police and militant political correctness, finds itself surrounded by a world which considers the year to be AD 1064. The cities of mainland Europe have disappeared or contracted to clusters of a few thousand thatched houses. Roads, railway lines and canals have all vanished. The rest of the continent consists mainly of forest and other uncultivated land. Further south, the Byzantine Empire is still going strong – just. The great schism that split the early church into an eastern Orthodox and western Catholic branch happened only 10 years previously. And the Normans have yet to invade England. Continue reading

The Break Nominated for Prometheus Award

by Tom Jackson
Sean Gabb’s ‘The Break”

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Although it has little to do with the point of this blog, I’ve been interested for years in the period of history known as “Late Antiquity.” It’s a period of history that runs roughly from 300 C.E. to 700 C.E. that’s known under a variety of other names, e.g. “The Fall of Rome” (a misnomer, as the eastern half of the empire continued for centuries), “The Dark Ages,” “The Later Roman Empire,” the “postclassical world,” etc. This interest occasionally crops up in this blog, for example in my posting about the historian Procopius as a classical liberal.

Anyway, I can’t get enough of reading about Late Antiquity, and I like both nonfiction and well-researched historical fiction. That’s how I got interested in a British novelist named Richard Blake, who has written a series of novels about an Anglo Saxon man named “Aelric” who winds up in various parts of the Byzantine Empire in the early 7th century. Each book focuses on a different city — the books have titles such as Conspiracies of Rome, The Terror of Constantinople (about the reign of the emperor Phocas, not exactly a happy time for the Roman Empire), The Blood of Alexandria, and so on. The novels are in a sequence but they also stand alone nicely. Continue reading

Curse of Babylon, Reviewed by J.P. Lamb

Ghosts of Athens
Curse of Babylon
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The Curse of Babylon is the sixth in Richard Blake’s Aelric series of books. Those who have read previous instalments will not be disappointed as it contains all the qualities that places it several notches above most historical romps. Equally, it is a volume that can be enjoyed as a stand-alone.

Set in the early seventh century, its youthful protagonist has risen to high office in the Eastern Roman Empire. Despite his humble ‘barbarian’ English origins, he lives in some style in Constantinople as Lord Treasurer. However, his fiscal duties are disrupted after he is presented with a possibly maleficent artefact and comes into contact with a mysterious young woman. Events move quickly thereafter with treachery in high places and the threat of a Persian invasion much to the fore.

Two features of the novel stand out. The first is a wonderful evocation of time and place. Constantinople may be the capital city of a great, albeit declining, empire, but it is also – as described – a place of terrible poverty, full of schemers and plotters, where episodes of lurid violence are commonplace. The second is a narrative that unfolds swiftly and often surprisingly, leading to a final showdown with possibly the most sadistic fictional bad guy I’ve ever encountered.

Notwithstanding the above, the tone is frequently darkly comic. My favourite moment comes when, against the odds, Aelric effects a daring escape from his pursuers and crashes through a window only to find the grossly obese City Prefect in a somewhat compromising position. All in all, highly recommended.

Review published on Amazon on 25th June 2014

REVIEW – The Churchill Memorandum – By Dr Sean Gabb

REVIEW – The Churchill Memorandum – By Dr Sean Gabb.

The Churchill Memorandum by Sean Gabb is a thriller set in an alternative timeline to our own. The major difference that Sean explores, is what would happen to the United Kingdom if World War 2 had been avoided by something as simple as Hitler’s vehicle crashing. The differences that have occurred as a result of this is what makes this alternative timeline so striking, and as a result of this, it will certainly appeal to any libertarian simply because of the differences that are explored. The pound sterling has not been inflated, so the pound is still worth a pound; there is still some semblance of a free market, and there is none of that ridiculous political correctness.

As for the story, it gets in to the action fairly early in the book, and the story is very good at creating suspense throughout. The choice of villains in this book are very interesting, and the story uses real characters to show the more traitorous among the various communists and politicians who were around during the time period that the book is set in. The main character, Anthony Markham, is very interesting, and his development throughout the book is well done. My only criticism of the story, is that Sean could have gone in to more detail around the background of some of the organisations that come up during the story, as some readers may know very little about the people behind them, so covering them more could have given the story a slightly stronger background. However, this didn’t ruin the story in the slightest, and it will no doubt be  a very enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys a good thriller; particularly so if you lived through the time period that the book is set in, which isn’t something that I have done.

I highly recommend this book to libertarians and conservatives alike, as both will find themes in this book that they will enjoy. However, you’d best avoid this book if you are a fan of political correctness, as Dr Gabb uses the theme of anti-pc frequently in this book, which I found to be highly refreshing compared to the works of most authors. The Churchill Memorandum will only set you back by about £10, and even less if you own a Kindle, so this is a definite must buy if the themes that this review has explored excite you. I am already looking forward to reading another of Dr Gabb’s books in the near future, and I hope you enjoy ‘The Churchill Memorandum’ as much as I have.

If you’d like to buy a copy, it is available for purchase HERE

Review of Macaulay’s History of England

Review Article by Sean Gabb
The History of England
from the Accession of James II
Thomas Babington Macaulay
(First published 1848-60)
J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, London, 1906, 3 volumes

I discovered Macaulay quite by chance in March 1979. My English teacher was absent one day, and I found myself in his classroom with nothing better to do than browse through a pile of old textbooks that had sat on a shelf as long as I could remember. One of them was called The Art of Précis , and contained passages of about 500 words from all the usual English writers. The book fell open at an extract from Macaulay’s 1847 speech on education. He was describing the illiteracy of the labouring classes. I know now that he was mistaken in his facts, having taken these from an enquiry that would be considered biassed and untruthful even by New Labour standards. But at the time, I was less interested in the accuracy of his claims than in the artistry with which he made them. There was a contrast in his prose between the superficial elegance of expression and a forward drive in the underlying rhythm that I had never seen before and that I could only compare to the music of Beethoven. From just those two paragraphs, I realised that I had discovered a great writer.

Within a few days, I had acquired his Critical and Historical Essays , and I read them as I had never read anything before. I was minded of Keats on first looking into Chapman’s Homer: Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When some new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise -
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Continue reading

What We Talk About When We Talk About War

by Jonathan Carp

What We Talk About When We Talk About War

Yesterday I read Cormac McCarthy’s wonderful 2006 novel, The Road. The book tells the story of an unnamed man and his son, as they move through an apocalyptic landscape in the hope of finding a safer place to live. McCarthy doesn’t specify the nature of the apocalypse, although nuclear war is strongly hinted at. The pair face a range of horrors, from marauding gangs to cannibals to the simple impossibility of surviving on the face of a dead Earth. The action of the novel is simply their persistent efforts to sustain life and the will to survive. Continue reading

Review of Richard Blake’s Curse of Babylon

Sangre, poder y un bisexual inglés
Published in Ulisex Magazine, May 2014

“La Maldición de Babilonia” es la sexta novela histórica de ficción del profesor e historiador británico, Richard Blake, sobre la caída del Imperio Romano y la vida de Aelric un personaje que no siente vergüenza de seguir sus gustos donde quiera que lo llevan pues es explícitamente bisexual.
Staff @UlisexMgzn
En el siglo séptimo, el Imperio Romano se está desmoronando, Roma era un montón de escombros, Grecia estaba prácticamente perdida, España fue invadida por los bárbaros y los sarracenos del Este estaban en la marcha.
El origen del rápido desmoronamiento fue  la caída de Constantinopla, una ciudad resplandeciente con riqueza  y decadencia  que también es el punto de partida para  el bisexual y cínico antihéroe de Richard Blake, Aelric, durante  uno de los períodos más oscuros de la historia mundial .
Los últimos días del Imperio Romano han demostrado ser un telón de fondo original, pues no son nada glamorosos a los habitualmente descritos,  creando una atmósfera extrañamente entretenida y divertida, al tiempo que Blake, ofrece una fascinante visión de un fragmento poco conocido de un pasado muy conocido.
El lector se une a Aelric en 615 d. C.,  cuando como un ambicioso joven de 25 años de edad, gobierna Constantinopla en ausencia del emperador Heraclio ausente.
Sin ninguna oposición aparente, Lord Aelric domina la gran ciudad desde su magnífico palacio fortificado, impulsando las reformas que son la única esperanza  para la supervivencia del imperio y la única manera de restaurar su riqueza y grandeza.
Pero sus enemigos internos están esperando su momento para devolver el golpe, el complot para destruir el advenedizo Inglés, considerado por muchos en la ciudad  no más que un ” inmigrante bárbaro”, comienza cuando se envía el mítico Cuerno de Babilonia, un tesoro antiguo y maldito.
A medida que aumenta de peligro, Alaric debe enfrentar el secuestro , la revolución, una invasión brutal y una joven desafiante y obstinada llamada Antonia , que ha caído en tiempos difíciles .
Alaric tendrá que llamar a las fuerzas nuevas e inesperadas para tratar de salvar el imperio,  entre un elenco de corruptos, sin olvidar ante todo, la búsqueda de la felicidad personal que lo ha estado eludiendo.
Publicado en Londres el 2 de enero de este año y disponible en versión digital por la editorial Hodder & Stoughton, “The Course of Babylon” es una gran novela comparable a los dramas televisados o producidos en cine actualmente, no apta para todo público pues sólo está disponible en español la primera novela de la saga, “Conspiración en Roma” publicada por Editorial Planeta, el resto está en inglés, esperemos que no por mucho tiempo.
About Richard Blake: Richard Blake se graduó de la Universidad de York en 1982, y obtuvo su doctorado en la Universidad de Middlesex.  Desde 1992, ha sido profesor universitario en Londres. Entre 1990 y 1992, vivió y trabajó en Checoslovaquia como un asesor del primer ministro eslovaco.

Review of Book about Aleister Crowley

Crowley: Thoughts and Perspectives, Volume Two
Edited by Troy Southgate
Black Front Press, London, 2011, 215pp, £10
ISBN 978-84830-331-7

It was late one afternoon, more years ago than I care to admit. I was working as an estate agent in South London, when an old beggar woman came into the front office. “Cross my palm with silver, Dearie,” she croaked in a strong Irish accent.

I glared at her from my desk. It was hard enough at the best of times to get potential clients or buyers to step through our door. The lingering smell she had brought of unwashed clothes and of the scabby, verminous body they no doubt covered was unlikely to help. “Get out!” I said, pointing at the door.

Her response was to shamble forward, a sprig of heather clutched in her hand. Thirty seconds later, she was steadying herself on the pavement. “You’re a wicked young man,” she called, “and you’ll be dead in two weeks – you mark my words.”

“Piss off!” I laughed, dusting my hands together, “or I’ll have the police on you.” Back inside I set about looking for the tin of air freshener we kept for when the smell of tobacco smoke became too oppressive. Continue reading

Review of The Churchill Memorandum

Sean Gabb: “The Churchill Memorandum”

This thriller is a tremendously fun romp through an alternative history set in 1959 where the Second World War didn’t happen. Hitler died in 1939, and the British Empire has sustained its precarious position through careful diplomacy. Britain is still ruled well by a conservative establishment on a mix of traditional values and liberal enterprise: hard currency and technological innovation; beautiful buildings and statues; zeppelins and heated pavements. The sixties (speculated by AnomalyUK to have really started in the 1950s) never happen. Continue reading

Thomas Knapp Reviews Conspiracies of Rome

… let’s call this a recommendation. By way of disclosure, I received no payment of any kind for this recommendation, and even turned down an offer of links to pirated e-versions (said offer from the author himself) in favor of buying the books I’m about to recommend. In making the foregoing statement, I’m assuming (safely, I think) that the author’s friendship, which I highly value, has never been conditional on receipt of a positive review or recommendation.

So: I highly recommend Conspiracies of Rome (which I have read) and The Terror of Constantinople (which I am now reading) by Richard Blake. I strongly suspect that said recommendation will extend to The Blood of Alexandria and The Sword of Damascus, which I haven’t yet read but intend to as soon as possible. Continue reading

Richard Blake Reviewed in Slovak Press

Note: Very fancy Slovak here – hard for me to understand. But flattering, even so, to my friend Mr Blake. SIG

Richard Blake
Sprisahanie v Rime

Vydavateľstvo Slovart
Preklad Marian Pochyly

Roku 608 na juhovychode dnešneho Anglicka pracuje mlady Sas Aelric ako tlmočnik Maximina, kňaza z Ravenny. Vo voľnom čase suloži s Edwinou, dcerou miestneho panovnika Aethelberta. Keď jeho vzťah odhalia, odsudia ho na smrť, pred katom ho zachrani Maximin, s ktorym sa ale musi vydať na cestu do Rima. Duchovny odtiaľ planuje priniesť knihy potrebne na vzdelanie krajiny. Tesne pred hradbami Večneho mesta sa dostanu do potyčky. Vyviaznu, ba dokonca ziskaju nemalu sumu peňazi, relikviar, no najma listiny. Zaležitosti sa začnu zamotavať v okamihu, keď pri stĺpe s vyobrazenim uradujuceho panovnika Byzancie Foka, najdu mŕtve Maximinovo telo. Aelric prisaha pomstu. Začina patrať, pričom sa postupne zoznamuje s mestom. Pokračuje v ulohe, kvoli ktorej s mnichom prišli – riadi prepisovanie vybranych knih, spolu s vyslancom Etiopie sa zahĺbi do machinacii na burze; ako spoločnik aristokrata Lucia nahliadne do zakulisia davnych obradov a po prvykrat v živote vidi papyrus.

No a predovšetkym… Luštenie tajomstva listin si vychutnajte sami. Knižka tvori prvu časť trilogie prepojenej postavou rozpravača. Avizovane nazvy Teror v Konštantínopole Krv v Carihrade jasne davaju najavo, že priaznivci akčnych trilerov v historickych kulisach sa maju na čo tešiť, fanušikov historickych romanov však nepochybne uvedie do pomykova vysoka davka „aktualizacie”. Aelricov bojovne ladeny ateizmus je v siedmom storoči n. l. nanajvyš nepravdepodobny. Spravanie hrdinu, v zrejmej snahe autora približiť sa skusenostnemu obzoru moderneho čitateľa, evokuje skor psychologicky profil šikovneho a vykonneho manažera dnešnych dni.

Published in Knizna Revue,

Richard Blake and Homosexuality

by E-Army

I’ve read all of Richard Blake’s novels in this “Aelric” series except for the last one, discussed below, and I recommend them highly. His point that historical novels all too often fail to present historical themes and events according to the paradigms of the times written about is very much true, and also, of course, applies to movies and other pieces of fiction. Frequently, characters in a book set in the 18th century or earlier seem to do their thinking in terms of 21st-century concepts and moral standards. Continue reading

Why I Hate Government — And I’m Not Too Crazy About Bob Garfield, Either

by Kevin Carson
Why I Hate Government — And I’m Not Too Crazy About Bob Garfield, Either

“The stupid — it hurts!” That’s just a figure of speech, to be sure, but in some cases it’s almost literally true. Bob Garfield’s Valentine for Big Government (“I Luv Big Gov,” Slate, Feb. 15) comes extremely close. Hard right-wingers are easier to take. They love the awful things government does because they’re awful people. They know government is about uniformed thugs pushing people around and murdering them, and they revel in it, because they view the world through a Hobbesian, red-in-tooth-and-claw prism. Center-left goo-goos, on the other hand, try to frame it in positive, nurturing “Why Mommy is a Democrat” terms, and it’s positively gut-churning. Continue reading

The Children Of Israel

by Kevin Carson
The Children Of Israel

Download: Destroying the Master’s House With the Master’s Tools: Some Notes on the Libertarian Theory of Ideology

For some time it has been the consensus among historians of early Israel that the thoroughgoing conquest of Canaan and resulting tribal domains described in the Book Joshua was anachronistic—a projection onto the past of a geographical state of affairs that existed only after the monarchy had defeated the Philistines and the Israelite population had expanded from their original hill territory to the lowland areas of Canaan. The first archaelogical appearance of Israelite villages in the central highlands of Canaan was in the late 13th century BCE; these areas remained their main strongholds for some two centuries until their increased numbers and the establishment of the monarchy under David enabled them to contest control of the fertile lowlands.

Some historians, like Norman Gottwald, suggest the Israelites—rather than infiltrating Canaan from the outside—were predominantly inhabitants of Canaan itself who moved to the central highlands of Palestine for relative freedom. He originally developed this thesis—which we will consider shortly—at length, in his 1979 book The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel 1250-1050 B.C.E. Continue reading

David McDonagh on Self-Deception

We are told that by denying or by rationalising we can change our belief at will but that is clearly false. Our beliefs are automatic so quite independent of our will. The backward psychologists say that we can ignore evidence or the cogency of arguments at will but that looks to be clearly false. The cogency of arguments is personal rather than universal, an impact on the receiver according to his/her human capital state rather than the same for all people or a property of the argument itself. The psychologists seem to overlook that. They tell us that we can lie to ourselves as we can be as ignorant of whether we are honest just as we might be with another person. That does not look possible, let alone unlikely. Continue reading

Sean Gabb Reviews Keith Preston’s New Book

Review Article by Sean Gabb

Attack the System: A New Anarchist Perspective for the 21st Century
Keith Preston
Black House Publishing Ltd, London, 2013, 473pp, £16.50 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-0-9927365-0-7

I first came across Keith Preston in October 2008. In those days, the Libertarian Alliance was able to put up £1,000 every year for a prize essay. The title I had set for that year was “To what extent can a libertarian utopia be described as Tesco minus the State?” I wanted someone to analyse the frequent identification of libertarianism with the defence of big business. Though I had my own view of the question, the conclusions reached were less important than the quality of the analysis. Sadly, my question brought me a flood of autopilot defences of big business, all in the house style of the Adam Smith Institute. One of them began something like: “I’ve never heard of Tesco, so I’ll write about Wal-Mart.” It continued with a love letter so gushing, even Madsen Pirie might have given it a funny look. Continue reading

Jonathan Bowden’s Sade

Note: An interesting essay, from a very naughty website – so naughty that prim libertarians like Yours Truly should not admit to knowing its existence, let alone to reading its articles.

Jonathan Bowden and I were contemporaries, and I believe we were several times together in the same room – he used to attend Libertarian Alliance conferences in the early 1990s. If this latter is so, we must have said hello once or twice. But I have no recollection of having met him. Then again, people whose writings are interesting often come over in person as terrible bores.

Now to the Divine Marquis. Along with Voltaire and Bayle et al. and Margarite Yourcenar, he is one of the few French writers I know well in the original. I read him in my teens for the porn. When I found that to be a gigantic trade misdescription, I turned to sneering at his philosophy. A few years ago, I looked again at his Philosophie dans le Boudoir. It bounces along from one utterance to the next, and is shorter than the novels. But the utterances are still piffle, and he writes in the style of a verbose bureaucrat. You can almost hear him licking a pencil between sentences. I am sure the occasional flash of comedy is unintentional.

Therefore, while I haven’t read it, I agree with the main thesis of Jonathan’s book, as described in this review. De Sade is at best silly. He did himself no favours by spending so much time away from playing with himself. His reputation survived through the 19th century because he had the misfortune to be locked away by every French Government from the ancien regime to the Restoration, and because the notoriety this gave to his name became an opportunity for poseurs like Swinburne to look shocking. His reputation is high today because he was taken up by a group of French lefties even more piffling and verbose than he was. If the European New Right wants to claim him as a luminary, my opinion of the European New Right will only tend to sink lower than it already is.

Most philosophical and political wisdom is to be found in – Epicurus, Sextus Empiricus, Bacon, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, John Stuart Mill. There are valuable insights beyond this progression. But these are the writers who asked the only questions that matter. If their answers are often conflicting, they all dance close by the probable truth. SIG Continue reading

Richard Blake Reviews “Myth and History”

Review Article by Richard Blake
Myth and History
Stephen James Yeates
Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2012, 496pp, £29.95 (pbk)
ISBN-13: 978-1842174784

I was told about this book by Dararis Tighe, whose own review can be found on Amazon. I refer you to her comments on its poor writing and sloppy editing. These are entirely just. Instead of repeating her, though, I will concentrate on the substantive claims made in the book. These are summarised in the product description:

Our recent understanding of British history has been slowly unravelling thanks to new techniques such as DNA analysis, new archaeological data and reassessment of the literary evidence. There are considerable problems in understanding the early history of Britain; sources for the centuries from the first Roman invasion to 1000 AD are few and contradictory, the archaeological record complex and there is little collaboration or agreement between archaeologists, Roman and Anglo-Saxon historians. A common assumption concerning the development of the English language and, therefore British history, is that there was an invasion from northern Europe in the fifth century, the so-called Anglo-Saxon migration; a model based on the writings of Bede. However the Bedan model has become increasingly unsustainable and is on the verge of collapse. Myth and History offers a comprehensive re-assessment of the present scientific, historical, archaeological and language evidence, debunking the model of British history based on Bede, and showing how Roman texts can be used in conjunction with the other evidence to build an alternative picture. Stephen Yeates demonstrates that the evidence that has been used to construct the story of an Anglo-Saxon migration, with an incoming population replacing most, if not all, of the British population has been found wanting, that initial attempts to interpret literally the DNA evidence based on historical sources are problematic, and that the best DNA analysis of the British Isles fits the evidence into a broader European view which attempts to plot the movement of people across the Continent and which sees the major migration periods in Europe as occurring in the Mesolithic and the Neolithic. This DNA analysis is constant with the latest assessments based on language development, contemporary historical reports from the Roman period, and the analysis of archaeological data from the Iron Age and Roman period. He also argues that the Roman texts can be used to identify where the Late Roman provinces of Britain actually lay and this leads to important conclusions about the ethnicity and origins of the early British peoples. This book is a timely attempt to unravel myth from history, present a cogent platform for Anglo-Saxon studies and understand who the British people really are. Continue reading

Review of Mr Blake’s Curse of Babylon

Book review: The Curse of Babylon by Richard Blake

by Pam Norfolk

Published on the 22 January

By the 7th century, the Roman Empire was in tatters… Rome was a pile of rubble, Greece was virtually lost, Spain was overrun by barbarians and Saracens from the East were on the march.

Centre of this fast-crumbling empire was Constantinople, a glittering city of wealth, poverty and decadence, and the ideal power base for Richard Blake’s cynical anti-hero Aelric to wheel and deal his way through one of the murkiest periods in world history. Continue reading

Book Review by Richard Blake

Dandelions and Dog Days:
The Memoirs of a Gentle Giant
By J.E. Thompson, 2013, £7.99
ISBN 9781291561715

Reviewed by Richard Blake

This book is the conjectural autobiography of Louis, a friend’s dog. It starts with his meeting, as a puppy, with his human family, and ends with the inevitable last appointment with the vet. Between these points, we have all the usual highs and lows of a dog’s life.

If you have never had a dog – if, indeed, you have no affection for animals – the book will leave you cold. If you are such a person, there is nothing I or anyone else can say to make you buy it. Fortunately, however, we are a nation of dog-lovers. If you are, or ever have been, a dog-owner, you will find something on every page with which to agree or identify. Partly, I think, because of my present mood, it left me feeling sad, and a little guilty. Continue reading

Review of “Unqualified Reservations” part 1

by Foseti
Review of “Unqualified Reservations” part 1

Part 1: Dr. Johnson’s Hypothesis

As has been noted elsewhere, the phenomenon of referring to oneself as a reactionary is a recent one.

It’s important to remember this fact. The past year has seen an explosion of “reactionary” writing. And I’m left feeling . . . unsettled. The explosion of high-quality Rightist thought is fantastic and should be enthusiastically applauded by anyone outside of the Cathedral (or anyone that enjoys a good argument – is that redundant?). On the other hand, there is something unique about the original neoreactionary thought, and I can’t but feel some of it is getting lost.

I’ve taken a bit of time away from blogging; however, in my absence, I’ve kept up on the reactosphere. My general approach in the past has been to be as inclusive as reasonably possible. If there’s another writer in these dark haunts that’s more inclusive than me, I’d like to know who it is. Continue reading

The Great Reading Disaster

Book Review by Sean Gabb
The Great Reading Disaster: Reclaiming Our Educational Birthright
Mona McNee and Alice Coleman
Imprint Academic, Exeter, 2007, 341pp, £17.95 (pb)
(ISBN 9781845400972)
(Review published in The Quarterly Review, Winter 2007)

This book narrates and explains one of the great disasters of our time. As is often this case with disasters of our time, it also narrates and explains a scandal that in earlier ages would have provoked incredulity. Its theme is the collapse of educational standards in this country, and how this has been brought on by a persistent unwillingness to teach children to read using the only methods that are known to work in the great majority of cases. Continue reading

Richard Thompson Reviews The Churchill Memorandum

Sean Gabb The Churchill Memorandum

Set in 1959 and related from the point of view of a young academic of Indian ancestry working in London, this is fiction exploring the way things might have gone had Hitler died before invading Poland. The British Empire survived with Enoch Powell in charge of the India Office. The USA was isolationist and racist. Various politicians I am old enough to remember are shown in a most unflattering light. Continue reading

Richard Thompson Reviews Blood of Alexandria

Richard Blake The Blood of Alexandria
Reviewed by Richard Thompson

The third in a series of historical thrillers set in the seventh century.

Blake originally graduated in History, and some of the main characters are historical, though I suspect some of their adventures are not. One of the central characters is Priscus, son in law and for a while designated heir of the emperor Phocas. In the story that preceded this one ( see my account of my reading last year) Priscus abandoned Phocas just in time to join Heraclius, who deposed and executed him. Blake has Priscus still in the Heraclius’ service two years later, though Gibbon says that Priscus was deemed to unreliable for high office and retired to a monastery. Continue reading

Well, I suppose he did buy a copy….

Aelric: The Sword of Damascus – Richard Blake

Date: 02/02/12

Advantages: A good start

Disadvantages: Not realistic

The sword of Damascus is a work of historical fiction by Richard Blake and is set in the 7th century, it’s main character is the Lord Aelric a 96 year old British noble who is a monk in the monastery at Jarrow and whose student is the future venerable Bede. This is the fourth novel featuring the character Aelric and the book is written as a first person perspective through the eyes of Aelric. The book begins in the monastery at Jarrow with an attack on the monastery by mysterious Northern men, presumably Vikings; they are after Aelric and want to take him back to the Byzantine Empire for something. Aelric accepts his capture and is along with two younger colleagues taken back towards Constantinople, along the way the ship is shipwrecked and the group become fugitives in Northern Africa. Continue reading

Richard Blake Reviews “Sword of Marathon” by Jack England

Review Article by Richard Blake
(September 2012)

Sword of Marathon
By Jack England
Published August 2012, £7.99 pb, £2.99 Kindle
ISBN: 978 14781

The hero of this novel is a proto-Englishman (England itself will not exist for another thousand years) of great intelligence and beauty who settles in Greece. He begins telling his story in extreme old age, and, though aged, nearly has to kill someone in the first chapter. Much of the novel takes place in Athens. However, anyone who thinks the author has been influenced by my own Ghosts of Athens will be mistaken.

Jack told me he was writing Sword of Marathon in May 2011, when we were both attending a conference in Bodrum. I had just finished Ghosts of Athens, though it would not be published until August 2012. By then, Jack had finished Sword of Marathon, and was working on a sequel. There is a similarity between our novels, but I do swear that neither of us could have had any influence on the other. This really is one of those times when great minds have thought alike.

The story begins when Luke and his brother Hal are on a trading mission and are captured by nomadic and more than usually demented barbarians. Through a series of exciting and well-paced adventures, they arrive in Athens in 490, just when Darius of Persia has finally decided to have his revenge on a city that has not only resisted his invitation to accept him as overlord, but has consistently made trouble along the western fringes of the greatest empire that has existed. Continue reading

Bacon And Egg Man Review: New York Of The Future?

by Dick Puddlecote

Bacon And Egg Man Review: New York Of The Future?BaconEgg.jpgWith the Christmas downtime, I managed to read some of the books which I’ve bought on a whim; been given on special occasions; or ‘borrowed-meaning-to-read-but-never-finding-the-time’.

One of these was Bacon and Egg Man by Ken Wheaton which chimes well with themes discussed here so I thought one of my rare reviews would be in order. Continue reading

Richard Blake’s Sword of Damascus Reviewed

Sword of Damascus
Richard Blake
Hodder & Stoughton, London
Hardback Edition: June 2011
Paperback Edition: January 2012
432pp, £19.99
ISBN: 978-1444709667

Unlike its three predecessors, the Sword of Damascus (Damascus) takes place shortly before the narrative of the 96-year-old Aelric from the monastery at Jarrow (and not 70 some-odd years prior). This definitely puts a different spin on the story, with Aelric suffering from the physical shortcomings wrought with age – with death soon looming — instead of from the view of a handsome and energetic 20-something. Continue reading

Culture Wars and the Police State: A Reply to Kevin Carson

Culture Wars and the Police State: A Reply to Kevin Carson

This is my response to Kevin Carson’s recently republished review of Sean Gabb’s book “Cultural Revolution, Culture War”

Libertarian Alliance

I doubt it’s possible to develop a thorough or effective critique of statism as it exists in contemporary Western industrialized democracies without a comprehensive critique of the PC ideology. The evidence is overwhelming that PC is simply a new form of political authoritarianism, and something that the ruling class is incorporating into its own ideological superstructure. I’m a Nietzschean-Stirnerite, not any kind of conservative, but I find it disappointing that so many of my fellow libertarians and anarchists are unable to see PC for what it is.

Continue reading

Sean Gabb – Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, And How to Get It Back

by Kevin Carson

Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, And How to Get It Back

Sean Gabb, successor to the late Chris Tame as Director of the Libertarian Alliance, is very much a man of the Right: a composite of Burkean and Little Englander, roughly equivalent to the Old Right or paleolibertarians on this side of the Atlantic. In his critique of managerialism and the corporate state, however, he has much to say about globalization and corporate rule, among many other things, that left-libertarians will find of benefit.

Continue reading

The End of Politics: New Labour And The Folly Of Managerialism

by Kevin Carson

The End of Politics: New Labour And The Folly Of Managerialism

Chris Dillow, a heterodox economist who owns Stumbling and Mumbling blog, attacks managerialism from a position decidedly on the Left. But it’s a Left that’s friendly to markets, decentralism, and self-management, and hostile to the New Class version of bureaucratic socialism that dominated Britain from the Webbs to Harold Wilson.

Continue reading

Intrusion by Ken MacLeod

by Kevin Carson

Intrusion by Ken MacLeod

Ken MacLeod. Intrusion (Orbit Books, 2012).

Imagine a near-future Britain with the full mix of paternalism and police state authoritarianism from Tony Blair’s New Labour days. But the ASBOs are issued pursuant to social policies framed by Cass Sunstein and Michael Bloomberg. And the apparatus of surveillance cameras and detention without trial has been augmented by unmarked secret police vans where citizens are snatched off the streets and tortured with sterilized needles under their fingernails, a la Alan Dershowitz. Throw in revolutionary advances in biotech that simultaneously abolish Peak Oil and Global Warming. The result is a lot like A Clockwork Orange, but without all the squalor. Continue reading

Curse of Babylon Reviewed

Curse of Babylon
Richard Blake
Hodder & Stoughton, London

Paperback Edition: August 2013
496pp, £14.99
ISBN: 9781444709735
Synopsis| Chapter One | Reviews



Book Depository
(free world postage)

This is another adventure of Brother Aelric, a monk in England who was once the Lord Aelric, a senior official in the eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire. Unlike previous instalments, this one is told almost completely in flashback, a wise decision, as it is a very physical tale, with large amounts of fighting, fornication, leaping from rooftops and other forms of derring-do.

This time Lord Aelric is attempting an essential land reform program for the Empire, which inevitably brings him into conflict with established interests. While attempting to fend off political moves to inflame the mob and influence the indecisive emperor Heraclius against him, he also has to deal with Persian intrigue. A war between the two empires has been going on for some time, and the Romans are losing. A Persian ship is loose in Byzantine home waters, containing an old adversary, Shahin, who is making extraordinary efforts to retrieve a magical artifact called the horn of Babylon that has come into Aelric’s possession. Finally he becomes entangled with a woman called Antonia, who has disguised herself as a man so she can pursue a career as a petitioner, but is certainly more than what she appears to be. A Byzantine adventure indeed!

Aelric is a trendy anti-hero, although his ruthlessness and cynicism are less evident in his earlier life. There is still a lot of material that is frankly very demeaning to human dignity, but if you can put aside the occasional descriptions of perverse sexual practices and also that the mighty lord Aelric does a lot of footwork that really would have been done by underlings, this is a very exciting and intriguing story with lots of twists and turns.

Published by The Historical Novel Society
on the 2nd November 2013

The myth of the Unconscious

Book Review by David McDonagh

Therapy Breakthrough: Why some psychotherapies work better than others. Michael R. Edelstein, Richard K. Kujoth and David Ramsay Steele.

The book is about the old Freudian psychotherapy and the new, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy [CBT] that has largely replaced it over the last 60 years. The main difference seems to be that, bit by bit, and in their own innovative way, during the last 60 years the various followers of Freud tended to abandon the Unconscious mind idea or meme that many authors and psychotherapists today tend to think does not exist. I think, with the authors, they are right in that assumption. Continue reading

Sean Gabb on Miliband Senior

From Free Life No 24, December 1995

Socialism for a Sceptical Age
Ralph Miliband
Polity Press, London, 1994, 224pp, £11.95 (pbk)
(ISBN 0 7456 1427 2)

Socialism after Communism:
The New Market Socialism
Christopher Pierson
Polity Press, London, 1995, 264pp, £13.95 (pbk)
(ISBN 0 7456 1458 2)

As their titles indicate, both these books are about the future prospects of socialism. The first is a defence of orthodox Marxism, the second an alternative to it.

I will start with Dr Miliband’s book, which he finished shortly before his death in May 1994. It is not the policy of Free Life to attack the dead. Honour aside, the living make far more enjoyable targets. But this book almost cries out for an exception from the rule. If its author is dead, and his colleagues at the Socialist Register have lost much of their influence since 1989, many of their old disciples remain active in the labour movement; and some can expect to hold office in a future Labour Government. I will not claim that those politicians who now wear suits and have acquired Filofaxes are still running Eisenstein epics in their heads. Even so, Marxian socialism is a doctrine so comprehensive, and so flattering to certain emotions, that it must tend to leave a mark on the character of anyone who once believed it. This being so, it is worth recalling just what credulity and fanaticism belief in it requires. And I can think of no better place to see this than in Dr Miliband’s book. Continue reading

Review of Mat Coward’s “Acts of Destruction” (2013), by Sean Gabb

Review Article
Acts of Destruction
Mat Coward
Alia Mondo Press, Norwich, 2009, 264pp, £10.00, pb
ISBN is 978-1-4401-6322-7
Available via Amazon or from

Acts of Destruction is a semi-humorous crime novel set about twenty years into the future. Its underlying premise is that shortages of oil and other raw materials put an end, after about 2010, to the global economic order as we presently know it. The United States collapses into a predictable mix of centralised fascism and armed separatism. The European Union avoids the full horrors of America, but turns inward and becomes more overtly authoritarian and state capitalist. The British response, however, is to reset the political and economic clock to 1945, and to complete all the unfinished business of the Attlee Government.

In Mr Coward’s Britain of about 2030, a new constitution called “The Agreement of the People” has collectivised the economy and radically decentralised politics. Most government is local and controlled by direct democracy. The remaining central government is balanced by strong localism and by frequent referenda. At every level, there is an obsessive regard for procedural fairness and transparency, and for many kinds of personal freedom. Increasing numbers of people work in collective enterprises. Self-employment is tolerated, as are larger private enterprises that do not employ more than fifty people, or are not engaged in work of patriotic importance. People grow much of their own food. Many other things are rationed. Most transport is public, and everything is recycled. In a generally awful world, Britain has managed to become a country at peace with itself. It preserves its independence by an armed citizen militia. Continue reading

Curse of Babylon Reviewed

I love an anti-hero as you’re never sure which way things are going to  go.  After all they’re unbound by the usual set of ironclad rules that  most have to stand by and for that reason the wonderfully dark as well as delicious Brother Aelric is a cracking change from the norm.

In  this historical adventure (the sixth title for our hero) we get to see his own brand of trouble in Constantinople as a man of rank.  It has great prose, some wonderful twists and of course with a lead character that you’re never 100 percent sure on then you know that its going to be a whole lot of fun.

The only problem that I have with this type of book, and its been a bug bear for years to me, is that I hate books being a look back on a characters life from their own point of view.  It means that there’s no danger to the characters person, that they’re always going to get out of a situation which really does take a huge edge off the plotlines.

Old Review of Mill on Liberty

Note: I think this review stands up rather well after nearly twenty years. I’m not sure I could do better now. SIG

From Free Life, Issue 21, November 1994
ISSN: 0260 5112

On Liberty
John Stuart Mill
Prepared by from the Harvard Classics edition,
published by P.F. Collier & Son, Massachusetts, 1909
Available from gopher://
First published 1859, published on-line September 1993, 281.53kb, public domain Continue reading

Review of “What Hath God Wraught” by Daniel Walker Howe

by Foseti

 Review of “What Hath God Wraught” by Daniel Walker Howe

Everything goes fast now-a-days; the winds, even begin to improve upon the speed which they have hitherto maintained; everything goes ahead but good manners and sound principles.

- Philip Hone

In the conclusion section, Howe says, “This book tells a story; it does not argue a thesis.” That couldn’t be more unture.

The book is Whig history if anything is.

Nevertheless, it’s an interesting time period and it was long enough ago that even a mainstream historian treats most of the events with a reasonable amount of dispassion. For example, you can say stuff like:

Ethnoreligious and negative reference group voting influenced politics more in the North than in the South, since the North had greater ethnic and religious diversity.

But I digress. Continue reading

Orwell’s Big Brother
Rothbard’s review of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four (Harcourt, 1949) appeared in Analysis, September 1949, p. 4

In recent years, many writers have given us their vision of the coming collectivist future. At the turn of the century, neither Edward Bellamy nor H. G. Wells suspected that the collectivist societies of their dreams were so close at hand. As collectivism sprouted following World War I, many keen observers felt that there was a big difference between the idyllic Edens pictured by Bellamy and Wells and the actual conditions of the various “waves of the future.” Continue reading

Ghosts of Athens: Another Nice Review

by S.J.A Turney

I may be at a disadvantage with this dark, complex and involved epic historical thriller from Richard Blake in that it is the fifth in a series and I have leapt in at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I fear I have missed a number of nuances of character relationships that have built up in previous books (relationships between characters and also between characters and the reader.)

That being said, I reiterate how much I enjoyed it. I have four points I noted as I read through it which are the bones of my review: Continue reading

Conspiracies Of Rome ~ Richard Blake

Note: So many reviews all over the place, Mr Blake is barely able to keep up with them!

Conspiracies Of Rome ~ Richard Blake

Some periods in history are rarely represented within the realm of historical fiction, in large part because there is little known historically. However, as time passes and archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and, more often than not, nature walkers stumble onto finds or information that had been lost. However, in having little information about a particular period, a creative author can fill the gap. Without definitive information, the author can afford to take liberties that would be impossible for stories say, within the rather more well documented Tudor period. Why more authors don’t take this opportunity is, quite frankly a mystery to me. Continue reading

A Case for Scepticism

From Free Life, Issue 17, January 1993
ISSN: 0260 5112

Christopher Hookway
Routledge, London, 1992, 251 pp., £12.50
(ISBN 0 415 08764 3(pbk))

The beginning of scepticism is to realise that I cannot be sure if material objects really exist. I can, for example, take up my snuff box. What do I perceive? I see an area of colour bounded by other colours. I feel a smooth hardness. I smell menthol. If I open the box and carry a pinch of snuff to my nose, I can describe further sensations, culminating in a brief but intense burning, followed by an agreeable change in my way of conceiving and ordering ideas. At all times, I perceive impressions of a snuff box, never the thing itself.

This is not an idle distinction, since I have often in dreams experienced all the normal impressions of an object without once later supposing that a real object had actually been there. For at least this reason, then, impressions and the objects to which they may refer are logically separable. Continue reading