Month: August 2013

One year of blogging dangerously

So I’ve been blogging for a year now. Who would’ve thought that I could keep up this caper for this long? I started this blog as something to showcase my various research projects (as a casual academic I didn’t have a staff page) but in my new role, I have used it to develop and discuss my research ideas, as well as let people know about publications, papers and other things of note. It has been fun, as well as bit of time-drain, but it has really helped me refine my ideas and I’ve got some great feedback from various readers. It has also attracted a lot more people to my publications – the download figures of my articles since I’ve started blogging have been significantly higher.

For those keeping score, the most viewed posts for the past year are:

1. Is this a turning point for the British far left?

2. Families divided then and now: UK spousal visa requirements in 1976 and 2013

3. The British left and BME workers: A response to Anna Chen

4. UKIP, the BNP/EDL and the political space of the far right

5. Unravelling the Thatcherite narrative: The 1981 riots and Thatcher’s ‘crisis years’

I was going to write something about the pros and cons of writing an academic/research blog, but I think most of us have read the same thing about academic blogs before. If any budding academic is considering starting a research blog, I would encourage them to do so, but be prepared to dedicate many hours to it. It won’t count towards your research publications, but it allows you to develop your research amongst like-minded people and is a great tool for promoting your research (particularly when most academic journal articles are never read!)

So thank you to everybody who has read my blog, and a further thanks to everyone who has given me feedback. You’re all fab.



Two commentaries on Syria and ‘humanitarian’ intervention

I don’t have time to really write something on the prospect of Western intervention in Syria (I’ve got grant applications to write!) but I thought I’d mention two posts on the subject that I think highlight the pitfalls of intervening in Syria for the sake of ‘doing something’.

The first is ‘Syria: The Path to Hell’ by Phil BC on his blog, A Very Public Sociologist. The second is ‘Five Reasons Military Intervention in Syria is Wrong’ by my colleague at Flinders University Matt Fitzpatrick, posted at ABC’s The Drum.

As a historian, I would say that while history can teach us about possible outcomes of actions we take, we should not look at contemporary events solely through the palimpsest of past events. Syria is not Nazi Germany, nor is it Serbia or Rwanda in the 1990s, or Iraq in the 1980s.

From the Daily Worker 1957: ‘Five Vital Points’ about the USSR

I spent some time last week at the National Library of Australia in Canberra looking at the publications of the Communist Parties of Great Britain and Australia. I was looking at the Daily Worker from 1957, investigating the 25th Special Congress’ resolution on colonial independence, and found this excerpt in a summary of the Congress. As I have written here, the 25th Congress was called in response to the upheaval experienced by the CPGB after Khrushchev’s Secret Speech in February 1956. Many in the Party leadership maintained the position that even though crimes may have occurred under the Stalin regime, the contributions to the struggle for socialism by Stalin and the USSR were overwhelmingly positive. This led to an exodus of Party members. By the time of the Congress, around 8,000 people had left the Party. But it seemed that the Party leadership were still clinging to their old position:


I may post some other tidbits I found in the Daily Worker over the next week, so stay tuned.

Miranda/Greenwald: Echoes of Agee/Hosenball?

One thing that I didn’t get to mention in my piece for New Matilda on the history of the intersection between national and border security in the UK was the Agee/Hosenball controversy of the late 1970s, when Mark Hosenball, an investigative journalist and US citizen, was deported after writing about the secretive (and possibly illegal) work of GCHQ. This has obvious parallels with the pressures put on Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda today.


As I have briefly written in a forthcoming article:

Philip Agee and Mark Hosenball were two American nationals who were deported after a very lengthy process from the UK in the mid-1970s. Philip Agee was a CIA officer based in the UK, who was suspected by the US authorities (who allegedly put pressure on Merlyn Rees and James Callaghan to deport Agee) of exposing CIA activities in the Caribbean. Hosenball was a journalist who had written a piece for Time Out magazine on the UK security services. There was considerable public support for both men to remain in the country, but were eventually deported in 1977. 

When Willie Whitelaw and Peter Carrington were discussing, in 1980, ways in which the border control system could be used for counter-terrorism purposes, Carrington pushed Whitelaw to revise the Immigration Act 1971 to give the Home Secretary greater powers to deport ‘undesirable’ people. Carrington actually believed that many of the counter-terrorism measures being implemented by the border control system in 1979-80 were not effective enough (such as the mandatory visa/security checks for nearly all Middle Eastern and North African nationals) and was, according to one internal Foreign and Commonwealth Office document:

inclined to think there would be more substance in changing the immigration rules so that the Home Secretary could swiftly deport suspected terrorists without running into the Agee/Hosenball difficulties [my emphasis] and in extending the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Several other documents from the FCO files at the National Archives refer to the Agee/Hosenball case (see the Court of Appeal decision with a good outline of the case here) as highlighting the difficulties in deporting someone from the UK, even for national security reasons, as the Immigration Act 1971 still allowed appeals for those to be deported via the Immigration Appeals Act 1969. However Whitelaw replied that for suspected terrorists to be deported without any appeal, this would have required a major change to the Immigration Act approved by Parliament – a legislative move that he described as ‘highly controversial’.

The Agee/Hosenball case shows that the UK security services have used border control practices to intimidate and persecute whistleblowers and investigative journalists in the past, and are seemingly doing so again today.

See two articles by Duncan Campbell on the case here (from 1979) and here (from 2007).

New article at New Matilda: Airports Now A Frontline In The War On Terror


Another guest post by myself – this time for New Matilda. The article is on the history of the national-border security nexus in the UK, with the following intro:

When Glenn Greenwald’s partner was detained at Heathrow this week, it was only the most recent episode in a long history of abusing border control in the name of counter-terrorism, writes Evan Smith

You can access the full article here.

New article at The Conversation (UK): Who will prevent a race to the bottom by UK Border Agency?

The academic commentary site The Conversation (UK version) has published a short article by myself on the announced investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into the spot checks in London in the hunt for ‘illegal immigrants’. The article looks back at the investigation by the Commission for Racial Equality into the UK immigration control system in the early 1980s and discusses the parallels with the present day.

You can find the article here.

Two new Smiths tumblrs


It’s Saturday night, so I thought I’d quickly mention two Smiths-related tumblr blogs that I’ve just come across.

Firstly, the This Charming Charlie tumblr has been all over the internet in the last week, with a witty combination of Peanuts comic panels and Smiths lyrics.

Secondly, the Home is Where the Art Is tumblr takes stills from the films that inspired the lyrics of The Smiths or have ended up on the band’s record sleeves. There are a few that have had me stumped – I can’t pick the link to the film The Family Way. 

So there you go. Visit them now.