archaeology

Book Review: Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People by Amara Thornton

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/09/2018 - 8:38pm in

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In Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the PeopleAmara Thornton explores the relationship between archaeologists, publishing houses and the British public’s understandings of antiquity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nicholas Barron recommends the book – available to download from UCL Press here – as a highly readable and detailed exploration of the institutional networks of archaeological knowledge production that will appeal to readers interested in the links between empire, tourism, science and publishing at the turn of the twentieth century.

Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People. Amara Thornton. UCL Press. 2018.

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In Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People, Amara Thornton unpacks a largely underexplored area in the history of the social sciences – the relationship between archaeologists, publishing houses and public perceptions of the ancient past. Leveraging the archival holdings of several notable publishers, Thornton explores the variable ways in which archaeologists shaped the British’s public understanding of antiquity through the ‘scripting’ of archaeological labour during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

By scripting, Thornton refers to the process of ‘bringing the results of [archaeological] research to the attention of the wider public, where it was – and continues to be – boiled down and built up, cut and recast’ (1). The scripting of archaeology came in the form of radio broadcasts, photographs, memoirs and even fiction. However, the book primarily addresses the production of ‘subject-specific serialized compendiums’, published largely by non-academic presses with an extensive reach amongst the reading public (75, 95). Thornton argues that these scriptings, embedded within growing networks of empire and tourism, functioned as a significant means by which British reading audiences experienced North Africa and the Middle East. Equally interesting, these same texts conditioned people’s view of the quintessential archaeologist as a ‘free spirited international traveller, adaptable, adventurous and scientific’ (2-3).

To illustrate this history, Thornton begins with an overview of the training of archaeologists at the turn of the century as well as the central role of travel in the construction of archaeological knowledge. While Thornton employs a ‘deliberately loose’ definition of an archaeologist that includes ‘anyone studying or operating within archaeological contexts or working with remains of the human past’ (5), she is attentive to the more formal institutional paths by which individuals were funded and trained in this nascent field of inquiry. This includes excavation societies, governmental antiquities departments, museums and British universities (namely University College in London and the Universities of Liverpool, Oxford and Cambridge). Moreover, Thornton is cautious of the central role of British imperial expansion and the subsequent construction of circuits of tourism that necessitated a need for archaeological knowledge (32-34, 47).

Image Credit: (scienceatlife CC BY SA 2.0)

In Chapter Three, Thornton turns to the experiences of various women archaeologists, exploring the ways in which archaeology, travel and publishing generated new avenues for women to ‘build visibility for themselves both within and outside the “professional” sphere’ (74). Chapters Four and Five delve more directly into the promotion, circulation and reception of archaeological knowledge through the production of relatively affordable compendiums on North Africa and the Middle East (95). Thornton identifies an interesting religious influence through organisations like the Religious Tract Society, an evangelical group founded in the eighteenth century, which supported the publishing of titles exploring Biblical lands with a ‘Christian tone’ (105).

With Chapters Six and Seven, the book probes specific publishing houses (John Murray; Macmillan and Company; and Penguin), their relationship with archaeologists as authors and the ways in which these relationships shaped the production and reception of archaeology in Britain at a particular moment in time. Penguin books with its nonfiction Pelican series emerges as a particularly successful attempt to build a larger audience for archaeologists and their writings (172, 178).  After a consideration of the ‘fictional field’ of spadework, wherein archaeologists and their experiences were funnelled through the genres of romance, horror/fantasy and crime (188), Thornton concludes with a brief mediation on the nature of publishing today. She observes that the need to present one’s work to the public has taken on a new form in the contemporary moment where novel technologies and the oppressive publishing expectations of the academy create new avenues of scripting archaeology outside of traditional academic presses (e.g. digital open access platforms) (212).

Thornton’s ability to marshal archival data and cultivate grounded interpretations makes for several interventions in the wide-ranging fields of history and science studies. With her detailed focus on the relationship between archaeologists and publishers, Thornton makes a vital contribution to an underexplored dimension of the history of archaeology/anthropology. Since the postmodern critiques of the 1980s, studies of the discipline have often focused on the history of methods and ideas, experiences of researchers in the field and the politics of writing. This has come at the expense of an examination of the more mundane means by which knowledge is materialised and distributed to the world. By taking an ‘in the round’ approach to the history of archaeology that uses the role of publishing as its anchor point, Thornton provides a more detailed view of the wider and politically-charged context in which archaeological knowledge made its way to a reading public (3). Additionally, Thornton helps identify the ways in which the professionalisation of archaeology occurred beyond the parameters of the university system. In various corners of the British empire at the intersections of museum collecting, tourism and a growing public fascination with the ancient and exotic, Archaeologists in Print details how archaeology began to develop as a discrete occupation both within and outside of academia.

One area that could benefit from further explication is the intriguing early assertion that archaeologists were seen as ‘dangerously exotic and semi-foreign (even quasi-anarchistic)’ (2-3). This point is most convincingly articulated in Thornton’s analysis of the fictional field, where the works of Agatha Christie and other novelists adopt archaeologists and digs as signifiers of the exotic. This would suggest a role for archaeological publishing in the construction of what Edward Said famously characterised as ‘a political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the familiar (Europe, the West, “us”) and the strange (the Orient, the East, “them”)’ (Orientalism, 45-46). One then wonders about the broader political effects of these texts. Beyond framing understandings of the past, how might these books have participated in the construction and regulation of the borders between ‘us’ and ‘them’? How might these scripted imaginaries, born of imperial networks of power, have eventually looped back into the very systems that gave rise to them? Did they change them in the process? These lingering questions perhaps speak more to the generative nature of Thornton’s topic of research than a fault in her analysis, which is quite illuminating.

Regardless, Thornton has provided a highly readable and detailed exploration of the institutional networks of archaeological knowledge production at the turn of the century. Despite its regional and temporal specificity, Archaeologists in Print will appeal to a cross-disciplinary readership as both a pedagogical tool and research aid. The author’s exceptionally clear and cogent writing style makes for a highly digestible teaching tool at undergraduate and graduate level. Moreover, Thornton’s careful analysis of the intertwined issues of empire, tourism, science and publishing will be of interest to those conducting research within and across these fields of inquiry.

Nicholas Barron is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. His research interests include the history and sociology of science, historical anthropology and imperial/colonial studies. Funded by the University of New Mexico and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, his doctoral research explores the co-production of anthropology and Indigenous politics in the US Southwest. Nicholas also serves as an editor for the History of Anthropology Newsletter.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Mike Launches Crowdfunding Appeal to Help Fight Libel Battle

On Wednesday, 13th June 2018, Mike annnounced that he had set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for him to take to court the organisations and publications that have libelled him as an anti-Semite. He has had to do this, because he simply doesn’t make enough from the Vox Political page to pay the legal fees himself, and so he has turned to the generosity of his readers.

He posted up the description of his case, and why he needs the money, which he has put on his JustGiving page. This runs

“My name is Mike Sivier. You may know me as the writer of the Vox Political website.

I am probably best-known as the man who forced the Conservative government to reveal the number of sick and disabled benefit claimants who had lost their lives after being denied benefit, after a two-year campaign.

In 2017, immediately before local government elections in which I was standing as a Labour candidate, an organisation calling itself the Campaign Against Antisemitism published an article falsely alleging anti-Semitism by me. I believe the intention was to corruptly spoil my chance of being elected.

The piece ‘quotemined’ investigative articles I had written about claims of anti-Semitism against Labour Party politicians, using only those words that could present the most prejudicial impression about me, in order to falsely suggest hatred of the Jewish people. A weblink to the article was then sent to the Labour Party, in an attempt to have my membership suspended. This led to newspaper articles including one in which my local Conservative MP libelled me.

Labour obligingly suspended my membership, and subsequently launched a one-sided investigation in which I was found guilty despite being absent from the proceedings, at which none of the evidence I had presented to the party was mentioned by the investigator.

A copy of the report to the Labour Party committee that heard my case was then handed to a member of the national press. This led to further newspaper articles claiming I was not only an anti-Semite but also a Holocaust denier (an innovation by the Labour Party investigator).

I have been trying to persuade all those involved to retract their unfounded claims and apologise. These lies have harmed my main business – the Vox Political website – by encouraging readers to believe I should be avoided because of the unacceptable views they have attributed to me.

My attempts seem unlikely to produce positive results so it seems I must resort to court action.

I need your support to fund the court campaign to clear my name.

Please support this case and share. As a Labour Party member, I believe in equal opportunities for all people, no matter the colour of their skin, their religion or ethnic background, or any other accident of birth. My campaign to force the Tory government to release its sickness and disability death figures was an example of my commitment to end discrimination, prejudice and hate based on such characteristics.”

He ends his article with an appeal to readers to support him, either by donating or sharing the link, or both, which is

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/mike-sivier

The article is at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/13/help-vox-political-writer-fight-anti-semitism-libels-in-court/

All this is absolutely true. And I’ve written time and again that Mike is no racist, Anti-Semite or any kind of Nazi. He and I had an uncle, who was of Jewish descent, with whom our family used to go on holidays when we were children. Our father had done his national service in Germany, not far from Belsen concentration camp, and showed us the photos he’d taken of the remains of that terrible place, and the memorial the British army put up to the Jews murdered there.

He has always enjoyed the friendship of people of different cultures, religions and nationalities. One of his mates at college was a Muslim Nigerian. And while he was there, he was one of the speakers reading out the names of some of the victims of the Holocaust in a performance commemorating them and the others butchered in the Shoah. He had done this at the invitation of a female Jewish friend, who was deeply moved by his performance.

One of the books I’ve got on my shelf on the Third Reich was given to me by Mike after he went on a College trip to Berlin. It’s on the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst – the infamous ‘Security Service’, which formed a part of the apparatus of state terror in the Third Reich. It was published by the-then West German government to acccompany an exhibition on the SD and the horrors they perpetrated following the redevelopment and archaeological investigation of the organisation’s headquarters in what was then West Berlin. As well as information on the SD and the other parts of the Nazi secret police, like the Gestapo and the Krimipolizei, the ordinary criminal police, who were also responsible for persecuting political and ethnic enemies of the Nazi order, the book also gave due coverage of the Nazis’ victims. It described the network of camps, and gave the figures for the number of Jews and other victims murdered in the occupied countries. It also had a photographs and potted biographies of some of the most notable victims. It is most definitely not the kind of book Nazis, ant-Semites and Holocaust deniers want people reading, let alone give to their relatives.

Mike and I grew up in the ’80s, when the NF and BNP were very much in the news and trying to make their presence felt through terrorising and attacking people of colour and lefties. It was also the decade when Blacks and Asians also fought back against racism with the support of White sympathisers. There was a real fear at the time that the BNP or something like them could gain power, especially under Thatcher’s noxious government, with its links to South American Fasciss like Pinochet and the horrific Rios Montt. This fear was expressed in some of the comic literature that both he and I read, which dealt with issues like racism and persecution.

It shows the absolute contempt for truth or any kind of journalistic integrity that he, and so many others like him, have been smeared and libelled by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the scumbags of the right-wing press. I full support Mike in his court battle, and hope others will too.

New Series Next Tuesday on African Civilisations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/05/2018 - 12:13am in

Next Tuesday, 29th May 2018, at 10.00 pm there’s a new series beginning on BBC4 entitled Africa’s Great Civilisations. It’s a six part series, with the first part on ‘origins’. The blurb for it on page 77 of the Radio Times reads

Henry Louis Gates jnr. takes a new look at the history of Africa, from the birth of humankind to the dawn of the 20th century. he takes in the city of Great Zimbabwe, the pyramids of Meroe and the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia.

The little piece about it on page 75 by Gill Crawford also gives the following description of the show:

Celebrated African-American literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr presents this wide-ranging, grand-scale six-part history of the African continent, originally shown by the PBS network in the US.

In this first episode, we start in the heart of Ethiopia, where the story of humanity began. And while we now that many African peoples migrated away from the continent to create other societies, others stayed to form great civilisations in Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria, culminating in the Queen of Meroe who stood up to the might of the Roman Empire.

It’s a fest of splendours, and Gates is an eloquent guide.

There have been a number of series on African history over the years. Back in the 1980s the Black African historian, Dr. Ali Mazrui, and the White Afro-centrist historian, Basil Davidson, both presented series on Africa. Eight years ago in 2010 the Black art historian, Gus Casely-Hayford also presented a splendid four-part series on BBC 4, The Lost Kingdoms of Africa, on the continent’s pre-colonial civilisations. I also seem to recall a BBC4 programme, which I thought was presented by Aminatta Forna, but I might be wrong, on the great Islamic civilisation of medieval Timbuktu.

Africa has been the centre of some very advanced civilisations, such as Benin and its superb bronzes, Nubia and the Swahili of what is now Tanganyika. The Swahilis built their cities from coral, and covered them with a limewash made by burning the same material.

Ancient Meroe, however, remains a mystery. It was a literate civilisation, using Egyptian hieroglyphs, and they left inscriptions on their monuments, like their pyramids. However, their language is unrelated to any spoken today, and no parallel texts in known languages, like the Rosetta Stone for ancient Egyptian, have been found. So although we can read their tests, we’ve no idea what they mean. Who knows what wealth of information is in there? It’s all very frustrating. Grrr!

The Trump Statues: Nudity, Castration and the Punishment of Slaves

I sent this piece below off to the left-wing American website and magazine, Counterpunch. It’s a reply to a previous article they put up about the satirical statues of Trump, which appeared when he was campaigning for the presidency. These showed him naked, with a small penis and no testicles. One of their female writers compared this humiliating portrayal with the way nudity has been frequently historically used to punish women. She also cited the Fantasy series Game of Thrones and one of the punishments inflicted on a female character in that. But the statues’ genital deficiencies point to another way nudity was also used. Along with castration, it was also used in South American colonial society to punish captured runaway slaves. The Statues’ portrayal of Trump thus seems very fitting, given his aggressive masculinity and support for racists and White supremacists.

The magazine hasn’t used the article, and I don’t think they ever will. So here it is.

Nudity, Emasculation and the Humiliation of Slaves:
The Hidden Politics of the Anti-Trump Statues

Remember those statues of Trump which appeared in various cities across America about a year or so ago, when the Orange Generalissimo of reality TV was strutting about stadiums across America trying to get people to elect him? These were life-size statues of him, naked, with a tiny penis and no testicles. Today, Wednesday 28th March, the British papers reported that the last remaining one of a set that wasn’t destroyed, was put up for sale at Julien’s Auction in New Jersey. The statues were a subversive comment on a man, whose personal behaviour and style of government is one of aggressive masculinity and misogyny. One of the female contributors to Counterpunch published a piece a year or so ago when these statues first appeared. Written from a feminist perspective, it commented on this sculptural humiliation of the future president, and in particular its similarity to the methods used in the past to humiliate women. The statues’ nudity recalled the way errant women were also humiliated by being paraded naked.

It’s true that public nudity has been most used to humiliate women, but it wasn’t exclusively so. Men have also been humiliated on occasion by being exhibited naked by their enemies. In the culture of the Hebrew Bible, nudity was a badge of shame, and there’s a plaque from ancient Egypt showing a group of Asian prisoners being led, naked, by their Egyptian captors. And during the 18th century heyday of the transatlantic slave trade, public nudity and mutilation, including castration were used to humiliate enslaved Africans, who ran away or otherwise resisted their White masters. The slave societies of the New World was gripped by the fear of slave resistance, which itself took various forms. Enslaved Africans revolted in armed rebellions. They also ran away from their masters, or confined themselves to less dramatic forms of resistance, such as eating dirt, sabotage, or finding ways not to perform, or perform badly, their allotted work. To combat this, the slave masters punished their slaves with a variety of brutal measures, ranging from whipping to execution. These included various forms of mutilation, including castration.

This fear intensified during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, when the British and other European colonial nations feared that the slaves would follow Toussaint L’Ouverture and Black Jacobins of Haiti, and rise up against their masters to found free Black states. And so they resorted to increasingly brutal methods to discourage them. In one British Caribbean colony, one enslaved man was forced to sit on a cannon as it was fired, which understandably left him shaken and terrified. A female planter was also awarded five pounds by the local legislative assembly in another British colony, for having her male slaves castrated as a deterrent to further resistance.

It wasn’t just in the British colonies that emasculation was used to crush rebellious slaves. The Spanish slave code provided that runaway male slaves should be punished through the amputation of their member, and then exhibited naked to the public, a further punishment intended to humiliate them further after the horror of the mutilation itself, as well as dire warning to others also considering absconding. And it is this punishment, which the Trump statues, with their nudity and lack of genital endowment most closely resemble.

As a caricature of the President, it’s very appropriate indeed. Not only is Trump keen to project aggressive masculinity and sexuality, his regime is also notorious for its racism and connection to White supremacism. Trump tried and failed to pass legislation banning Muslim immigration from specific countries, largely those where he has no business dealings. He’s promised to build a wall to stop Mexicans and other Latino/as getting into the country illegally. And his supporters and staff have included members of the Alt Right, determined to preserve White dominance as America rapidly becomes racially diverse. One of the most notorious examples of this racist support base came when Richard Spencer, the founder and leader of the Alt Right, greeted Trump’s election at a meeting at the Ronald Reagan room with the cry of ‘Hail Trump! Hail our race!’ and a raised right arm in something that looked very much like the Fascist salute, despite his claims to the contrary later.

And some right-wing extremists in the Republicans have gone further. Not only do they defend slavery, but some of them have advocated it, or something close to it. A few years ago, one Republican politician recommended that illegal Mexican immigrants should be held captive by the state, and forced to work on public works. This is forced labour, which comes under the UN definition of slavery. Michelle Bachman, during her 2011 presidential campaign recommended a biography of General Robert E. Lee by J. Stephen Wilkins, which blamed the ‘radical abolitionists’ of the north for starting the Civil War, claimed that Southern slave masters treated their slaves with respect, and gave them enough food and personal possession to live a ‘comfortable but spare’ existence. The book even claimed that American slaves were fortunate in being brought out of their own, pagan homelands, and their godless brutality to Christian America. The Victorian English explorer, Sir Richard Burton, made the same argument nearly 250 years ago in his Wanderings in West Africa. It was also repeated by a number of Trump supporters during his presidential campaign back in 2016.

The disgraced former anchor of Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, also repeated it, claiming that the slaves, who worked on the White House were well treated and fed. The Texas school board also tried indoctrinating their children with a carefully sanitized view of it. Back in 2015 one Texas mom was horrified to find that her child’s geography textbook described the enslaved people ripped from their homes in Africa to toil in American plantations as ‘workers’. The protestors, who turned up to demonstrate against the removal of the statue to Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, also argued that slavery had been beneficial. And some Libertarians also resent anti-slavery legislation. One confused Libertarian caller to Sam Seder’s internet news show back in 2013 also tried arguing that the anti-slavery laws were a tyrannical infringement of his liberty. Why? Because they deprived him of his right to own slaves. It’s an argument which shows how dangerous and demented at least some Libertarians are.

This shows there’s considerable nostalgia for slavery amongst some Republican supporters, who were very encouraged by Trump’s election and his racist policies. It’s true that during the 18th century some paternalistic slave masters, like George Washington, were concerned to treat their slaves well. Archaeologists working on Benjamin Franklin’s estate found that many of his slaves had very good material possessions. Some had fine china, and played the violin, for example. But for others, the reality was grinding poverty and the tyranny of the whip. In the British Caribbean, the slave codes provided only that male slaves should be given a pair of drawers, and women shifts once a year. Even in the 19th century visitors to these colonies remarked on seeing slaves toiling naked in the fields. As for benefiting from being taken to America, many Africans instead naturally desperately yearned to return to their homes. Some threw themselves into the sea on their arrival in the Caribbean in attempts to swim back to Africa. And if they couldn’t return to Africa, some of them dreamed of recreating an African society in the New World. In one late sixteenth century rebellion in the British Caribbean, the slaves planned on creating a new social order based on the type of monarchies, with a king and queen mother, they had known in Africa.

The subversive statues of Trump not only comment on and invert his projected image of potent masculine leadership. They also attack and undermine the racism at the heart of his administration by subjecting him in image to the humiliation meted out to runaways in the Latin south. Since then, the statues have nearly all vanished, while unfortunately their real-life model remains at large in his occupancy of the White House.

Pat Mills: Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! 2000AD and Judge Dredd: The Secret History: Part Two

The brutal treatment inflicted by the two ‘Prefects of Discipline’ understandable left Mills with a hatred of the Catholic church. He isn’t alone there. The Irish comedian Dave Allen, and his countryman, the much-loved Radio 2 broadcaster and presenter Terry Wogan, also had no particular love of the church because of the similar sadistic discipline they’d also received as part of their Catholic education. And I’ve met many ordinary people since then, who have also fallen away from the church, and often against Christianity altogether, because of it. One of my uncles was brought up a Catholic, but never attended church. This was partly due to the brutality of the monks, who taught him at his school.

Mills also corrects the impression that Judge Dredd was immediately the favourite strip in the comic. The good lawman wasn’t, and it was months before he attained that position. And he also attacks Michael Moorcock for his comments criticising the early 2000AD in the pages of the Observer. Moorcock was horrified by Invasion, and its tale of resistance to the conquest of Britain by the Russians, hastily changed two weeks or so before publication to ‘the Volgans’. Moorcock had been the boy editor of Tarzan comic, and declared that in his day the creators had cared about comics, unlike now, when the creators of 2000AD didn’t. This annoyed Mills, and obviously still rankles, because he and the others were putting a lot of work in to it, and creating characters that children would like and want to read about. One of the recommendations he makes to prospective comics’ creators is that writers should spend four weeks crafting their character, writing and rewriting the initial scripts and outlines of the character in order to get them just right. And artists need two weeks creating and revising their portrayal of them. This was difficult then, as creators were not paid for what Mike McMahon called ‘staring out of the window time’, though Mills generally managed to find someway round that. It’s impossible now, with tight budget and time constraints.

I can see Moorcock’s point about the Invasion strip. It wasn’t Mills’ own idea, although he did it well. True to his beliefs, its hero was working class, a docker called Bill Savage. He didn’t initially want to work on it, and was only persuaded to by the then editor telling him he could have Maggie Thatcher shot on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral. But it is a right-wing, Tory fantasy. It appeared at the tale end of the ’70s, when MI5, the CIA and Maggie Thatcher had all been convinced that the Labour leader, Harold Wilson, was a KGB agent, and the trade unions and the Labour party riddled with Communists or fellow-travelers ready to do the bidding of Moscow. The strikes in the period led to various arch-Tories, like the editor of the Times, Peregrine Worsthorne, trying to organise a coup against the 1975 Labour administration. And ITV launched their own wretched SF series, in which a group of resistance fighters battle a future socialist dictatorship.

He also discusses the office hatred of the character Finn and the man it was based on. Finn was Cornish, driving a taxi round the streets of Plymouth by day. He was practising witch, and at night battled the forces of evil and against social injustice. The character was based on a man he knew, an ex-squaddie who was a witch. Mills has great affection for this man, who introduced him to modern witchcraft, and in whose company Mills joined in ceremonies at the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire. But the management didn’t like him, and had him sacked. There was a persistent dislike of the character, which seemed to come from its basis in witchcraft, and Mills himself was the subject of lurid stories about what he was supposed to get up to at these ceremonies. This ended with the strip’s abrupt cancellation, without proper explanation. Mills states that he is very distantly related to one of the women executed for witchcraft at Salem, and so is very definitely down on people, who despise and malign witches.

I’m not surprised by either the rumours and the hostility to the strip. This was the 1990s, the heyday of the Satanism scare, when across America, Britain and Europe there were stories of gangs of Satanists abusing animals. Children were being conceived by abused women, used as ‘brood mares’, to be later used as sacrifices to Satan. It was all rubbish, but repeated by a wide range of people from Fundamentalist Christians to secular feminist social workers. And it destroyed many lives. You may remember the Orkney scandal, where forty children were taken into care following allegations of abuse. The minister at the local kirk was supposed to be a Satanist, who had an inverted crucifix hanging from his ceiling. It was no such thing. It was, in fact, a model aeroplane.

Much of this dangerous bilge came from a group of rightwing evangelicals at the Express. I’m not surprised. I can remember the Sunday Express repeating some of this drivel, including the ludicrous claim that CND was Satanic because of its symbol. This was declared to be an old medieval witchcraft symbol, based on a broken cross. I mentioned this once to a very left-wing, religious friend, who had been a member of the nuclear disarmament group. He looked straight at me and said levelly, ‘No. It’s semaphore’. The scare pretty much disappeared in Britain after a regular psychiatrist issued a report stating very firmly that such groups didn’t exist. There are several excellent books written against the scare. The two I read are Jeffrey S. Victor’s Satanic Panic and Peter Hough’s Witchcraft: A Strange Conflict. Victor is an American sociologist, and he takes apart both the claims and gives the sociological reasons behind them. Hough is one-time collaborator of ufologist Jenny Randles, and his book comes at it from a sympathetic viewpoint to modern witches and the occult milieu. He talks about the political beliefs of modern occultists. These naturally range all over the political spectrum, but the majority are Lib Dems or supporters of the Green Party and keen on protecting the environment. And far from sacrificing babies or animals, those I knew were more likely to be peaceful veggies than evil monsters straight from the pages of Dennis Wheatley or Hammer Horror.

The 1990s were also a period of crisis for the comic, which went into a spiral of decline as their best talent was stolen by DC for their Vertigo adult imprint. There was a succession of editors, who, flailing around for some way to halt the decline, blamed the remaining creators. They were increasingly critical, and seemed to be encouraging the abuse letters being sent to them from what seemed to be a small minority of fans. There were also plans to interest TV and Hollywood in developing 2000AD characters in film. Mills and Wagner were horrified to find they were giving away the rights dirt cheap – in one case as low as pound. The comic was close to collapse, but was eventually saved by Rebellion and its current editor.

Continued in Part Three.

Images of Mithra

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/07/2017 - 11:35pm in

Book at Lunchtime discussion

Messages through Ashmolean Portraits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/06/2016 - 11:54pm in

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Vicky McGuinness's bite-sized talk at Ashmolean LiveFriday: Framed Vicky McGuinness explores the historical contexts and identities communicated by some of the portraits to be found on objects in the Ashmolean Museum's collections, taking a journey from the ancient world of Alexander the Great and his afterlives to Elizabeth I's assertions of royal power and authority.