Inspired by the surreal accounts of the explorer and ‘man of a million lies’ Marco Polo, Imaginary Cities charts the metropolis and the imagination, and the symbiosis therein. A work of creative nonfiction, the book roams through space, time and possibility, mapping cities of sound, melancholia and the afterlife, where time runs backwards or which float among the clouds. In doing so, Imaginary Cities seeks to move beyond the cliches of psychogeography and hauntology, to not simply revisit the urban past, or our relationship with it, but to invade and reinvent it.

Following in the lineage of Borges, Calvino, Chris Marker and Kenneth White, the book examines the city from global macrocosm … More

Born OTD in 1918, South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, Nelson Mandela. Freedom fighter, fugitive, celebrated prisoner, president: the hero of a nation. Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist, forced into hiding, captured, threatened with the death penalty and eventually thrown into prison for 27 years, but nothing could stop him from fighting to liberate his country from the infamous sytem of apartheid, which for so many years sought to separate people by race in South Africa. A hero in the struggle, he never gave up.

Even when he was a prisoner, he worked secretly with his comrades to undermine South Africa’s oppressive government. This is … More

Caroline Crampton was born on the Thames Estuary to parents who had sailed there from South Africa in the early 1980s. Having grown up with seafaring legs and a desire to explore, Caroline is both a knowledgeable guide to the most hidden-away parts of this overlooked and unfashionable part of the country, and a persuasive advocate for its significance, both historically and culturally. As one of the key entrances and exits to England, the estuary has been pivotal to London’s economic fortunes and in defining its place in the world.

It has also been the entry point for immigrants for generations, yet it has an ambivalent relationship with newcomers, and … More

OTD in 1843, around 4,500 “Rebecca” rioters gathered and attacked the Carmarthen workhouse in Wales, and set about destroying it. Many of the protests tended to follow a ritual, whereby a ringleader (‘Rebecca’) would stumble towards a gate like a blind, elderly woman. The ‘daughters’ would then clear the path with an almighty racket.

Country men disguised as women, the Rebecca Rioters rose up against the oppressive imposition of steep taxes at the toll … More

The home of successive waves of immigrants, from the Huguenots in the seventeenth century to the Jews in the nineteenth and Bangla-Deshis today, London’s East End has been the scene of its worst poverty and exploitation, and has inspired its greatest philanthropists, reformers and radicals. The East End is, and always has been, a place where conditions are tough, crime violent and work hard, but in which Cockney optimism and love of life are proverbial.

In this text, the area’s turbulent past and continuing traditions are accurately explored in text and pictures. If East End … More

Born OTD in 1830, Louise Michel. Louise was a teacher, poet and important figure in the Paris Commune. Following her penal transportation she embraced anarchism. When returning to France she emerged as an important French anarchist and went on speaking tours across Europe.

Set against the background of violence and state repression in a turbulent period of French history, The Red Virgin and … More

OTD in 1840, the transportation of British convicts to the New South Wales colony is abolished. The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding by Robert Hughes is a history of the birth of Australia out of the suffering and brutality of Britain’s convict transportation system. It also addresses the historical, political and sociological reasons that led to British settlement.

The British Government began transporting convicts overseas to American colonies in the early 17th century. When transportation ended with the … More

Happy Birthday to local Young Adult writer and screenwriter, Catherine Johnson. A forensic crime thriller set in Revolutionary Paris. Young surgeon Ezra McAdam must hasten to Paris to rescue his friend Loveday Finch and her charge Mahmoud, the Ottoman prince, who have been caught up in the Revolution. On the way, Ezra experiences the war first hand on the battlefields of Northern France, where his surgical skills are in high demand by the beleaguered French army. Meanwhile, in Paris, the guillotine is busy, and the medical world is finding the surfeit of bodies useful to its research into the seat of life.

Ezra is not persuaded by the controversial theories of his French colleagues, but his mind is on other matters. Finding … More

The Legacy of the Blues : A Glimpse into the Art and the Lives of Twelve Great Bluesmen. Samuel Charters is a musicographer, novelist, poet, and producer of jazz and blues records who for many years has also been seriously interested in every aspect of black music. His book, The Country Blues, was the first to be published on the subject.

He began making field recordings in the South in the early 1950s and has subsequently produced many recordings, both of … More