Selling books, spreading ideas. Left-wing booksellers as political educators in Interwar Britain - Université Paris 8 Vincennes - Saint-Denis Access content directly
Conference Papers Year : 2021

Selling books, spreading ideas. Left-wing booksellers as political educators in Interwar Britain

Elen Cocaign

Abstract

This paper looks at left-wing booksellers’ strategies and questions their effectiveness. It highlights their primary commitment to workers’ education through the provision of cheap and “good” political books to the “New Reading Public” – the book trade usually referred to the working class in those terms. But left-wing bookshops had broader aims and at times became places where a specific brand of popular politics came to life. Booksellers tried to alter the perception of bookshops as austere and exclusive places and their shops became meeting places. Some reading rooms were opened, exhibitions, book club meetings and conferences were organised but there were also informal social events, like dances. In bookshops, sociability and political education were enmeshed. This paper, therefore, challenges the tendency to overlook the importance of booksellers as political mediators and educators, but it also questions their influence. While these bookshops were intended for the workers, what type of audience did they really attract? How could their role as educators be combined with the practical necessities of shop-keeping?

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Dates and versions

hal-04064724 , version 1 (11-04-2023)

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  • HAL Id : hal-04064724 , version 1

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Elen Cocaign. Selling books, spreading ideas. Left-wing booksellers as political educators in Interwar Britain. Joint Conference ELHN/WORCK 2021, European Labour History Network (ELHN); Worlds of Related Coercions in Work (WORCK), Aug 2021, Vienne (Autriche), Austria. ⟨hal-04064724⟩
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