Sunday 31 May 2015

barratt 3

* 15 March 1918; died 7 May 2015 – initially, to critical examinations of the Soviet model of socialism and of British imperialism. Michael Barratt Brown, who has died aged 97, was a leading figure in the development of this New Left, a pioneer in industrial worker education and the drive for workplace democracy, and later active in the movement for fair trade.

In all he did and wrote, Michael was part of the British tradition of nonconformist, dissident champions of democracy.

What you possibly didn't know about Michael, that he :

* was born into a Quaker family in Birmingham towards the end of the First World War in March 1918, the son of  Eileen and at the time his father, Alfred, worked as a lecturer at George Cadbury's 'Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre' and for the 'Workers' Educational Association' and in 1914, had refused to serve in the War on grounds of conscience and in 1916 joined on the 'National Committee of the No-Consciption Fellowship' along with Bertrand Russell (and stood to the left of him in the back row of on the far right in photo).

* before he was born his father had been arrested for distributing an anti-Conscription Act leaflet, refused to pay his fine and had been sentenced to 61 days in Pentonville and when a month old, speaking in public around the country on the theme of 'Peace and Social Reconciliation', had his certificate of exemption from the Armed Forces withdrawn, was arrested, court martialled and sentenced to 112 days hard labour.

* in 1921, at the age of three, moved with the family to Oxford with its strong Quaker culture in and around the town, when his father became Vice Principal then Principal of Ruskin College, with its strong ties to the 'Official Labour Movement' and  a centre for political and cultural debate and as a boy  met such family friends, the Anglican primate William Temple,  President of the Workers’ Educational Association .

* in 1927 was introduced to the 55 year old Bertram Russell at his home in Surrey where he ran a primary school with his wife Dors and recalled : "My Father said to me, when I was nine. "This is the greatest philosopher in the world. This is the man who would do more to save the world from war and I want you to go and see him" "I went into a room and there was a little old men and he turned to me and he said "Now Michael, what is the biggest problem in your life ?" and I thought for a minute and I said "I am very small" and he said "It doesn't matter" and I saw that here was an old men with a very big head and a very little body and I thought 'well. I'm alright.'

* at the age of 11, was packed off the Bootham School, an independent, Quaker boarding school for boys in York, with the motto 'Membra sumus corporis magni', 'We are members of a great body' A.J.P. Taylor where the future Oxford historian had been a pupil during the War and Christopher Dow the future economist and advisor to the Treasury was two years above him and Michael Rowntree, nephew of the chocolatier and social-reformer Joseph Rowntree was in the year below him.

* left school in 1936 and started his undergraduate degree in Classics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and came under the influence of Sir Richard Livingstone, celebrated classicist and author of 'A Defence of Classical Education' and in these formative years coupled his Quakerism with its practices rooted in democracy with a secular humanism that he said he owed to the nineteenth Greek scholar and liberal, Gilbert Murray and which he called 'Comtian Stoicism' and in which the ideas of the 19th-century French philosopher, Auguste Comte, resonated with the ancient Greek Stoics’ belief in reason, high-mindedness and altruism as a route to deterring conflict and promoting cooperation.

* after graduation and on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, together with Paul Cadbury and Michael Rowntree, re-established the 'Friends Ambulance Unit' and found his subsequent wartime postings took him to Cairo, Italy and in 1944, the refugee camps in Yugoslavia and played a key role in the Unit's organising Council and was recalled by Howard Wiggins as : 'A short, well-built man, he was a brilliant, witty analyst of social and economic class differences, a rapid thinker and fluent talker. He was fun to work with and he was a great help to me in Cairo, a useful link between most of the British and American NGO's and the British Official Community. During the waiting period, it was his job to assist in planning for civilian reconstruction once the Continent became accessible.'

* having married Frances Lloyd in 1940, subsequently fathered their two sons, then met the Eleanor Singer in Sarajevo,
which time he was working for the  United Nations Relief  and Rehabilitation Administration which had been set up in 1943 and she was a doctor leading the Medical Unit of 'Save the Children Fund' in the Balkans, who, fifteen years his senior, had joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1930's.

* on his return to Britain in 1947, divorced Frances and married Eleanpr on her return to Britain the following year,  renounced his pacifism, left the Quakers and joined Eleanor as a member of the Communist Party and moved to Essex where her work had taken her as an Assistant Medical Officer of Health and a familiar figure in her visits in her Triumph Vitesse convertible to Family Planning Association clinics scattered around in Essex towns while, while he moved into teaching as a Adult Education evening class tutor and became the father of a son and daughter.

* with Eleanor, left the Communist Party after the Soviet Suppression of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956 and together with Raymond Williams and E.P. Thompson who developed the ideas, respectively, of a long cultural revolution and
political revolution and eschewed his classical training and set out the ideas behind a long 'economic revolution' in what was effectively the corpus of  'The British New Left.' and was one of the founders of 'New Left Review' in 1960.

* as a member of the Editorial Board of the 'New Reasoner' which had merged with 'Universities and Left Review' to form the New Left Review, spent just over three weeks in Jugoslavia, travelled 2,500miles by road, rail and sea through four of the six republics and visited mines, factories, power stations, farms, co-operatives, housing communities and committees at every level from the Federal Government to the smallest parish.

* published  two articles on 'Yugoslavia Revisited' in the 'New Left Review' in  the Spring of 1960 and concluded that : 'The decentralised system of government as a whole which the Jugoslavs have forged depends entirely on the reality of participation at the base. In the present stage of transition the building of industry is the vital force. It is here that the best men are concentrated; and it is here in the experiment of workers councils that the new Jugoslavia is being born' but also lamented 'the tragedy' 'that the haunting peasant songs so beautifully sung in the mountains and on the coast are being insidiously eroded by the tin-pan rhythm of Elvis Presley and his like on the radio and in the cinemas' and was 'most unhappy' that this was defended 'in terms of giving the people what they want.'



The one tragedy is



The youth of the village came

out from their club to greet me wearing jeans and

sweaters and some of them carrying umbrellas. Several

spoke English and, as everywhere else, I was bombarded

with questions about England, about the angry young

men, about John Osborne and Colin Wilson. What on

earth are we to say about this among children who were

born in the most backward part of one of the most

backward countries of mid-Twentieth Century Europe?

can be made to work. Can it in the arts?


The article that follows is the first of two; the second









will deal in greater detail with the functioning of Workers’

Councils within the planned economy.

The Jugoslavs are what they are because of their

As part of the British "New Left" a number of new journals emerged to carry commentary on matters of Marxist theory. One of these was The Reasoner, a magazine established by historians E. P. Thompson and John Saville in July 1956.[4] A total of three quarterly issues was produced.[4] This publication was expanded and further developed from 1957 through 1959 as The New Reasoner, with an additional ten issues being produced.[4]
Another radical journal of the period was Universities and Left Review, a publication established in 1957 with less of a sense of allegiance to the British communist tradition.[4] This publication was more youth-oriented and pacifist in orientation, expressing opposition to the militaristic rhetoric of the Cold War, voicing strong opposition to the Suez War of 1956, and support for the emerging Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.[4]


New Left Review was established in January 1960 when The New Reasoner and Universities and Left Review merged their boards.[5] The first editor-in-chief of the merged publication was Stuart Hall.[5] The early publication's style, featuring illustrations on the cover and in the interior layout, was more irreverent and free-flowing than later issues of the publication, which tended to be of a more somber, academic bent.[4] Hall was succeeded as editor in 1962 by Perry Anderson.[5]

* in 1958 moved to Sheffield and the Derbyshire in the 1960s where they lived on Robin Hood Farm Eleanor worked as Schools Officer for North Derbyshire and 10 years later moved to Sheffield. There, in the next two decades, he established and taught extension classes for miners and steelworkers.

* with Eleanor and they shared an interest in public health issues and the development of Twin Trading that lasted until Eleanor’s death in 1995.

* This last experience led him to renounce pacifism, leave the Quakers, and join the Communist party, though his life’s work and writing reflected
Like his New Left contemporaries Raymond Williams and Edward Thompson, Michael had joined the Communist party in the 1940s, but he abandoned it after the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Like them, Michael was committed to being a peripatetic teacher for adults in the evening, after their daytime work. Like them, he attempted to make sense of the simultaneous twin events of Hungary and the Suez crisis. These were the years when Williams developed his ideas of a long cultural revolution and Thompson his equally influential work on a long political revolution.
Michael, as an economist, set out to describe the contours of a long economic revolution. Together they marked out the three strands of the post-1956 British New Left.

In the late 1950s and 60s, a number of British leftwing intellectuals and activists began to look beyond the prevailing concerns of Marxist thinkers – initially, to critical examinations of the Soviet model of socialism and of British imperialism. Michael Barratt Brown, who has died aged 97, was a leading figure in the development of this New Left, a pioneer in industrial worker education and the drive for workplace democracy, and later active in the movement for fair trade.

* He was one of the founders of New Left Review in 1960,

 of the Peace Foundation established by Bertrand Russell in 1963 and its journal, the Spokesman, of the

Institute for Workers’ Control in 1968, and of the Conference of Socialist Economists in 1970.

* Michael’s first book, After Imperialism (1963), was a landmark in critical economic thinking at the time of decolonisation, and was widely translated. It argued that the end of formal colonial power was likely to intensify neo-colonial economic power, particularly in the form of the large corporations. What was needed was for the newly independent countries to use their political independence to resist these new forms of economic power and create their own path of social and economic development.

Many of his books continued with these themes, examining the ever more complex and tightening webs of post-colonial economic control, and the alternatives. He thought planning was part of the answer (in developed as much as in developing countries), but it had to be decentralised and democratic.

* He applied a similar argument in relation to British economic policy, first in his contribution to The May Day Manifesto (1968), a “socialist alternative to Labour government policies” as the cover of the Penguin Special paperback proclaimed, and then in his book From Labourism to Socialism (1972). His work for the Institute for Workers’ Control, for adult education, and later for Twin Trading and fair trade were all initiatives aiming to put these ideas into practice.

* In 1978 he founded Northern College at Wentworth Castle, near Barnsley, as an adult and community education residential college, and was its first principal. The intake at the outset was largely male but Michael responded to the demand from women by making over a residential block for them and opening a creche.

* After retiring in 1983, he went to the Greater London council, led by Ken Livingstone, to produce study materials on the issues that its industrial sections were trying to address. Out of this work came his interest in fair trade: in 1985 he co-founded Twin Trading which, under his chairmanship, developed Cafédirect, the Divine chocolate business and other Fairtrade brands as a model for a different kind of trade between peasant producers and consumers in developed countries.

During his long and eventful life, he worked closely with the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and the Institute for Workers’ Control, and was a regular contributor to The Spokesman journal. We shall miss him greatly.Michael Barratt Brown wrote extensively throughout his life on economics, workers' control and politics. During his long career he served in a Quaker Ambulance Unit and worked for the United Nations and, subsequently, in documentary films, in workers' education, in industrial democracy, in socialist economics, in resisting nuclear warfare, in honest academic research, and in Fair Trade among co-operative organisations.
Michael’s career in adult education seems to have started more by accident than design. He started teaching a WEA evening class, and helping make a documentary film during the days. With the film completed, he increased his WEA work and started teaching for Cambridge University Extra-mural Delegacy. In 1958 he joined the University of Sheffield as a full time lecturer in the Extra-mural Department, and became involved in teaching industrial day release courses, which had initially
been established in the early 1950s by the Derbyshire miners’ union and the newly
-nationalised National Coal Board, then expanded rapidly during the 1960s into other industries, mainly but not exclusively under state ownership. Michael was also involved in founding and then chairing the Society of Industrial Tutors, a forum for adult educators involved in trade union studies. SIT promoted debate about the politics, pedagogy

and purpose of worker’ educat
ion in the UK, and it became a credible lobbying force, at least while Labour was in
power. Michael’s account
is tantalisingly brief; he moves straight from telling the
reader that he met a government minister to press SIT’s claim for improvements in day r
elease arrangements to a discussion of a book of his which the minister had once reviewed. I could have done with more reflection on SIT
 growth and role, as well as its subsequent decline.
Michael largely confirms others’
accounts of workers’
 education in this period. However, he does not address the difficulties that he and some other adult educators faced within parts of the labour movement. According to Geoffrey Stuttard, another founder of SIT, the persistent conflicts included serious attempts to p
revent Michael from teaching on some industrial workers’ courses –
 but if this was the case, there is no mention of it here, nor of the reasons (probably in part political) for any such bar. Today, Michael is best known for his role as the first Principal of Northern College. Situated in an old stately home and former teacher training college
, and often known as the ‘Ruskin of the North’, the
college was a long term project for Michael, where personal ambition, political ideals and educational aims came together. He applied unsuccessfully for the post of Principal of Newbattle Abbey, in Scotland, and became involved with others who were lobbying for a residential adult college in the north of England. He is particularly informative about the long campaign to create the College and to locate it in the Labour heartland of South Yorkshire, as well as about some of the curriculum innovations and cultural activities that it adopted in its early years. Once more, his account underplays conflict, whether internal, or (more seriously) external, from the early campaign of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce to have it closed to the more long term economic, social and
cultural shifts that undermined parts of its original raison d’etre.
As a resource for historians the book is flawed but helpful. It is largely a joy to read, enlivened as it is
with Michael’s rather mischievous
eye for the telling anecdote. Apparently he wrote the book from memory, and it shows positively in the fresh and engaging style of the narrative, negatively in a number of errors, though my impression is that these are minor (the chair of the 1973 Committee on
Adult Education is wrongly named as ‘Sir John Russell’,
for example). Barratt Brown is particularly helpful in his vivid recreation of the middle class Quaker milieu that has had such a profound influence over nearly two centuries on English adult education. He also shows the importance of networks to the culture of left-of-centre intellectual activism: barely a situation arises without Michael bumping into a cousin or friend, or calling on someone who knew his father, and with this comes what some will undoubtedly find an irritating tendency to name-dropping. And his life history also reminds us that while 1945 marked a point of departure for British adult education, there were also important elements of continuity. An obvious question for non-historians is whether the movements that Michael describes have left any lasting legacy. SIT is dead, along with the Institute for Workers Control; and both Northern College and trade union education have changed considerably in the last two decades. I will leave that for readers to decide, but his book has considerable value for those interested in post-war adult education, as well as in the wider culture of enlightened social activism in the second half of the twentieth century.

Michael Barratt Brown was the first Principal of Northern College, a residential college for adults which opened in September 1978. I was lucky enough to take one of the first jobs at the College, and taught there from 1978 to 1985.  Working with Michael was a baptism of fire for a young and inexperienced lecturer, particularly as he had no patience with the belief that you could learn anything about teaching from books or training courses.
I already knew of Michael before joining the College. His political work in the peace movement and in the campaign for industrial democracy were well known; he often co-authored with Ken Coates, another adult educator who like Michael had left the Communist Party in 1956, and who became quite a high profile figure in the Labour Left. I had also met Michael, through my Warwick mentor Royden Harrison, the historian and an old friend and political comrade of Michael’s (Royden also wrote a reference that was, I suspect, instrumental in getting me the job).

Michael was an inspirational figure who was capable of haranguing the College staff – and students – when things didn’t go entirely to his liking. My first experience of Michael in rant mode was when the Deputy Principal, in Michael’s absence, declared the College closed during a snowy cold snap; Michael was furious, spluttering that if he could get in to the College then there was no reason to close it down. He then went out skiing.

To be honest, his harangues tended to cause more amusement than anxiety. Yet, as you might expect of someone with his wartime experiences, there was real toughness in the man – and indeed there had to be. For the first few years of its life, the College battled to survive. The Sheffield Conservative Party was particularly virulent in its attacks, both through its one local MP Irvine Patnick, a nasty piece of work who fed misinformation to the media in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster), and through the local Chamber of Commerce. And all this during the Thatcher years.

Michael was robust in his defence of the College, and disarmingly charming with its critics. He was also capable of puncturing others’ self-importance, usually employing his sly sense of humour. I remember him one chairing a disciplinary hearing involving two students, both activists in the Yorkshire Area of the National Union of Mineworkers, who had been involved in a fight. It was a tense and difficult occasion, with claim and counter-claim over the origins of the dispute, which Michael defused by asking “And what exactly is a pillock?” To this day I’m uncertain whether he genuinely didn’t known what the word meant, but it brought us all back to our senses.

He worked hard and expected others to do the same. He was an enormously productive writer while contributing a full teaching load and doing all the networking and admin that came with the job. He also drank hard: the College then expected all its teaching staff to serve as residential tutors once a week, and occasionally I’d find him in his study at night, polishing off a bottle of red wine while writing an article or a pamphlet.

He was capable of enormous generosity, supporting students in terrible hardship with ‘loans’ (rarely repaid) from his own pocket. As some students never tired of pointing out, he could well afford to be generous, though much of his wealth came from canny investments. I did once ask him about the ethics of a Quaker Marxist gambling on the stock market; his response, with a grin, was “Why be an economist if you don’t use it?”

In many ways Michael became an adult educator almost by accident – or at most through planned happenstance – as I did. His formal education had been richly supplemented by a lifetime of political activity, but he had taught for the WEA before joining the Extra-Mural Department at Sheffield University, where he was drawn into teaching on the miners’ day release programme. He thought that adult educators were made through experience; when I asked about financial support to undertake an OU course called Education for Adults, he snapped at me: “Why on earth would anyone want to study adult education?” I paid for the course myself (and thoroughly enjoyed it).

All these initiatives in different forms are still running. His industrial classes in Sheffield produced a whole generation of shop stewards, union officials, local councillors and Westminster politicians. Northern College now has an annual student roll of 6,000, primarily those returning to education. Twin Trading acts as the developed world partner to, and is owned by, 30 co-operative networks in the developing world, with 300,000 members.

Relatively few adult educators publish an autobiography. The exceptions are usually people whose achievements lie outside adult education; the outstanding cultural theorist and public figure Richard Hoggart, the influential social feminist activist and writer Sheila Rowbotham, and so on. Michael Barratt Brown was an influential figure during the 1970s and 1980s in the movements for Fair Trade,
nuclear disarmament and workers’ control,
who was also known for his writing on the economics of development. His book also alludes to lesser known but equally important roles in emergency relief in the Balkans and middle east during the closing stages of the Second World War, as well as his part in the British New Left that flourished after the 1956 crisis in the Communist Party. But it is his role in adult education that will most interest readers of this journal. Barratt Brown was born into the adult education movement.

a celebrated classicist who had written and campaigned on citizenship education and became a leading exponent of the Danish folk high school movement.
He promoted the classical liberal arts.Richard Livingstone was the son of an Anglican vicar. His mother was the daughter of an Irish baron
.*  After Quaker boarding school he studied Classics at In 1933, Livingstone returned to Oxford, and became President of Corpus Christi College Oxford, where his college’s President was Sir Richard Livingstone, a celebrated classicist who had written and campaigned on citizenship education and became a leading exponent of the Danish folk high school movement.
He promoted the classical liberal arts.Richard Livingstone was the son of an Anglican vicar. His mother was the daughter of an Irish baron
  • The Greek Genius and its Meaning to us (1912)
  • A Defence of Classical Education (1916)
  • The Legacy of Greece: Essays editor (1921)
  • The Pageant of Greece (1923)
  • The Mission of Greece (1928)
  • Portrait of Socrates, being the Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Plato (English translation), Plato, Benjamin Jowett, Richard Livingstone (1938)
  • The Future in Education (1941

  • Rowntree was the son of Arnold Rowntree and a nephew of the chocolatier and social-reformer Joseph Rowntree. He was educated at Earnseat School in Arnside, and then at Bootham School in York where he became head boy. He won a scholarship to Queen's College, Oxford where he read PPE for two years until the Second World War intervened.[1]
    A conscientious objector, he helped Paul Cadbury and Michael Barratt Brown to re-establish the Friends Ambulance Unit ("FAU") holding many leadership positions. He worked in Finland in 1940, then in Cairo, and became his FAU unit's leader in North Africa and then into Italy. Later he co-ordinated the work of all FAU units in Germany. At the end of the war, he married Anna Crosfield, a textiles' artist. They went on to have three children.[2]

    with Tito’s partisans
    * then the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration,
    After Oxford he served with the Friends’ Ambulance Unit and
    . * After taking a degree in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford, in 1940 he married Frances Lloyd and started serving full-time with the Friends Ambulance Unit, whose wartime postings took him to Cairo, Italy and Yugoslavia, with Tito’s partisans.
    wrote The evolution of the Friends' ambulance unit (1914 and 1939)   pub 1943
    1914-1918 Ambulance trains and motor ambulance convoys in France and Belgium. Casualty hospitals in Dunkirk and Britain. Relief work in Belgium." "1939-1946
    The FAU was re-formed in September 1939 and during the war undertook ambulance work in Finland, Norway, Greece, North Africa, Italy, France Belgium and Germany." "IN BRITAIN - emergency relief work in the bombed cities and assistance in the short staffed hospitals" "IN THE FAR EAST - medical supplies transported along the Burma Road, medical and civilian relief in China" "IN INDIA - Civil Defence preparations supervised, assistance rendered to victims of the Mydnapore cyclone and Bengal famine." "IN ETHIOPIA AND SYRIA - medical and health services organised" "Civilian relief teams followed the Allied armies in to Europe." (No film - captions only)
     Two members started in 1943 visiting hospitals in Sicily, and by 1944/5 60 were engaged in transport,health and welfare work in refugee camps in Italy.  Greece followed in October 1944, where a Medical Supply and Transport Unit (MSTU) covered 250,000 miles and distributed 30,000 cases of medical supplies throughout Attica and the Dodecanese; while a Field Bacteriological Unit (FBU) conducted an extensive inspection of water supplies in Athens, Macedonia and two of the islands.
    In March 1944 a second MSTU landed in Yugoslavia and distributed canned food, milk, potatoes, drugs and supplies for the Partisan hospitals to provincial centres from Split and Dubrovnik, and elsewhere soap, DDT, veterinary supplies, clothing and even the complete equipment for a 200-bed hospital.  A second FBU surveyed water supplies and combatted typhus and dysentery.
     In September 1944 the FAU started civilian work in Belgium, Holland and France.  No. 12 Field Surgical Unit had landed earlier, soon after D Day, serving with the British Liberation Army on military casualties.  In Holland the FAU transported sick civilians from vulnerable towns, while in Belgium three sections operated an ambulance service for the victims of German flying bombs, the other two sections concentrating on refugees.
     The British entered Germany on 23 March 1945, and on their heels went four FAU teams to care for refugees: registration, de-lousing, catering and camp management.  The work was frequently harrowing: none more so than Belsen, which the FAU were among the first to enter.
     The final country was Austria, in May 1945.  Confusion prevailed with displaced persons, ex-internees, prisoners of war and refugees from all parts of Eastern Europe.  FAU work included a “Searcher Service” to reunite families and friends, the sorting of Red Cross and German supply dumps and the provision of food, clothing and welfare at refugee camps, and the care of the German and Austrian Children’s Evacuation Camps.                         
    his view of Quakerism and its practices as the foundation of real democracy. He coupled this with a secular humanism that he said he owed to the Greek scholar and liberal Gilbert Murray, which he called Comtian stoicism. On this view, the ideas of the 19th-century French philosopher Auguste Comte resonated with the ancient Greek Stoics’ belief in reason, high-mindedness and altruism as a route to deterring conflict and promoting cooperation.
    * Michael and Frances had two sons, Christopher and Richard, before divorcing in 1948. With his second wife, Eleanor Singer, he had two further children, Daniel and Deborah. Eleanor was a doctor with whom he had worked in Yugoslavia,
    * in the 1970s
    had a job * From 1948, he taught adult evening classes in Essex,
    and 10 years later moved to Sheffield. There, in the next two decades, he established and taught extension classes for miners and steelworkers.

    Michael was then still running five miles every morning, gardening, cooking, sailing and travelling, quite apart from his involvement in fair trade, about which he wrote three books. In 2005, he met again Annette Caulkin, whom he had known in the Friends Ambulance Unit. He moved to London and lived with her until her death in 2012.
    Michael is survived by his four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

    My Father always said "Bertie has a sense of humour, Bertie will understand." If you look at a photograph of him it has a smile with a twinkle. You can tell by his face, he's looking for the good things. "

    Born in Birmingham, he came from Quaker stock. His father, Alfred, was one of the conscientious objectors who had been imprisoned because of their religious, and in his case political, opposition to the first world war: he was given leave to be present when his wife, Eileen (nee Cockshott), gave birth to Michael.

    My Father always said "Bertie has a sense of humour, Bertie will understand." If you look at a photograph of him it has a smile with a twinkle. You can tell by his face, he's looking for the good things. "

    Tuesday 26 May 2015

    Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to its Prince of Linguists, Adam Kilgarriff

    Adam, who built an increasingly distinguished career from the age of 27, with recognition at home and abroad based on his understanding of corpus and computational linguistics and lexicography and said with perfect self-effacement that he'd spent all of it "really thinking about the relationship between corpus and dictionary. So this puzzling out how they relate to each other is always near the middle of what I'm doing" , has died at the age of 55.

    What you possibly didn't know about Adam, that he :

    * was born in Brighton, Sussex in 1960 and brought up along the coast in Hastings, the son of his German mother, Renate who had met his father, Raymond, when they both worked at London's 'Bernard Quaritch' Bookshop and in Hastings worked as a bookseller in 'Howes Bookshop' in a Victorian Gothic building in the back streets with its enormous stock arranged on one mile of shelving with an atmosphere compared to a college library and once said : "I am an unrepentant generalist. I like being confronted with miscellaneous collections and getting to grips with it all. Specialists tell me there is an awful lot of new material to be discovered even after a lifetime in one subject, but I just cannot be convinced about that. I enjoy the discoveries I make day by day as a generalist."
    * having passed the 11+ exam, attended the traditional Hastings Grammar School for Boys in 1971, where he remembered 'all those gruesome assemblies where we stood up while masters came in, sat down, stood up, prayed, sat down, were talked at, stood up, sang, (or muttered, in my case), sat down, were lectured at, stood up, prayed, sat down, stood up, masters went out. Fifteen minutes a day, every school day for five years.'

    * in the 1970s, was already showing an interest in the power of words and recalled : 'When I was thirteen, I went to a chess championship in Southend-on-Sea. It was grey and windswept and I was a little lonely and homesick and as far as I can remember I lost all my games. I remember just one spark of colour in this otherwise cheerless scene : my partner in one game, delighted with his ingenuity at a particular move, declared it 'subtle' with a capital B. Subtle has a subtle spelling : the b is silent, so it's all the more subtle if the b is a capital.'

    * left school after his 'O' Levels at the age of 16 to study his 'A' Levels elsewhere and quickly matured as an adolescent, having been 'introduced to feminism early, by an older lover, in my late teens in the 1970s' which 'opened up a fascinating world of questions: how different would the world have looked had I been a woman?'

    * signed up for a year's 'Voluntary Service Overseas' at the age of 18 in 1978 and spent it in Kenya, working for the 'Project Trust' teaching at a ‘Harambee’, in a self-help school on an island in Lake Victoria where, in 'a remote part of a third world country. It was a formative experience. I learnt some essential truths, like that we Brits are all pretty rich and lucky, and also that wealth is not much related to happiness.'

    * returned to Britain and started his undergraduate studies at Cambridge University, in 1979, the second year of his father's Presidency of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association and graduated three years later with a 'first class' BA degree in 'Philosophy and Engineering' and in 1983 got his first job working as a 'Housing Officer' for the 'London and Quadrant Housing Trust' and resumed his education the following year and enrolled at South West London College for a 'Diploma in Counselling Skills.'

    * remembered 'a scarring weekend' with other students at the beginning of his counselling course where, 'after a few drinks we had had a rollocking argument about Jewishness with a strident Zionist, feminist woman. I went to bed feeling it had been a jolly good argument. But over the remainder of the weekend, and then the following term of the course, I had felt increasingly defensive, like everything I say might be taken against me, excluded. At the end of the year, the strident woman left the course and I was so relieved.  A year or two later some gossip got back to me.  The strident woman had said after that first evening “he represents patriarchy, we’ll get him”. I took away two lessons : be wary of putting your head above the parapet and maybe I’m not such a feminist in my style of argument after all.'

    * in 1987, gave up his job with the housing association, switched direction and started his MSC in 'Intelligent Knowledge-Based Systems' at the University of Sussex, graduated the following year and picked up his Counselling Diploma before embarking on four years research at the University of Sussex for his DPhil in 'Computational Linguistics' entitled : 'Polysemy' which began by asking : 'What does it mean to say a word has several meanings ? On what grounds do lexicographers make their judgment about the number of meanings a word has ? How do the senses a dictionary lists relate to the full range of ways a word might get used ? How might Natural Language Processing Systems deal with multiple meanings ?'

    * concluded his 1992 thesis with a quote from Lewis Carroll's 'Through the Looking Glass' and asked : 'Was Humpty Dumpty right ? Can a word mean whatever we choose it to mean ? ...possibly, in sufficient extra circumstances, almost any word can be used to mean almost anything', but 'while Humpty Dumpty may be right, this does not invalidate to lexicographer's attempt to specify the meaning of a word.'

    * in 1992 at the age of 32, started work as a 'Computational Linguist' at Longman Dictionaries where he developed lexical databases and in 1995 worked on the 'Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English' where he was proud to have pointed out an omission and advised on 'language engineering' and after three years moved to the 'Information Technology Research Institute', University of Brighton and over the next nine years, progressed from Research Fellow to Senior Research Fellow and finally Senior Lecturer.

    * continued his work in the publishing world, working for Oxford University Press in 1998 as an advisor on 'language technology' and for Macmillan on 'corpus use in dictionary production' for the 'Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners' and in addition, gave advice on 'computational linguistics' and 'corpus processing' at Kings College London, the National Endowment for Science and the charity, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

    * in 1997 published his influential "I don't believe in word senses", in which he began with : 'Within the lexicography and linguistics literature, they are known to be very slippery entities. The paper looks at problems with existing accounts of 'word sense' and describes the various kinds of way in which a word's sense can deviate from its core meaning' and proceeded to argue against discrete classification of 'word senses' and saw them rather as a continuous space of meanings largely defined by the 'contexts' in which a word appears : 'I examined the concept, 'word sense'. It was not found to be sufficiently well-defined to be a workable basic unit of meaning' and witnessed his paper rapidly become a 'state-of-the-art' argumentation on the topic.

    * in 2002, in partnership with Sue Atkins and Michael Rundell, set up his first company, 'Lexicography MasterClass Ltd' to provide consultancy and training in lexicography and dictionary production and later said : 'If you have a lexical computing problem, call me in! I’ve always found, to my surprise and delight, the more interesting the work, the more people pay me for it. Such are the delights of being very specialised' and in 2003, attended workshops and delivered keynote speeches and lectures at Tilburg University, The Netherlands and in Mexico City, Tokyo and Beijing and in the same year set up 'Lexical Computing Ltd' to provide corpus software and services and consultancy.

    * made his greatest contribution to lexicography with the creation of 'Sketch Engine', which took its name from word sketches, one-page summaries of a word's grammatical and collocational behaviour and provided an immediate response tool for most queries for billion word corpora and subsequently saw it used for 'dictionary-making' at Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, HarperCollins and Le Robert and at the National Language Institutes of eight countries and for teaching and research in many universities.

    * in 2006 added another string to his bow working as an 'Expert witness' in intellectual property cases relating to product names and trademarks and in the years up to 2013 travelled to and delivered his expertise to audiences in Bologna University, Athens, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Regensburg in Germany, Szeged in Hungary, Taipei in Taiwan, Malta, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Murcia in Spain, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Pavia and Bolzano in Italy, China, Brno in the Czech Republic and Bali.
    * at the age of 48 in 2008, with his 11 year old daughter, made a return trip to Kenya for a 'moving reunion' with his old friend, Raphael, who he had not seen for 30 years, found that lack of rain had led to crop failure and threat of starvation and followed Raphael's suggestion and provided £2,400 in funding so that he 'could hire a truck, drive to the Tanzanian border, not so far away and basic foods were available at a more manageable price in Tanzania, fill up the truck and drive back to Kenya to distribute the food to needy families' and in addition, continued to support 'schooling for HIV orphans, organised by Raphael via a local NGO that he set up'.
    * in 2009 asked the question : 'Are you a digital native?  I suspect most readers of this piece, like me, are digital immigrants. The terms were coined by Marc Prensky, whom I had the good fortune to hear at the English Language Teaching conference, in April. Most people closer to my children’s ages than mine are digital natives – in rich countries and poor. They have grown up playing with computers, Xboxes, Nintendo DS’s and cellphones...Already over half the world’s population are digital natives, and us digital immigrants (assuming you, dear reader, are closer to my age than my children’s) are doomed.  In twenty or thirty years, people who remember typewriters will only be found in old people’s homes' along with flip chart users :
    * in 2010 posted 'Three English Singletons' with  'There are three words of English that are particularly vexing ..The first is co-operative. No other word in English has a hyphen that resolutely refuses to go away... Next is café. English doesn't do accents. It just doesn't...The third and least forgiveable is cannot. We don't stick words together..Were I a language evangelist, I would not object to "would of" or the greengrocers "carrot's", or even to the displacement of our delicate and beautiful system of tag questions by the universal innit. These words are but the variations on the theme of the melody of English. But when one, lone, single obstreperous word defies an otherwise universal rule, then out ! Out, co-operative ! Out, café ! And out, out, out cannot !'

    * in 2012 greeted the announcement that 'Macmillan Education' would cease publishing print dictionaries and that Macmillan Dictionaries would henceforth live only online as a “a day of liberation from the straitjacket of print” and was pioneering in the use of the web for linguistic research and set up 'The Web as Corpus' as a Special Interest Group of the Association for Computational Linguistics.

    * as his reputation spread, addressed research seminars at Google, Microsoft and FrameNet in Berkeley, USA and at the Universities of Stockholm, Düsseldorf, Munich, Geneva, Gothenburg, Uppsala, Saarbrücken, Stuttgart, Dublin, Columbia, Tampere in Finland, Helsinki, Complutense in Madrid and on the home front : the Universities of Essex, Edinburgh, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, Sheffield, Lancaster, Leeds, Surrey, Kings College London, Goldsmith, Cardiff, Wolverhampton, Aston, Brighton and Sussex and the British Library.
    * in November 2014, was diagnosed with cancer and started a blog in January 2015 and planned to use it : 'to keep anyone who is interested up-to-date on my health (I have stage 4 bowel cancer) but also for thoughts on language, corpus linguistics and life and the world in general. The plan is to use these four categories' and went on to declare :  'Despite the cancer, I most certainly am enjoying life; I’m not used to life being slow and gentle, and having ample time to enjoy the view out of the window, the pictures round the house, BBC Radio 3 playing gems from the classical repertoire, for writing this blog. It’s all very nice!' and in March was humorous with 'The Grammar of Farting' and in May, honest with 'Cancer and depression'

    * in February considered the words of the nineteenth century hymn :
    'We blossom and flourish
    As leaves on a tree
    And wither and perish
    But naught changeth Thee.'
    and asked 'What is it about this (half-)verse that so resonates? It won’t be the religion, I don’t do religion and it only comes in at the end. No, it must be the language. The words are all basic, old words of English. No prefixes, suffixes, long words, imports. The four verbs: blossom, flourish, wither, perish: four ancient words of English for four fundamental processes of life. The sentence structure: subject and intransitive verb, four times over: as basic as it gets, connected by and, the simplest conjunction. One simile, again, of unanswerable directness. The plain, pure rhythm; the plain, pure rhyme. Thank you, Walter Smith. For when I use language, this is a model for how I want to use it.'
    * on his passing, was paid tribute by the American lexicographer, Orin Hargraves who said : "his contributions to lexicography, mainly in the form of Sketch Engine and its associated corpora, are immeasurable. Dictionaries now and far into the future are better for the work he has done."

    * in January had written 'came across the whiteboard before Christmas at the hospital where they were taking a blood test to check I was OK for the next round of chemotherapy. Apart from the season’s greeting, all the messages are reminders to nurses taking blood tests of some of the less obvious procedures to be followed when doing some of the rarer tests. It caught my eye because of the sheer strangeness of finding the two radically different uses of languages next to each other, as if they had something to do with each other. Wittgenstein said language was a toolbox with lots of different kinds of tools for different purposes: the whiteboard is then like finding the Space Shuttle launcher next to a teabag squeezer: both tools, but they have little else in common.
    It leaves me wanting to rejoice – isn’t language wonderful, that we can do all these different things with it !' .

    Wednesday 20 May 2015

    Britain is no country for old villains who rob a few diamond bankers, but is one for young banker-villains who rob everyone

    Today it was announced that five of the world's largest banks are to pay fines totalling £3.6bn for charges including manipulating the foreign exchange market.
    The British bank, Barclays, was fined the most, $2.4bn. It is sacking eight employees involved in the scheme.
    Regulators said that between 2008 and 2012, villain-traders formed a cartel and used chat rooms to manipulate prices in their favour. One Barclays trader who was invited to join the cartel was told : "Mess up and sleep with one eye open at night" and another said : "if you ain't cheating, you aint't trying".
    One method they used was to influence prices around the daily fixing of currency levels : A daily exchange rate fix is held to help businesses and investors value their multi-currency assets and liabilities. Until February, this happened every day in the 30 seconds before and after 16:00 in London and the result is known as the 4pm fix, or just 'The Fix'. In a scheme known as 'Building Ammo', a single villain trader would amass a large position in a currency and, just before or during the fix, would exit that position. Other members of the cartel would be aware of the plan and would be able to profit. 
    New York State 'Superintendent of Financial Services', Benjamin Lawsky said : "They engaged in a brazen 'heads I win, tails you lose' scheme to rip off their clients."
    All these young villain bankers made an enormous amount of money for themselves and their banker friends. They all enjoy their freedom with no fear of arrest by the police, a trial and time inside prison, at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

    Yesterday, Scotland Yard police arrested nine men in a dramatic operation which came after six weeks ago, a gang staged the audacious robbery at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company and escaped with around £60 million in diamonds, cash and valuables.

    In a series of raids, 200 Flying Squad officers burst into addresses in North London and Kent and arrested  five middle aged men of 43, 48, 50, 59 and two at 58 and three old men of 67, 74 and 76.

    The method they used in the robbery, if they are the villains, was to use heavy duty cutting gear and a diamond tipped drill to cut their way through a 20 inch thick concrete wall to get into the vault holding the safety deposit boxes they plundered.

    Today, Commander Peter Spindler, 'Head of Serious and Organised Crime' said : “There has been much public speculation over recent weeks and I am sorry that we have appeared tight lipped, but this has been a very complex case with many lines of inquiry. I want to publicly thank the many officers from the Flying Squad who have put their lives on hold to ensure that the victims of this callous crime get the justice they deserve.”

    If these men go to trial and are found guilty, they will serve a lengthy spell at Her Majesty's Pleasure in prison.

    Barclays Bank shares shot up after the news. Investors thought they got off lightly.

    A letter in the Guardian has asked :

    The increasingly implausible revelations concerning the Hatton Garden heist have me wondering if it was masterminded by a movie producer needing a new script. It has all the elements of an old school British crime caper and I can’t help casting the lead roles: Ray Winstone, Michael Caine, Brian Cox, Martin and Gary Kemp, Vinnie Jones and Shane Richie are my frontrunners. Any better ideas?