This is the really stirringly designed title page to a book I've just bought - Young Oxford at War, published in 1934 in the wake of the famous Oxford Union motion passed by a clear majority the previous year: That this House will under no circumstances fight for its King and country.
The four student contributors were from different political traditions: Michael Foot then a Liberal, and later of course the leader of the Labour party and the only one of the four to get to Parliament; Frank Hardie from the Labour party; Dick Freeman, a communist and founder of Oxford's October Club; and a Conservative, Keith Steel-Maitland.
No women contributors - not least because at this date they weren't eligible for membership of the Oxford Union.
The illustration above - and I would imagine the jacket as well - was designed by Arthur Wragg, a socialist and pacifist. Remarkably, V.K. Krishna Menon - at this time a CP fellow traveller and later India's high commissioner in London and defence minister - was the editor of the volume. Harold Laski provided a very brief preface.
It's a testament to that decade when student politics mattered, and to the strong political emotions aroused by the slow slide towards war.
One final blog, I promise, about the books I have picked up for a pittance from Michael Foot's vast library.
Among my latest purchases in Lower Marsh is a battered copy of a 1912 biography of the satirist and radical William Hone. Michael Foot's ownership signature is shown alongside, and a note: 'Read, January 1960' - along with an earlier ownership signature.
Another note in Foot's handwriting reads: 'See page 113 for the Chief Whip's Prayer'.
So I turned to that page, where a pencil mark highlights an extract from an 1817 squib catechism which occasioned the first of Hone's several appearances in court.
It reads: Our Lord, who art in the Treasury, whatsoever be thy name, thy power be prolonged, thy will be done throughout the empire, as it is in each session. Give us our usual sops, and forgive us our occasional absences on divisions; as we promise not to forgive them that divide against thee. Turn us not out of our Places; but keep us in the House of Commons, the Land of Pensions and Plenty; and deliver us from the People. Amen.
So you can see why the radical Michael Foot described this prayer as he did!
Returning to the remarkable story of the surfacing of some of Michael Foot's library in a Lambeth bookshop - I've found an intriguing handwritten note. Here's the tale.
I bought a pamphlet at the bookshop in Lower Marsh where a fair bit of Foot's library has been for sale. It doesn't have Foot's signature. But it does bear that of Jon Kimche, Foot's predecessor as editor of 'Tribune' in the 1940s. Inside I found a folded slip of paper marked on the outside, as above, 'SEC. OF STATE FOR EMPLOYMENT.'.
Well, Michael Foot was Secretary of State for Employment from 1974 to 1976, and as such the architect of the "Social Contract" with the trade unions. The slip of paper has the feel of something passed on discreetly during a meeting, or perhaps when Foot was on the government front bench in the Commons. It's posted below.
And the cast list: Len Murray was general secretary of the TUC - Donald Derx was a top civil servant at the Department of Employment - the PM at the time would have been Harold Wilson - and the Chancellor, Denis Healey.
What was 'the question of retrospection'? Who wrote the note? I can't read the signature - possibly 'David' or 'Denis'. Certainly not 'Neil' - Neil Kinnock was Foot's Parliamentary Private Secretary for a year in 1974-75. But it feels more a politician's note than a civil servant's.
Anyone with more information?
UPDATE: Was this note written by Bernard Donoughue, now Lord Donoughue and in the mid-'70s the head of Harold Wilson's policy unit? Over to you!
I've worked just north of Waterloo Bridge for many years, and I like to think that I know the area around quite well - The Temple, Lincoln's Inn, Covent Garden, St Giles, Holborn and beyond. But my jaunts south of the river rarely take me further away than the riverside walk and the South Bank Centre.
Today for the first time I explored Lower Marsh, just south of Waterloo station. A lively part of north Lambeth - with a great crepe stall. My destination was Jane Gibberd's second hand bookshop which, a friend told me, had bought up part of Michael Foot's library.
Indeed it has - the proprietor said they had bought a few job lots at auction. Nothing all that special, though Foot himself was special so that makes anything from his library prized. And as I browsed, I found a dozen or more volumes, all very reasonably priced, which bore Michael Foot's ownership signature, and a handful which had presented to him.
I bought just a couple of titles inscribed by Foot - the one featured is from Robert Blatchford's What's All This? (1940), an anthology of Blatchford's socialist journalism and essays from earlier decades. Foot's inscription, in pencil, reads (I think): 'Michael Foot / Concluded March 1955'. Below are scribbled notes with pages references, and the pages themselves are marked and underscored.
Foot was himself a great essayist - rather more considerable than the author of Merrie England. But he obviously enjoyed Blatchford's robust, populist style. Well worth my outlay - £5.
Tom Foot, Michael's great nephew, adds: The vast majority of Michael's library was given to various archives and libraries across the country. Some were left to the appropriate friends and family in his will. After he died last year, we inevitably had to sell some of the rather random remainder at auction. As you say, nothing spectacular but interesting because of the scribbled markings and date of reading. He also used them as a kind of filing system and some have interesting cuttings and notes etc. Having sifted through all of his books, there were tens of thousands, I was amazed how many he actually read. Most people buy books and they sit collecting dust on their shelves for a lifetime. He also had an encyclopedic knowledge of where in the house they were. "Men of power have no time to read; yet the men who do not read are unfit for power." he is often quoted as saying. I'm very glad to hear they've turned up in a second hand book shop and that they are also reasonably priced.
Nice blog - thanks. I'd love to hear more from people who pick up one here and there.
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