A few weeks ago, I went to London to attend the conference organised by the London Socialist Historians Group at Senate House to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the publication of C. L. R. James’ The Black Jacobins. Slightly to my shame, I hadn’t (and still haven’t) read TBJ – the only James I really know is the astonishingly good book about cricket, Beyond a Boundary – but the conference looked fun, so I trotted along and had an excellent time.
The LSHG is a funny outfit, bridging the world of politics and scholarship. Co-ordinated by legendary man of letters Keith Flett, it’s populated by people who are more familiar with far-left meetings than academic discussions — so when the paper-giver finishes giving a paper, you’re as likely to get a motion proposed from the floor as any kind of question.
But I mention all this, because at the drinks party at Bookmarks afterwards to launch my friend Dave Renton’s new book, C L R James: Cricket’s Philosopher King, I was chatting with an amiable bearded leftie who used to be at New College, and who asked me if I knew a pamphlet written in Oxford many years ago called “The Poverty of Philosophy, Politics and Economics”. As it happened, I hadn’t, but I was sufficiently intrigued by the title to fish a copy out of the Bodleian Library’s stack a few days later, and I very much enjoyed what I read — a no-holds-barred attack on the degree course which I took once upon a time, and in which I spend a medium-sized amount of my life teaching — and I thought it might be an interesting exercise to throw the pamphlet into circulation once again, via republication at the Virtual Stoa as one of our (very) occasional serials here.
The pamphlet’s author, Trevor Pateman, has not only very kindly approved republication at the Stoa, but has also made available to me his own copy of the pamphlet, complete with corrections of various typos, so I think we can safely say that this will be the cleanest text that has even been available. And after serialisation, I’ll distribute a pdf of the complete pamphlet through this site, and a version of the text will also go up at selectedworks.co.uk, which hosts copies of many of Trevor’s essays over the course of his subsequent academic career, much of it at the University of Sussex.
Tomorrow, then, I’ll stick up a post in the morning to introduce the pamphlet to its new audience in blogland; and then the text will appear in thirteen instalments, two or three bite-sized chunks per day, starting at lunchtime on Monday and ending on Friday afternoon — as it happens, of course, the final week of Hilary Term here in Oxford, as the PPE machine continues inexorably to grind away…