Newsletter autumn 2011
My new book Voyages of Discovery (Thames & Hudson) is a concise description of the great age of discovery from Columbus to Cook. Can you write this from the point of view of the people they ‘discovered’? No, but you can begin to redress the balance, and that is what I’ve tried to do. The book also comes with a folder of facsimile documents about some of the key voyages.
It isn’t often you write a blog which gets noticed and passed on. But the blog I wrote immediately after the August riots seems to have been read more widely than usual. I drew parallels with the Gordon Riots in 1780, but also accused contemporary politicians of trying to control the mob with overwheening materialism, not so much Marie Antoinette’s 1780s ‘let them eat cake’ – but a more modern, New Labour-style ‘let them yearn for tat’.
It is difficult setting new policy directions for political parties. Facing the Future has tried to do so for the Liberal Democrats, but – in my opinion – has not really faced up to the future nearly enough. Liberator co-editor Simon Titley and I therefore wrote our own Really Facing the Future document to get people thinking. It hasn’t made us very popular in some quarters.
I gave a lecture to MBA alumni at Leeds Business School based on my book Eminent Corporations, but also looking at the authenticity of brands. The lecture went from the shift between real piracy and financial piracy (circa 1692), to the experience of writing the book and the mythic tragedies of brands like Barclays, Cadbury and Marks & Spencer – and the urgent need for brands to be more human.
As the euro unravels in the face of the huge Greek debt, I wrote the cover article in The Tablet urging a more Distributist approach for the poor Greeks, and suggesting they learn from some of the new kinds of money now circulating to support small business in Uruguay and Brazil – and ironically funded by the European Union. Why can’t they learn the same lessons about multiple currencies back home?