Monday, February 14, 2011

You Could Leave Your Door Open

The menace of the blackout gangs reached the headlines with the Skipton Street murder of seventeen-year-old James Bolitho Harvey, on Saturday 21 March 1942. Harvey and his younger brother had come out of the Elephant and Castle station at midnight on their way home from a West End show. They went to the coffee stall and then towards the stop for the Brixton tram. Almost at once, they were set upon in the dark by a gang seeming to consist of seven men, though only three were caught. Both boys were robbed, Harvey was beaten to death with a lead-weighted cosh, his fifteen-year-old brother kicked into semi-consciousness. Witnesses at the coffee stall heard their screams but assumed that it was yet another 'drunken squabble such as we often hear around here'. 'I'll never forgive myself for not going,' said one of the men at the stall.
- Donald Thomas, An Underworld At War: Spivs, Deserters, Racketeers and Civilians in the Second World War (2003)

My dad's mother, living in London during the Blitz, used to wander around the streets during air-raids rather than use the public air-raid shelters, which she believed to be wretched hives of scum and villainy*. The book suggests that she wasn't all that wrong.

* Not a direct quote.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Revolutionary Research Methodology

I've been refraining from commenting on Egypt here, on the basis that I don't know anything about Egypt, and that my main opinion - that an Egyptian democracy would be better than an Egyptian dictatorship - doesn't add much to the discourse.

Yesterday, watching the BBC's piece about the role of the internet in the protests, I was struck by how vast and diffuse the body of data is. Anyone who wants to write a history of the 25th January movement is going to have to get to grips with Facebook pages, Twitter posts, mobile-phone videos spread across a number of different sites. And that's without even factoring the ephemerality of those sources in. Somewhere in academia, someone must surely have begun working on research methodologies for the online age: I'd be really interested to see them.