There’s plenty going on in August here at Biteback – we have new additions to our Provocations and Dialogue Espionage Classics series, the Political Book Awards 2015 Polemic of the Year returning in paperback, and a fascinating and insightful history of the most unique branch to have existed in the Metropolitan Police.
The Spy Net
By Henry Landau
The latest instalment in the Dialogue Espionage Classics series, The Spy Net illuminates the extraordinary extent of Britain’s spies in Belgium, France and Germany during the First World War. Captain Henry Landau was recruited into the British secret service to run a group of more than a thousand agents who monitored the movement of German troop trains to and from the Western Front. It was arguably the most effective intelligence operation of the First World War and, according to the chief of the secret service, produced 70 per cent of all Allied intelligence on the German forces.
An Inconvenient Genocide
By Geoffrey Robertson QC
Winner of the Paddy Power Political Book Awards 2015 Polemic of the Year. At the centenary of the deaths of over a million Armenian people, renowned human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson seeks to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the horrific events in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 constitute the crime against humanity that is today known as genocide. This paperback edition includes a new chapter deploring the hypocrisy of Britain and the United States, who refuse to recognise the genocide, rather than risk alienating their NATO ally.
By Ray Wilson & Ian Adams
The first complete history of the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police, from its formation in 1883 until it was subsumed into the Counter-Terrorism Command of the Metropolitan Police in 2006. The book reveals the astounding missions, life-saving efforts and intelligence-gathering of the men and women of ‘the Branch’, and demonstrates the unique place it inhabited between MI5 and the police.
By Frederic Raphael
The Provocations series continues to highlight the most vital discussions in society today. In Anti-Semitism, Oscar-winning screenwriter and novelist Frederic Raphael reflects upon two millennia of Jewish persecution, from the Enlightenment to more recent developments in anti-Jewish feeling. This ambitious and powerful polemic illuminates why the Jewish community has been subjugated to violence for so long, but also why the religion continues to flourish.
Lady Constance Lytton by Lyndsey Jenkins has been shortlised for the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2015, facing competition from titles by Anita Anand, Michael Bundock, Alan Cumming and Sarah Knights.
Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr
by Lyndsey Jenkins
Hardback RRP: £20 Our Price: £15.99
Ebook RRP: £16.99 Our Price: £9.99
Lady Constance Lytton (1869–1923) was the most unlikely of suffragettes. Daughter of a Viceroy of India and lady-in-waiting to the Queen, she grew up in the family home of Knebworth and for forty years, did little but devote herself to her family. A chance encounter with a suffragette intrigued her; witnessing Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst on trial converted her, and she was willing to be imprisoned for the cause. But, once jailed, Constance soon found that her name and connections singled her out for unwelcome special treatment. She therefore decided on a radical step: taking the name Jane Warton, she disguised herself and got herself arrested in Liverpool. In prison, she was force-fed eight times before her identity was discovered and she was released. Her case became a cause celebre, she became an inspiration and, in the end, a martyr. Her extraordinary life-story has never been told until now.
Click here to read the prologue!
The judges for the prize are Damian Barr, Fiona MacCarthy, and James Naughtie.
The winner will be announced at the Biographers’ Club Prize Dinner at the National Liberal Club on 4 November.
by Frederic Raphael
Available to pre-order now!
In their Antisemitic Incidents report from January–June 2015, Community Security Trust recorded 473 anti-semitic incidents in the first six months of 2015, a 53 per cent increase on the first six months of 2014.
In our latest instalment in the Provocations series, Oscar-winning screenwriter and novelist Frederic Raphael examines the origin, rise and impact of anti-Jewish feeling during a time when religious tensions in the world are mounting once more.
Join the discussion with #Provocations.
Provocations is a groundbreaking new series of short polemics composed by some of the most intriguing voices in contemporary culture and edited by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Sharp, intelligent and controversial, Provocations provides insightful contributions to the most vital discussions in society today.
Other titles available in the series:
Iain Dale, MD of Biteback Publishing, has acquired world rights to Coalition, the inside story of the Cameron-Clegg Coalition by David Laws, the former senior Liberal Democrat MP, and author of the bestselling 22 Days in May: The Birth of the Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition (Biteback, 2010).
David Laws is well placed to provide a real insider’s account, shedding light on much that has not yet made it into the public domain. He took part in the key Coalition negotiations in 2010, was the Coalition’s first Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and returned to the Government in key posts in the Education Department and at the heart of Government – in the Cabinet Office.
This book will tell the inside story of the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition from its birth in 2010 through to its demise in May 2015. It will show how key decisions were made, lay bare divisions between and within the Coalition parties, provide sketches of all the key players on both sides of the Government, and assess the Coalition’s successes and failures.
Iain Dale said: ‘The Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition was a fascinating chapter in recent British politics, and David Laws was uniquely positioned to write about it from within. 22 Days in May was essential reading for politics fans, and I’m thrilled that David is returning to Biteback with this revealing account.’
David Laws said: ‘Working in the coalition government was a fascinating and productive experience. This account will, I hope, not just be of historic value but will also touch on many of the issues and challenges which will confront all political parties in the years ahead. I am delighted that Biteback is publishing this account. ‘
Coalition will be published in Spring 2016, and supported by a major press campaign.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7091 1260
John Plender, author of Capitalism: Money, Morals and Markets and senior writer at the Financial Times, talks about debt in the capitalist system and what it means for Greece and the eurozone.
In The Economic Consequences of the Peace, written in 1919, the economist John Maynard Keynes referred to relations between debtors and creditors as the ultimate foundation of the capitalist system. That foundation is often rocky, as the battle between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Greek leader Alexis Tsipras vividly demonstrated over Greece’s latest rescue package. One of the (many) themes of my new book on capitalism is that a heavy legal and cultural bias in favour of creditors against debtors has prevailed throughout the ages. The bias, as Keynes argued in his assault on the post-war Versailles settlement, can have profoundly damaging political and economic consequences.
The demonisation of debtors goes back at least as far as the Code of the ancient Babylonian king Hammurabi – the first recorded legal code from around 1750 BC. This sets out gruesomely the terms on which a defaulter should sell himself, his wife, his children, concubines or slaves to a creditor, or give his family away for forced labour to discharge unfulfilled debt obligations.
That indicates how the instinctive feeling that saving is virtuous and that debt is deplorable runs deep. And there is a fundamental tension between the ethical notion that people should take responsibility for their actions and the economic and social case for giving people a fresh start. Yet, over time, there has been a growing recognition that penalising debtors is economically counter-productive. No one works like a slave to pay off debts that look insurmountable, while throwing debtors into jail ensures that creditors receive nothing at all.
Interestingly, in the context of current frictions in the eurozone, one of the first examples of liberal thinking on this score occurred in Athens. Around 600 BC, the Athenian constitutional reformer Solon responded to an economic crisis for which excessive debt was partly responsible by introducing laws that scrapped all limits on the rate of interest, reduced or cancelled many debts, and forbade personal slavery for debt.
But that was an exception. A more enlightened view had to wait until English ministers under Queen Anne introduced, in 1706, the concept of legal discharge from debt on partial repayment. The legislation came at a time when debtors accounted for a majority of the prison population.
Since then, the politics of debt have been transformed by universal suffrage. No one is jailed for debt nowadays. And, in the Anglophone world, bankruptcy laws are consciously pro-enterprise. It is no coincidence that a country like the US, whose bankruptcy laws are famously liberal, has an exceptionally vibrant venture capital sector and a very entrepreneurial culture.
Nor is it entirely coincidental that three American presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley – experienced bankruptcy personally, as did a number of great entrepreneurs, including William C. Durant (founder of General Motors), Henry Ford, Milton Hershey, H. J. Heinz and Walt Disney.
In contrast, Germans are among the most unreconstructed, for a host of reasons. Even their language tends to reinforce disapproval of indebtedness. There is an etymological link between debt and guilt in the German word schuld. German conservatism was also a product of history, notably the great Weimar hyperinflation.
Yet German historical memory is peculiarly selective. Germany is the only major developed country to have been the beneficiary of debt forgiveness in modern times. The occupying powers after the Second World War wrote off the great majority of the Nazi-era debt and postponed collection of other debts for nearly half a century. This debt amnesty, which allowed Germany to embark on its economic miracle with a cleaner balance sheet than any of the victorious allies, was extraordinarily magnanimous. Yet, while most Germans can cite the Marshall Plan as an act of post-war American generosity, this larger act of macro-economic mercy has disappeared from the political consciousness of Germany’s current austerity police.
That said, in international debt negotiations, might is right. But the lesson of Versailles, as Keynes understood so well, is that the ultimate consequences of debt realpolitik can be catastrophic. It is a point that should not be overlooked when considering the future of Greece and the eurozone.