A review of Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism, and early New Zealand Anarchism, by Jared Davidson

When I picked up that book at first, I was nonplussed. “Great. Another biography of an anarchist great man,” I thought. But I was wrong. It is a very different book. It is remarkable by its unpretentiousness. The life of Philip Josephs is a narrative line, but the point of the book is to show how anarchism is not a story of Great Men and Great National Movements, it is a story of a constellation of obscure individuals, many of them entirely forgotten, across borders.

I particularly recommend the passage on early 20th century revolutionary and Jewish Glasgow. Also, it made me discover Lola Ridge, a New Zealand poet who emigrated to the US. I re-published some of her stuff here.

Sewing Freedom is also very modest in size, so it is a quick read, and beautifully illustrated, so it’s a pleasure.

4 thoughts on “A review of Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism, and early New Zealand Anarchism, by Jared Davidson

    • Thank you! This blog is a bit of a mess atm, but I have been busy with the Mr. Scruffles publishing venture. I still try to write reviews, however short they are! But a friend also read your book and loved it, they are planning a review of it for their blog (floaker.net), but they have quite a backlog of unwritten articles. It should be more complete, as they are part of Spirit of Revolt (a group that deals with the archives of anarchists and revolutionaries in Glasgow, Scotland), and I think everyone there is learning about Josephs’ story with much interest.

      I didn’t insist on it in this review, but I’ve been thinking about anarchist translation quite a lot, and although the UK-New Zealand connection does not need translation, I found a few things in Sewing Freedom that were very relevant.

      Solidarity and thanks again for researching and writing this lovely book!

      • Yeah, I spent a bit of time trying to find translation of Yiddish material, especially the collective around Rocker. KSL helped with that, and a few other peeps in Scotland also helped with the historical context of over there. The article on libcom helped too!

        There’s lots of NZ connections with Glasgow in the wider labour movement too, which could be worth exploring.

        All the best with your publishing ventures, and keep up the great work!


      • Well, one of the things I’ve put together was a quick guide to learn Yiddish for anarchists, if you know anyone who would like to crash test it.

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