The People Speak: Voices that Changed Britain

Colin Firth, Author, Anthony Arnove, Author, David Horspool, Author
Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove, with David Horspool. Canongate (Trafalgar Square Publishing, dist.), $27.95 (530p) ISBN 978-0-85786-445-1
Hardcover - 529 pages - 978-0-85786-448-2
Paperback - 532 pages - 978-0-85786-446-8
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-85786-447-5
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The red flag and type on the cover of this anthology, edited by Oscar-winning actor Firth and historian Arnove, suggests a left-leaning tilt to this volume of speeches, broadsides, letters, and other British documents—and the contents bear this out. According to Firth’s introduction, the project was intended to be a way to capture “the voices of people who are left out of the textbooks.” To that end, the editors have assembled a huge expanse of Britain’s troublemakers, from Benedictine monk Orderic Vitalis writing about the Norman Conquest to literary superstar Zadie Smith speaking out against public library closures in 2011. The book is organized thematically, and covers issues like the rights of kings (a 1264 piece notes that “the law stands even if the King falls”), poverty, the working classes, slavery, equal rights, war, and many others. While many contributors are famous (e.g., Shakespeare and Margaret Thatcher), part of the pleasure of this wide-ranging volume is the diversity of its voices and forms. Helpfully, the editors provide introductions to the themes and the entries, along with a useful chronology. This is a decidedly atypical historical anthology and a paean to Britain’s rich legacy of protest and dissent. Agent: Anthony Arnove, the Roam Agency. (June)
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