Saturday, January 04, 2014

Doppelgangers and important dates

In the nearly two years since Aneirin appeared in the world, my mother has sometimes chastised me for giving the boy a ‘strange’ name. But I’m unrepentant: for me, the fact that Aneirin is, outside of Wales, an unusual label only makes it more appealing. As someone who has to share his name with legions of other inhabitants of the planet, including a famous ice skater and an appallingly suave jazz saxophonist, I have an affection for strange monikers.
At school I was regularly one of two or three Scotts in a class – sometimes teachers dealt with the confusion by referring to giving us numbers, or referring to us as Scott Major and Scott Minor depending on our relative sizes – and when I was an undergraduate at the University of Auckland back in the ‘90s I was alarmed to learn there was another Scott Hamilton stalking the campus. I envy my wife, who has been able to go through life with an exotic Welsh name of her own.
Now my too-common surname appears to have caused some problems for Alison Webster, a scholar at Glasgow University. At the top of a generous review of my book on EP Thompson for the journal The European Legacy, Webster tells her readers that the tome was published by Princeton University Press, when in fact Manchester University Press was responsible. A quick google reveals that another Scott Hamilton – was he the chap who was sharing the University of Auckland’s grimy cafeterias with me back in the ‘90s? – published a book called Ezra Pound and the Symbolist Inheritance with Princeton University Press. Either Webster or the subeditor at The European Legacy must have gotten us confused.
If I have to be confused with another scholar named Scott Hamilton, then I don’t mind being mixed up with a scholar of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. At least my Princeton doppelganger doesn’t write about business management or gout.
Webster’s is one of a series of reviews my book garnered in 2013, a year that saw the twentieth anniversary of EP Thompson’s death and the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Making of the English Working Class, his most famous book. The Making’s birthday has been marked by several gatherings, including a conference organised by the Study of Capitalism group at Harvard University that attracted scholars from around the world, and by a tribute at the Guardian. Rather more alarmingly, senior members of the British Labour Party are suddenly citing Thompson as an inspiration. My book has benefited from the increase in interest in EP Thompson’s extraordinary body of work.

Unfortunately, some of the most interesting and helpful reviews of my tome (this piece by Daniel Williams for the venerable journal History, for example) are hidden behind the sort of firewalls that I denounced in a recent post as excusive and often racist. Thompson, who  spent seventeen years running night classes in literature and history in Yorkshire mining towns, and who believed absolutely, throughout his life, in the necessity of the free circulation of knowledge, would not have been impressed.
I'll have more to say about firewalls soon.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sectarianism strikes?

9:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:19 pm  
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