Susan Pedersen

Susan Pedersen is writing a book about late Victorian marriage and politics.

Historians​ are often drawn to what I think of as the ‘strange bedfellows’ problem. When I explain to students Britain’s odd mid-century political alliances – the Labour prime minister Ramsay MacDonald teaming up with his Conservative predecessor Stanley Baldwin in 1931, the Labour leaders who expelled MacDonald for that act themselves joining Churchill’s...

Dining at the White House: Ralph Bunche

Susan Pedersen, 29 June 2023

Ralph Bunche​ died aged 67 because he chain-smoked, slept too little, was diabetic and worked too much. It didn’t help that he spent decades yoked successively to four demanding Scandinavians. Bunche was a brilliant young professor at Howard University, making his name as an Africanist, when Gunnar Myrdal hired him to work on his Carnegie-funded study of race in America. Myrdal soon...

Do fight, don’t kill: Wartime Objectors

Susan Pedersen, 20 October 2022

John Stuart Mill​ approved of dissent. In ‘On Liberty’, he argued that vigorous debate improved society and that unconventional behaviour lit the path to freer and more fulfilling lives. He urged the widest tolerance for opinion, speech and even what he charmingly called ‘experiments of living’. Without such pinpricks, he argued, like-minded majorities would grow...

Flocculent and Feculent

Susan Pedersen, 23 September 2021

Of the many​ hardships visited on New York in the first months of the pandemic, food shortages weren’t among them. Supply chains held. Cleaning products vanished from supermarket shelves but there was still plenty to eat. The system showed its tensile strength, its eerie ability to deliver food of all kinds even to a population pinned in place, unequally able to purchase it. When the...

On​ 18 June 1914, Sylvia Pankhurst was released from Holloway prison. She was in bad shape. A year earlier the Liberal government had passed the so-called Cat and Mouse Act as a response to the hunger strikes undertaken by militant suffragettes in prison. Under its terms, women could be released when they became dangerously weak (not just from hunger, but also from the travails of...

Parcelled Out: The League of Nations

Ferdinand Mount, 22 October 2015

I have often thought​ of writing a history of own goals. It would try to identify the factors common to the great boomerangs of the past: the conceit that mistakes itself for cunning, the...

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Associated Prigs: Eleanor Rathbone

R.W. Johnson, 8 July 2004

When Susan Pedersen writes that Eleanor Rathbone was the most significant woman in British politics in the first half of the 20th century she might have added that another Somerville alumna,...

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Here’s to the high-minded

Stefan Collini, 7 April 1994

In the Seventies and Eighties, right-wing think-tanks and their academic lapdogs put about the idea that the ills of contemporary Britain were fundamentally due to its genteel aversion to...

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