While Australians worry about the impact that local conservative politics is having on its country at the moment, being over the other side of the world I continue to marvel at the policies of the Tory govt in the UK. One of the least civilised of its many methods to make poor people pay for the rich – aka austerity – at the moment is the closure of libraries. This has been going on in a way that evokes stories we would otherwise think of as science fiction set in a barbaric future. I had been under the impressions that it was happening largely in regional centres which have more poor people to pay for the lifestyle of the city’s bankers as well as for the paypackets of the Tories themselves.

Most recently, however, there is this; first read the consultant speak:

“The change programme seeks to ensure Imperial War Museum can continue to respond to challenges and opportunities, build on our successes to date, improve and update ways of working across the organisation and reduce IWM’s net expenditure by £4million per annum to account for changes to funding and increases in pension contributions. IWM aims to achieve the expenditure change by reducing costs and increasing our income through further commercial activity.”

They added: “The consultation period for the organisational restructuring element of IWM’s change programme has now begun. We are working closely with those who may be affected by the change proposals and will continue to do so until the end of the year. Any announcements regarding changes at IWM will be made early next year (2015).” http://www.thebookseller.com/news/imperial-war-museum-library-threatened-closure

Want to know what that actually means? It means they are going to close the Imperial War Musuem’s library and 60-80 people are going to lose their jobs. That’s what ‘working closely with those who may be affected’ means. Sacking them with a Christmas card.

And what better time than in the year which has been marketed as the anniversary of WWI?

Shame, UK. Shame.

Pioneer Books turned 40 this year and we wanted to celebrate with something special. We have almost 7000 books listed at $15 and we’d like to sell lots of them so please help us out!

Buy any 10 of our $15 books for $100 AND we’ll ship them postfree within Australia.

Click here to start.

Yes, you are welcome to buy more than ten: the 11th (etc) will be charged at $10 each. Lots of them are absolute bargains already, so we hope you will be spoilt for choice!

The easiest way to browse is to go to our search page here : set the Sort By option to Price Ascending and key in a subject, author, whatever you like. The books will appear from $15 up.

You can order online or email/phone/fax us your order.

You can, of course, simply browse the entire stock from $15 up, but any modifications can be included.

Some examples of searches:

subject: childrens – over 2500 titles at $15
Author: Enid Blyton books – 80 titles at $15
subject: crime fiction – over 400 titles at $15
subject: Australia Military – 36 titles at $15
subject: Travel Description – over 200 titles at $15
subject: cricket Australia – exactly 10 titles at $15
subject: science technology – over 250 titles at $15
subject: biography – over 500 titles at $15
subject: art illustration – over 200 titles at $15

There are a large number of keywords that will give you a result: history, religion, medical, humour, crime fact, literature, australia, aboriginal, south seas, maritime, theatre, cycling, world war, poetry, sport, food, drink, ballet, music, education, politics, craft, science fiction and many more.

Make sure you set the Sort By option to Ascend to get a list which starts at $15.

We can also generate you a document list on a subject if you prefer. Let me know.

Born to it.

I’m reading Michael Frayn on his theatre work at the moment and he establishes early that he had an obsession with the theatre from a very young age. He wrote plays, made the sets, the puppets and forced it all up on his doubtless long-suffering family. He doesn’t mention getting any particular encouragement. I wonder if his relatives ever looked back on those incipient moments of the writer emerging with surprise that it turned out so well in the end.

I noticed earlier today that another of these youngsters with the courage of their obsessions was Mabel Esther Allan.

Mabel announced to her family at the age of eight that she planned to be a writer. They took this seriously and when the family moved a few years later Mabel was given a spare room to use as a study. Her father bought a large office desk which she was to use for the rest of her life, and presented her with a typewriter upon which she taught herself to type.

She went on to write almost 200 books and hundreds of short stories.

Mary Lyon was a pioneer educator of girls in the US in the nineteenth century. From a modern perspective perhaps the most important aspect of her work was that she ensured the students of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary received the same sort of education as boys – that is, science and maths were not neglected. The school started in 1837 and is still going today, though now it is called Mount Holyoke College

Lyon wanted an institution that common folk’s children could afford to attend, reaching out to wealthier women for the money to establish it. The students did the domestic work to keep the costs down. I’m sure she would be thrilled to hear that the ideals of the school have been kept. In the Princeton review of best value colleges in the US for 2014 it appears prominently.

“From its outstanding academic program and facilities to its accomplished students to the formidable faculty that love teaching as much as research, Mount Holyoke provides a first-rate experience. The academic experience is phenomenal. So is the library. The dorms are luxurious, too,” the Princeton Review editors wrote, in addition to citing other attributes of the College.

In comments based on student feedback, they wrote, “At Mount Holyoke, ‘the students are happy, intelligent women dedicated to making a real difference in the world.’ Typical students are ‘poised, eloquent, passionate, and doing interesting things both inside and outside the classroom’ and also ‘down-to-earth and laid-back but also willing to have complex conversations over breakfast.’ ”

“Though Mount Holyoke has many strengths, including a beautiful campus and top-notch academics, the one the students appreciate the most is the close-knit community and the ‘strong sense of sisterhood’ that women develop here. The social atmosphere is ‘warm and accepting,’ and the students are ‘diverse, strong, passionate, friendly, and fun.’ This strong support system is important to Mount Holyoke students, who come here to receive a first-class education in a highly academic environment, which is ‘both challenging and supportive at the same time.’ ”

For more on Mary Lyon there are her archival holdings here and a biography here

I found myself reading about Mary Lyon because I’m listing a book called Life and its Purposes. Illustrated in the Life of Mary Lyon, and Others: A Book for Young Ladies and I was hoping I could discover the identity of the unnamed author.

I found at Worldcat.org

Possibly by William Makepeace Thayer; cf. BM 236:766.
Publication date based upon name of London publisher according to Brown, P.A.H. London publishers and printers c. 1800-1870, p. 93.

It is true that this is the sort of book Thayer wrote, indeed, he wrote books with titles that reflect similar content, so it is possible that a new edition prompted a change in the title’s wording. Nonetheless, I can find nothing definitive and I’m at a loss to know what the reference means. If you understand the meaning of BM 236:766 please let me know! Perhaps then I can solve my puzzle.

We have a copy of The Rape Of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression inscribed thus:

‘With best regards for Mr. F.L. McDougall the author St Mikolajczyk Washington, March 5th 1949’.

As the reader knows, my ignorance is next to boundless and I had to look both these people up.

From wiki we discover that the author had every reason to write this book, with the explicitly emotive title.

Stanisław Mikołajczyk (July 18, 1901 – December 13, 1966; Polish politician, was Prime Minister of the Polish government in exile during World War II, and later Deputy Prime Minister in postwar Poland, before the USSR took political control of Poland.

His importance in the period of the 1920s-late 1940s to the history of Poland would be hard to overestimate. If I were in the habit of using modern journalistic jargon, I would call him a key player. Fortunately I am not. The wiki entry continues:

Mikołajczyk’s family came from Poznań in western Poland, which in the 19th century was part of the German Empire and known as the Province of Posen. He was born in Westphalia in western Germany, where his parents had gone to look for work in the wealthy mining regions, as many Poles—known as Ruhr Poles—did in the 19th century. He returned to Poznań as a boy of ten. As a teenager he worked in a sugar beet refinery and was active in Polish patriotic organisations. He was 18 when Poland recovered its independence, and in 1920 he joined the Polish Army and took part in the Polish-Soviet War. He was discharged after being wounded near Warsaw and returned to inherit his father’s farm near Poznań.

In the 1920s Mikołajczyk became active in the Polish People’s Party “Piast” (PSL), and after holding a number of offices in the government of Poznań province, he was elected to the Sejm (the Polish Parliament) in 1929. In 1935 he became Vice-Chairman of the executive committee of the PSL, and in 1937 he became party President. He was an active opponent of the authoritarian regime established in Poland after the death of Józef Piłsudski in 1935.

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, Mikołajczyk was a private in the Polish army,[1] and served in the defence of Warsaw. After the fall of Warsaw he escaped to Hungary, where he was interned.[2] He soon escaped and made his way to Paris via Yugoslavia and Italy.[2] By the end of November, Mikołajczyk had reached France where he was immediately asked to join the Polish government in exile as deputy Chairman of the Polish National Council.[3] In 1941 he was appointed Minister of the Interior and became Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski’s Deputy Prime Minister.

In April 1943 the Germans had announced that they had discovered the graves of almost 22,000 Polish officers who had been murdered by the Soviets at Katyń Wood. The Soviet government said that the Germans had fabricated the discovery. The Allied governments, for diplomatic reasons, formally accepted this, but Mikołajczyk’s government refused to do so, and Stalin then severed relations with the government in exile.

When Sikorski was killed in a plane crash in July 1943, Mikołajczyk was appointed as his successor.[4] “We do not wish to see only a formal democracy in Poland,” he said in his broadcast to Poland on taking office, “but a social democracy which will put into practice not only political, religious and personal freedom but also social and economic freedom, the four freedoms of which Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke so finely. In any case there is and will be no place in Poland for any kind of totalitarian government in any shape or form.”

But Mikołajczyk faced daunting challenges. It was obvious by this time that the Soviet armed forces, not those of the western Allies, would seize Poland from German occupation, and the Poles feared that Stalin intended both imposing Communism on Poland and annexing Poland’s eastern territories, which were populated by Poles, Ukrainians and Belarusians.

During 1944 the Allied leaders, particularly Winston Churchill, tried to bring about a resumption talks between Mikołajczyk and Stalin, but these efforts broke down over several issues. One was the Katyń massacre. Another was Poland’s postwar borders. Stalin insisted that the eastern territories should remain in Soviet hands. Mikołajczyk also opposed Stalin’s plan to set up a Communist government in postwar Poland.

As a result, Stalin agreed that there would be a coalition government in the Soviet seized territories of Poland. A Socialist, Edward Osóbka-Morawski, became Prime Minister of the new Provisional Government of National Unity (Tymczasowy Rząd Jedności Narodowej – TRJN), and the Communist leader Władysław Gomułka became one of two Deputy Prime Ministers. Mikołajczyk resigned as Prime Minister of the government in exile to return to Poland and become the other Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture.

Many of the Polish exiles opposed this action, believing that this government was a façade for the establishment of Communist rule in Poland. The government in exile maintained its existence, although it no longer had diplomatic recognition as the legal government of Poland.

Mikołajczyk immediately set about reviving the PSL, which soon became by far the largest party in Poland. He was helped, ironically, by the radical land reform pushed through with the support of the Communists, which created a new class of small farmers who became a firm political base for the PSL. The Communists knew they would never win a free election in Poland, and so they set about preventing one, despite the pledges given by Stalin at the Yalta Conference.

In June 1946 the 3xTAK referendum was held on a number of issues. The PSL decided to oppose the referendum calling for the abolition of the Senate as a test of strength against the Communists: two-thirds of voters supported Mikołajczyk, but the Communist-controlled Interior Ministry issued faked results showing the opposite result. Between then and the January 1947 general elections, the PSL was subjected to ruthless persecultion, and hundreds of its candidates were prevented from campaigning.

From 1946 to 1948, military courts sentenced 32,477 people, most of them members of democratic parties for ‘crimes against the state’. Only then the elections were held. In order to be sure that the elections would produce the ‘correct’ results, the Polish security apparatus recruited 47% of the members of electoral committees as agents.[5][6]

The elections produced a parliament with 394 seats for the Communist-controlled “Democratic Bloc” and 28 for the PSL, a result which everyone knew could only been obtained through massive electoral fraud. Indeed, the opposition claimed that it would have won as much as 80 percent of the vote had the election been conducted in a fair manner.[7] Mikołajczyk, who would have likely become Prime Minister had the election been honest, immediately resigned from the government in protest. Facing arrest, he left the country in April. Winston Churchill, upon seeing him in London, remarked: “I am surprised you made it out alive”. In London the Polish government in exile regarded him as a traitor for having co-operated with the Communists. He emigrated to the United States, where he died in 1966. In June 2000 his remains were returned for burial in Poland. His papers are in the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

As for the owner of this book, FL McDougall, we find him well-preserved in the records too, this time in the Dictionary of Australian Biography. Frank Lidgett McDougall (1884-1958), public servant and economist, is perhaps best described as as wheeler-dealer. After serving as an Anzac in WWI, he soon became indispensable to PM Bruce:

…who encouraged his advice and later observed that McDougall ‘brings me a new idea every morning’. Bruce summoned him back to the Prime Minister’s Department in Melbourne in 1924, then arranged for him to return in January 1925 as part-time secretary of the London agency of the Dried Fruits Control Board with the direction: ‘in your more uplifted moments you can call yourself the confidential representative of the Australian Prime Minister, when less inflated a secret service agent!’

He seemed spot on with his assessment between the wars of the problem of Germany:

A member of the Empire Marketing Board in 1926-32, during the Depression he preached that governments should increase food consumption and improve diets and that Australia should produce more food to feed the hungry. At the International Economic Conference in Geneva in 1927 and as a member of its economic consultative committee he extended his horizons, stressing the need to reactivate trade in Europe and substitute ‘a reasonably fat Germany for a desperately lean one’. McDougall was a regular adviser to Australian delegations at the League of Nations in Geneva from 1928 until its demise in 1940. At the 1935 assembly Bruce and McDougall evolved the slogan ‘Marry health and agriculture’, promoted so effectively by Bruce that a permanent committee (including McDougall) was set up to report back to the assembly on nutrition in relation to health and economics.

The ADB entry for McDougall is fascinating, do take a moment to read it in full.

The early 1940s found him in Washington, supported by Eleanor Roosevelt and dining at the White House. It is this Washington connection that we see joining the author and owner of the books. The ownership history of any book lends something to the book itself, but in such a case as this, the meeting of these two important figures of twentieth century history, it is all the more enticing. I find it hard to imagine we will sooner or later end up in a world where the book will no longer have its own history and memories. Humbug on technology!

John Oxenham WWI poet

You have to be a historian to appreciate the dichotomy between what was valued in the past and what we have chosen to keep of it now, which of course, will be reevaluated by future generations ad infinitum. Books and writing bring it home all the time. Who’s heard of John Oxenham? And yes, he is the father of the famous children’s writer, Elsie Oxenham. History has left us with ‘the war poets’, a select group whose writing about WWI is currently how we like to see it. But what about back then? In this period as we are reflecting on the first of the big twentieth century wars, might it not be apt to remember it as those who lived through it remembered it?

And if that’s the case, then it isn’t Siegfried you should be reading, it is Oxenham. His poetry sold over one million copies during the war and his hymn, ‘For Men at the Front’, sold at least five million copies, that being the most conservative estimate.

For The Men At The Front

Lord God of Hosts, whose mighty hand
Dominion holds on sea and land,
In Peace and War Thy Will we see
Shaping the larger liberty.
Nations may rise and nations fall,
Thy Changeless Purpose rules them all.

When Death flies swift on wave or field,
Be Thou a sure defence and shield!
Console and succour those who fall,
And help and hearten each and all!
O, hear a people’s prayers for those
Who fearless face their country’s foes!

For those who weak and broken lie,
In weariness and agony–
Great Healer, to their beds of pain
Come, touch, and make them whole again!
O, hear a people’s prayers, and bless
Thy servants in their hour of stress!

For those to whom the call shall come
We pray Thy tender welcome home.
The toil, the bitterness, all past,
We trust them to Thy Love at last.
O, hear a people’s prayers for all
Who, nobly striving, nobly fall!

To every stricken heart and home,
O, come! In tenderest pity, come!
To anxious souls who wait in fear,
Be Thou most wonderfully near!
And hear a people’s prayers, for faith
To quicken life and conquer death!

For those who minister and heal,
And spend themselves, their skill, their zeal–
Renew their hearts with Christ-like faith,
And guard them from disease and death.
And in Thine own good time, Lord, send
Thy Peace on earth till Time shall end!

and here, from his best-selling – though he had to publish it at his own expense as his publishers didn’t want to – book Bees in Amber


He writes in characters too grand
For our short sight to understand;
We catch but broken strokes, and try
To fathom all the mystery
Of withered hopes, of death, of life,
The endless war, the useless strife,—
But there, with larger, clearer sight,
We shall see this—His way was right.

This is how people lived and died during WWI, with the words of Oxenham providing the meaning, the reassurance to make the unbearable bearable. We should not forget this.

Talking of taking over countries, as we are, whilst watching the Ukranian situation, we have a pictorial history of Australian bank-notes which includes the notes the Japanese intended to use in Australia when they took over. They were in New Guinea at the time and some combination of a compulsive need to be organised and a sense of being on a roll, I guess, led them to have these printed. Ouch. It really brings home how touch and go it all was.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.