Monday, February 29, 2016

Ted Gioia – The Hidden Story of the Love Song


Springfield Music Lecture Series - Ted Gioia - The Hidden Story of the Love Song 

Lionel Maxwell Munby 1919 - 2009

Lionel Munby took a communist approach to history, looking at the lives of ordinary people.
David Short in the Guardian

Lionel Munby, who has died aged 90, taught and fostered the study of local history in Hertfordshire, edited the Local Historian and played a leading role in developing the subject in England.

Born in Oxford, Lionel developed his interest in social history and politics in the 1930s. After school in Oxford and Clifton college, Bristol, he entered Hertford College, Oxford, where in 1939 he graduated with a first in modern history. It was during this time that he, like many intellectuals of his generation, joined the Communist party.

With the war came military service, mainly in Italy. Initially, promotion eluded him, but he was eventually called in to his superior's office and told that it was silly that he was not being promoted just because he was a communist. The offending pages of his service record were then burned. Promotion followed, and he finished the war as the adjutant of Milan.

In 1946 he was appointed to teach at the Cambridge University's board of extramural studies. He soon started to teach local history in Hertfordshire as well. From the start, he got students actively involved in their learning, an approach being taken up by other historians, many with communist credentials, who looked at history from below, at the lives of ordinary people.

This involved reading documents, deciphering strange handwriting, studying maps and walking fields, all of which led to him writing local history. Many Hertfordshire local history publications in the 1960s, 70s and 80s owe their inspiration and editing to Lionel. Some classes led to the founding of local history societies.

He was on the committee of the Hertfordshire Association for Local History from 1955 to 1987, serving as chairman and president. He also provided the inspiration for the founding of the Hertfordshire Record Society and became its first secretary.

For 20 years he was the editor of the Amateur Historian, later the Local Historian. The change of title was indicative of Lionel's thinking. Local historians were not professional or amateur – just local historians. He was also involved in the British Association for Local History, in later years as president.

Lionel wrote a number of books. The Hertfordshire Landscape (1977) is considered a classic, and many of his other works are indispensable items on any local historian's bookshelves.


More examples:

Marxism and history: a bibliography of English language works (1967)
East Anglian studies (1968)
The Luddites, and other essays (1971)
Kings & Queens: The Colouful History of the British Monarchy (1974)
Concise Encyclopedia of World History (1977)
Reading Tudor and Stuart handwriting (1988)
How much is that worth? (1989)

Local History in Czechoslovakia 
Lionel M. Munby

In June 1962 I took part in a Conference of History Lecturers from Czechoslovak Pedagogic Institutes, in Pilsen, on the teaching of local history. At the same time I was invited to meet and to talk with historians from Bratislavia University, from the Charles University of Prague and from the Academy of Sciences. The picture of recent developments in local history in Czechoslovakia which follows was gathered in this way. I am most grateful to Dr. Alice Teichovd of the Department of External Studies of Prague University, who, with the Ministry of Education, arranged my visit, for much additional information and for the correction of errors in what follows; for what is said, however, I take full responsibility. 

Czechoslovakia before 1938 had local antiquarian societies not unlike those which existed in Britain, both in their approach to local history and in the social circles to which they appealed. However, interest in local history resembled that in Scotland and Wales rather than England, for both Czechs and Slovaks were acutely conscious of their nationality, expressed in opposition to centuries of German and Hungarian cultural influence. During the most recent German occupation there was an even more active process of Germanisation at work. Genealogies were published to prove the German origins of all distinguished contributors to Czechoslovak history, and local studies were distorted in the Nazi interest. Naturally after 1945 there was a violent reaction : the nationalism of the inter-war years was strengthened by the experience of the years 1938-45 Thus the first interest in local history after 1945 was not so much in the history of particular communities, villages or towns, as in the rediscovery and re-emphasis of the Bohemian, Moravian and Slovak cultural identities throughout their history.

This concern has led, for example, to major archaeological and historical research on the period of the Great Moravian Empire, to a new interest in and emphasis on the remarkable late Gothic graphic art of Bohemia and Moravia, to deep interest in the Hussite movement, and to new studies of the industrialisation of Bohemia and Moravia. The Hussite museum at Tabor has been revitalised. The Director showed me the graffiti recently discovered on the walls of the Council Chamber used in the fifteenth century; pride of place went to a drawing of Zizka, the Hussite military leader, guarding Heaven's gate, with a scrawled text claiming that as long as Zizka held the keys no German would enter. This nationalist undercurrent in local history has made history popular. There can be few parallels to the extra-ordinary response to the exhibition of national archives opened in Prague Castle in May 1958 : 1,700 documents were on display and 815,000 visitors came to the exhibition. This nationalist undercurrent is not a new thing; historical studies contributed to the development of Czech nationalism in the nineteenth century and before.

The second main element in the recent development of local history is a consequence of the economic and social changes which followed the political change in 1948. One is vividly reminded of Marc Bloch's remarks in The Historian's Craft 'Revolutions force the doors of safes, and put ministers to flight before they have had time to burn their secret papers ... the spirit of the secret society is inherent in all corporations. Here it is that the historian of the present finds himself plainly at a disadvantage'. In Czechoslovakia the modern historian is well served. Prof. J. V. Polisensky has described what has happened in Czechoslovakia : 'The decree No. 12/1945 authorised the State Archives of Agriculture to take over and safeguard the records of all large estates in Czechoslovakia. After 1948 the records of cathedrals and monasteries were put under the control of the Central State Archives . . . Since January 1st, 1956, all the archives throughout the country are controlled by the Archives Departments in the lower administrative units … With the help of voluntary assistants, mostly students reading history … it was possible to concentrate the records in thirty-five regional archives, distributed among the counties". The modern archives of firms, businesses and local government bodies are open for research. With a wealth of new archive material easily available, it is hardly surprising that the bulk of recent work in local history has been on modern and almost the last century. These were in Hungarian in Slovakia and in German in Bohemia and Moravia. The German was furthermore in Gothic script. Latin was in use for all official records in Slovakia until 1848. Few Czechs, today, know Latin or Hungarian or can read Gothic script. The difficulties which the British amateur meets when he reaches back to the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries are met by the Czechoslovak in the nineteenth century. For this reason the publishing of Calendars and Registers of Archives is an even more vital factor in developing the widespread study of Czechoslovak local history than it is in Britain.

This is a fact which is well appreciated. For example, while a Calendar of Bratislava's Archives up to the fifteenth century was published before the war, publication up to the eighteenth century is now in progress. emphasis on local history work. Students have to produce a piece of original work, as in British Teachers' Training Colleges; these are quite substantial studies. I saw an apparently very well documented history of the local glass industry. The Pilsen Institute, in which this work is more advanced than in most parts of Czechoslovakia, publishes its own annual journal of 200 to 300 pages, the bulk of articles in which are historical. Examples of topics covered are the economy of the Neuhauser estate 1563-6; Pilsen during the Thirty Years War (effects of the war on population); the beginning of industrialisation in West Bohemia; the impact of the 1848 revolutions on the Zbirower neighbourhood; the development of capitalism and the workers' movement in Pilsen to the beginning of the twentieth century; the Pilsen National Committee in 1985.

The student teachers are given practical help in making use of local museum and record sources. A regular part of their course consists of topo-graphical study, tours of the neighbourhood, visits to historical sites of many kinds, factories as well as castles and churches. Emphasis is put on training future history teachers in their responsibility for, and in the techniques of, preserving ancient buildings. In this connection it was revealing to find, on a visit to Karlstein Castle, that the guide was a chemistry student doing a vacation job, who had a passionate interest in, and considerable knowledge of, history. A great deal of the discussion which took place at the Conference in Pilsen would have been quite familiar to British teachers of local history. It was, however, interesting to hear some stress being put on the desirability.

One of the most delightful experiences of the Conference occurred during a visit to Cheb, an historic city which was very badly damaged during the war and is being remarkably restored. In the Castle grounds a teenager insisted on taking me to the cellar in which a group of his friends were making their own museum of finds made during the rebuilding of the town. They had begun this collection without any official encouragement, but now have the support of the local Museum Curator and are learning simple restoration techniques as well as the arts of display and the history necessary for an intelligent exhibition of their finds. There are, obviously, major differences between the situation in local history studies in Czechoslovakia and that in Britain, differences in the field of study and in the organisations at work.

The field of study in Czechoslovakia today seems to be more often the local institution than the local community; the organisation is more directly connected with history teaching in schools and universities. These differences arise from the different history of the two countries, remote as well as recent, but there is something to be learnt from mutual contact. I was impressed when visiting the Pilsen Brewery to find the whole entrance permanently filled by an exhibition illustrating the history of brewing in Pilsen and the history of the brewery, which historians and student teachers had prepared from the archives of the brewery as well as from general sources. The Czechs whom I met were impressed with British work in local history done by amateurs through local history societies and extra-mural classes; the local histories and journals I took with me did not come back.

The Luddites and Other Essays – Edited by Lionel Munby


JOHN MILLER (pp. 115 ...)

Songs of the Labour Movement 

In March 1961 the Council of Czechoslovak Ethnologists and Folklorists, a section of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science, held an International Symposium for research into 'Workers Songs'. This was the first conference of its kind and covered a wide range of subjects. It revealed that work in this subject is taken very seriously, and that a great deal of research has been done in the Socialist countries, compared with those of the capitalist countries that were represented. This is true particularly of Great Britain, where the subject is not recognised officially, or academically, and no grants are given towards research.

The only small exception was, when, as part of the Festival of Britain, A.L. Lloyd was asked to arrange a competition for songs relating to miners and the mining industry, which led subsequently to the publication of his Come all ye bold miners by Lawrence & Wishart in 1952. Since then there has been a revival of interest in what might be termed 'industrial' or `workers' folk-song, including the creation of new songs in the folk—song idiom, which are being enthusiastically sung by young people in the many folk-song clubs that are springing up all over the country, and also in the CND and peace movements.

It is not possible or necessary to give a definition of workers' songs, but it will be agreed that included in the description are not only the 'industrial' folk-songs mentioned above, which are the urban equivalent of 'classical' folk songs collected in the first folk song revival of sixty years ago, but consciously composed songs of workers' conditions and lives, e.g. music hall songs, and the songs of revolt which stimulate and inspire the people in their efforts to improve their lives by struggle against an unjust social system and by striving to bring about a better one. Such songs of revolt on the part of oppressed classes have existed since society was divided into classes and examples are found in all periods and all countries. Our country is no exception, as is proved by the songs and ballads about the legendary Robin Hood, the songs of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, and the songs of the English Revolution of the seventeenth century.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Poetry Marjorie Pizer's vehicle of optimism and understanding

SMH: February 26, 2016

As she lay in her hospital bed at the end of her life, Marjorie Pizer Holburn said she'd had a good life, paused for emphasis, smiled happily, and added the adjective "big".  Though she was never completely recognised as a major poet, poetry gave her life meaning and she was hailed by many leading poets such as Judith Wright, A.D. Hope and Robert Fitzgerald, and writers such as Drusilla Modjeska and Manning Clark, for her work.



When I am sick The world is sad. When I am well The world is glad. Our world is in us As we smile or sigh, But we pretend it is the world That makes us laugh or cry.

Her poetry was appreciated by literary figures all over the world and her poems were used in schools and hospitals, in women's magazines, in poetry collections, in the media and, particularly, by people who needed comfort from grief and bereavement. The Aboriginal actor and director Brian Syron used one of her poems on his gravestone.

Pizer and her husband, the poet Muir Holburn​, also established the successful publishing house Pinchgut Press in 1947, originally in their spare bedroom. As well, Marjorie was a psychotherapist for more than 50 years.

Marjorie Pizer was born in Melbourne on April 3, 1920, the eldest of three children to Solomon Pizer, a well-to-do tailor, and his wife Ruth (nee Blashki). Her Blashki grandparents, both born in Melbourne, lived close by, but both sides of the family had come originally from Poland. Solomon brought all his family to Australia after he arrived in Geelong in 1913 escaping military service in the Russian army.

Marjorie went to Merton Hall, a Church of England girls' grammar school, and started writing poetry as a teenager following Solomon's death. Then her Blashki grandparents died over the next year and she increasingly took refuge in her writing.

To the literary researcher Hazel de Berg Pizer described herself as a shy, withdrawn bookworm who could be stubborn. Her relationship with her mother was poor, something she regretted in later life. In newspaper interviews she said she was rebellious and shocked her family by marrying out of the faith as the Pizers were practising Jews.

At Melbourne University, which she fought her mother to be able to attend, Pizer worked on the student newspaper Farrago and was appointed co-editor with Niall Brennan to work on MUM, the literary annual. She joined the Labor Club and the Communist Party and became an activist. She met other students like Zelman Cowen, Sam Cohen, Jean Blackburn and their friends like Arthur Boyd.

She left university and joined the Department of War Organisation, where she worked for Tom Critchley and met Muir Holburn​, a young University of Sydney graduate and poet. She said they were cheeky; they published a scandal sheet called 'The Worker', a sort of unofficial gossip sheet within the department, and began their collaboration on writing about Australian poetry. Together they were Communists, then adherents of the 1950s cult of Scientology, after which she and Muir left that for the practice of psychology.

In 1945, they moved to Sydney so they could work in the Mitchell Library on their first major books. They bought a house in Kirribilli and joined the Fellowship of Australian Writers, where they met Miles Franklin and Katharine Susannah Prichard.

The two young poets were regular visitors to Franklin's house in Carlton and she would stay with them on the Australia Day weekend. They would pick her up and drive her across the Harbour Bridge to their house and take her home again afterwards.


Then Muir died suddenly of a heart attack at 40, leaving Marjorie with two young children. His death stirred her into writing poetry after years of writing about other Australian poets. She wrote about Muir and his death and for years she wrote of her love for him.

And to many interviewers she explained that she used her writing to overcome her grief and transform her life into optimism and writing poetry.

In her essay about poetry which she published in 1977 in her book, Full Summer,  she wrote,  "The task of the poet is to come to terms with the world in which he or she lives".

Her lifelong love of reading sustained her and underpinned her own psychotherapy practice, which began at this stage of her life. Her humanist psychotherapy was about helping people, mainly the women who were the majority of her clients, to become more assertive, to learn to communicate better and find new dreams to live for.

She volunteered for many years at Tranby College in Glebe, and at the Leichhardt Women's Community Health Centre in Flood Street as a psychotherapist. She swam daily at Balmoral beach and wrote a lot there; later in life she studied with her friend the artist Judy Lane.

Her friends described Pizer as very down to earth with a strong drive for simplicity in her writing and also in her daily life. She made her own clothes; she knitted, and cooked, gardened and did carpentry. She loved to make marmalade using the huge citrus crop she grew in her large back garden. A friend who trained as a therapist with Marjorie and her partner Anne Spencer Parry – a fantasy writer for children and publisher for Pinchgut – said that Pizer was wonderful with her hands.

Pizer did leatherwork and made a small pouch to attach to her belt; there she carried her notepad and pen so that if a poem came suddenly to her she could immediately write it down. She worked and reworked her poems and when she was satisfied she would write them in longhand in a large hardback notebook with a fountain pen given to her by her brother. The poem was ready when she signed and dated it.

Pizer left more than 30 such manuscript books of her poems, and her collected papers, deposited in the National Library and at the State Library of NSW, include many unpublished poems as well as correspondence with her old friends Dame Mary Gilmore and Miles Franklin and other well-known writers. She edited, published and wrote 20 books of and about poetry and writing.

A few years ago, Pizer left her house, Coonardoo, in Neutral Bay and moved to Canberra to share a house with her daughter, Jo.

Marjorie Pizer is survived by her children Kim and Jo, five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, brother Ian and his family. Her brother Dennis died in 1982 and another grandchild, Jordana, died as a baby, occasioning Pizer's most popular book, To you, the living: Poems of bereavement and loss (1981).

Daniela Torsh

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