The Spark that Lit the Revolution
Dr Robert Henderson
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin visited London on six occasions at the beginning of the twentieth century and it was in this city, where Marx wrote Das Kapital, that the roots of Lenin’s political thought took shape. This book, from a former curator of the Russian collections at the British Library, tells the story for the first time of Lenin’s intriguing relationship with the enigmatic Apollinariya Yakubova – a revolutionary known to her comrades as the ‘primeval force of the Black Earth’.
Based on a series of stunning new archival discoveries from the British Library, published here for the first time, as well as photographs and details of the Russian revolutionaries (and indeed international police spies) who congregated in the East End of London – known then as the ‘Little Russian Island’, this is the first full exploration of the formation of one of the leading political visionaries of his age. Revealing Lenin’s London-based accomplices and political rivals, and shedding new light on his world-view – one which would have such a crucial impact on the twentieth century, this is an essential addition to our knowledge of Lenin the man and of the roots of the Russian revolution.
Henderson has woven his narrative out of a brilliant miscellany of archival sources, with crucial finds in the Hoover Institution's records of the Okhrana, or political police. * Times Literary Supplement * Henderson, a former Russian curator at the British Library, knows everything there is to know about Lenin's love affair with the BM, and tells it all. This is a level of detailed Leniniana seldom encountered since the demise of the Soviet Union, but even those diligent Soviet researchers who used to track Lenin's every move and hour didn't know the BM [British Museum] as Henderson does. It's what gives his book its charm. * London Review of Books * One hundred fifty years after Lenin's birth, Henderson's book does something to bring him back to life. * The Jacobin * Henderson's revelatory book captures the atmosphere of a time of Jewish idealism preceding that of the horrors of the Gulag. * The Jewish Chronicle * Robert Henderson's archival snapshots put human flesh on the intellectual and political bones of a figure who remains either revered or hated to this day... [the book] captures the atmosphere of Edwardian London and brings to life many of the players - with its wealth of photographs - in the early moves of a game that would indeed change the world. * Morning Star * Henderson's book is a very welcome contribution to understanding the role that time spent in London played in the intellectual and practical development of the Russian revolutionary left, especially that of Lenin and his closest comrades. It provides a vivid sense of place and a lot of the human context to a crucially important period in Lenin's political life. * Counterfire * [A] fascinating and meticulously researched book. As a former curator of the Russian collections at the British Library, Henderson is very well placed to undertake such research. * East-West Review * Henderson's book should be of interest to Labour historians of the early 20th century. It reveals many of Lenin's London based political networks and the roots of the politics that continue to influence the party's left-wing. * Tides of History blog * Henderson has succeeded once again in writing another important and captivating history...Henderson's book makes an original contribution to our knowledge of Lenin by providing us with a clearer understanding of his activities, the associates with whom he connected and, generally speaking, the milieux in which he moved during his London years. Today this research is invaluable to anyone with an interest in trying to comprehend how Lenin and political emigres generally perceived their work in exile to make essential contributions to the promotion of revolutionary change in their countries of origin. * European History Quarterly * Based on thorough archival research in Britain, France, Russia, and the USA, the story recreated by the author is presented in an elegant and engaging narrative style, combining meticulous factual accounts with humor, vivid details, and emotional attachment to historical figures. Although the title quite accurately points at the main focus of the book - Lenin's political activities during the periods when he stayed in London - I would add that Henderson's narrative can also be described as a chronicle of love and politics that evolved around libraries in the turn of the century London, full of police, radicals, and spies. In this work, Henderson offers up a piece of fascinating historical research, weaving stories of various libraries and their collections into the fabric of his narrative. * Slavic & East European Information Resources * Henderson's book concentrates on new archival finds and previously unpublished materials. Much of what he uncovers is fascinating and valuable information. * Look Left * [Henderson] makes excellent use of a wide variety of archival sources. * Socialist History * Flawlessly researched, lucidly written, replete with exhaustive archival evidence, including previously undiscovered photographs, Henderson has produced the definitive study of the numerous occasions that Lenin, the world's best known revolutionary, spent in London refining and developing his influential views. * John Gonzalez, author of An Intellectual Biography of N.A. Rozhkov: Life in a Bell Jar (2016) * In this outstanding work Robert Henderson deploys new archival discoveries and a lifetime's research into the Russian emigre community of the early twentieth century to throw new light upon both the revolutionary and the personal life of one of the towering figures of modern history. One could ask for no more expert or convivial guide to Lenin's various sojourns on London's "Little Russian Island" during the birth of Bolshevism. * Dr Jonathan Smele, Queen Mary University of London, UK * Henderson's book is the product of thirty years of research. Time well spent. Pending future openings of Soviet archives or chance discoveries of unpublished diaries of memoirs, this gripping narrative bids fair to remain the definitive version, in Roman poet Horace's words, 'a monument more lasting than bronze'. * The Spokesman * Robert Henderson takes us into the cheap lodgings, much-frequented libraries, packed meeting halls, favourite bars and restaurants which were the backdrops to the intense lives of the Russian revolutionary emigration in London. We become witnesses to their ferocious arguments and observers of their lives, loves and hopes for a better future for their homeland. * Professor Christopher Read, University of Warwick, UK * In this fascinating study, Robert Henderson takes us on a trail through the archives to reconstruct Lenin's life in London: the places he lived, the circles he moved in, and the relationships he built. * Professor Charlotte Alston, Northumbria University, UK *
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