A powerful yet understated history of pirate radio and its impact in the Internet age.



A historical retelling of the pirate-radio revolution that swept throughout 1960s England.

In June 1966, pirate-radio rivals Reg Calvert and Oliver Smedley faced off in Smedley’s home, leaving Calvert dead. After chronicling the encounter, Johns (History/Univ. of Chicago; Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates, 2010, etc.) takes a leap backward to the ’20s and England’s initial steps to introduce the nation to radio. After the British Broadcasting Corporation monopolized the airwaves, several music lovers and businessmen set out to win them back, oftentimes employing guerrilla tactics to offer free music to the people. These so-called pirates of radio began assembling their operations beyond territorial waters—most notably, Shivering Sands, an abandoned, high-rise military fort in an estuary of the Thames. Described as “sinister-looking boxes perched on steel legs,” the abandoned structure was occupied by Calvert and his colleagues, who imbued it with new life. What began as an enterprise of free-spirited entrepreneurs transmitting music from off-shore ships soon morphed into something else. “Floating DJs were one thing,” writes the author. “Squatters on military installations was quite another.” The stakes continued to rise, eventually leading to an actual invasion of the fort by Smedley’s men. It was, quite literally, piratical behavior on the high seas, eventually leading Calvert to Smedley's home to settle the matter. Yet Calvert's murder functions solely as a convenient focal point for the larger implications that arose during the movement. The pirate-radio revolution spurred a debate that would have long-lasting implications. While Americans celebrated peace and love at Woodstock, the British pirates pushed the boundaries of copyright and information sharing well into the 21st century. Smedley called Calvert’s murder “a joke gone sour,” yet the lasting effects of their revolution is no laughing matter.

A powerful yet understated history of pirate radio and its impact in the Internet age.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06860-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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