Monday, February 1, 2016

Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism & Early New Zealand Anarchism

Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism & Early New Zealand Anarchism is the first in-depth study of anarchism in New Zealand during the turbulent years of the early 20th century—a time of wildcat strikes, industrial warfare and a radical working class counter-culture. Interweaving biography, cultural history and an array of archival sources, this engaging account unravels the anarchist-cum-bomber stereotype by piecing together the life of Philip Josephs—a Latvian-born Jewish tailor, anti-militarist and founder of the Wellington Freedom Group. Anarchists like Josephs not only existed in the ‘Workingman’s Paradise’ that was New Zealand, but were a lively part of its labour movement and the class struggle that swept through the country, imparting uncredited influence and ideas. Sewing Freedom places this neglected movement within the global anarchist upsurge, and unearths the colourful activities of New Zealand’s most radical advocates for social and economic change.

Shortlisted: Bert Roth Award for Labour History Labour History Project (Sep 2014)
Shortlisted: Best Non-Illustrated Book PANZ Book Design Awards (June 2014)

Published by AK Press, Oakland (April, 2013). Includes illustrations by Alec Icky Dunn (Justseeds) and a foreword by Barry Pateman (Kate Sharpley Library, Emma Goldman Papers).


“A ground breaking tale of a rebel life, skillfully unearthed by Davidson. A must read.” - Lucien van der Walt, co-author of Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism

“Filling a much-needed gap, Sewing Freedom deserves a treasured place within the pantheon of serious studies of the origins of the far left in New Zealand.” - David Grant, New Zealand Books Quarterly Review

“Jared Davidson has produced much more than a soundly researched and very engaging biography of ‘the most prominent anarchist in New Zealand’. This is an excellent, wide-ranging contribution to our knowledge of the international (and indeed transnational) anarchist movement, and sweeps us along in a fascinating story that takes us from the pogroms in Russian Latvia, to the working-class slums of Victorian Glasgow, to the early struggles of the nascent labour movement in New Zealand.” - Dr David Berry, author of The History of the French Anarchist Movement

“This is a fine book that sheds another clear beam of light on the complex puzzle that is anarchist history. Meticulously researched, sometimes following barely perceivable trails, thoughtful and incisive, it presents us with an, as yet, uncharted anarchist history in a controlled and engaging way. Like all good history it leaves us with much to think about; and like all good anarchist history it encourages us to consider how we read, interrogate, and assess the long and, sometimes, confusing journey towards anarchy.” - Barry Pateman, Kate Sharpley Library archivist & Associate Editor of The Emma Goldman Papers

“Many millions of words have been written on New Zealand history. The labour movement does not feature prominently in this vast corpus; in fact, quite the contrary. And within this relatively sparse coverage, anarchism is almost invariably assigned at best a passing mention. We must be grateful for Davidson’s determination to restore an anarchist voice to the history of the outermost reach of the British Empire. In piecing together the life and beliefs of Philip Josephs, often from the most fragmentary of surviving evidence, Davidson helps us situate anarchist beliefs and activities within broader international socialist currents. By focusing on a significant individual and his tireless advocacy in several countries, he indicates how such belief systems transcended national boundaries, not only in the restless lives of theoreticians and practitioners, but also –and most important of all –in their universalist message.” - Dr Richard Hill, Professor of New Zealand Studies at Victoria University of Wellington & author of Iron Hand in the Velvet Glove: The Modernisation of Policing in New Zealand 1886-1917

“Jared Davidson has written a ripping narrative, extensively and thoroughly researched, with a flair and flavour that takes the reader into the backrooms of the radical movements of anarchism in its early days in New Zealand. I am delighted with this work of history which involved my own grandfather so closely.” - Dr Caroline Josephs, artist/writer/storyteller and granddaughter of Philip Josephs, Sydney

Sewing Freedom works on several levels. It is a meticulous biography, a portrait of an era, a sophisticated discussion of anarchist philosophy and activism, and an evocation of radical lives and ideas in their context. Davidson has designed a fresh, crisp book with visual impact, nicely enhanced by Alec Icky Dunn’s wonderful sketches of key places in this history: working class backyards, a miner’s hall and striking workers under attack by the forces of the state. This beautifully-executed book tells an important story in New Zealand’s political history.” - Chris Brickell, Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Otago University and author of Mates and Lovers

Media & Awards

Review by Lucien van der Walt in Anarchist Studies 22 (December 2014)
Shortlisted: Bert Roth Award for Labour History Labour History Project (Sep 2014)
Shortlisted: Best Non-Illustrated Book PANZ Book Design Awards (June 2014)
Review by David Grant in New Zealand Books Quarterly Review (Winter 2014)
Review by Cybele Locke in Australian Historical Studies 45 (2014)
Review by Cam Walker on Scoop (Sep 2013)
‘Denying authority’ – article in Working Life: PSA Journal, p.30 (September 2013)
‘Anarchy stitched into Wellington’s streets’ – article in the Dominion Post (July 2013)
‘Anarchist history wins praise’ – article in the Hutt News (June 2013)
Radio interview with Jared Davidson on 95bfm (June 2013)
Review by Dougal McNeill on the ISO blog (May 2013)
Review on the korynmalius blog (May 2013)
Review by Chris Brickell, Associate Professor of Gender Studies, Otago University on the AK Press tumblr (April 2013)
Video of the Wellington launch On 15 May 2013, Sewing Freedom was launched in Wellington, New Zealand. Held at the Museum of Wellington City & Sea, the launch featured talks by Mark Derby, Barry Pateman, and Jared Davidson. This is a film of those speeches, delivered to around 65 people in the historic Boardroom (38 min.)
MP3 sound recording of the Wellington launch. (38 min.)
Philip Josephs and anarchism in New Zealand by Jared Davidson in Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library (July 2012)
Philip Josephs – early anarchist in New Zealand by Jared Davidson in Kosher Koala (May 2012)


Ask your local bookshop for Sewing Freedom, or buy it online at AKPress, Amazon, or Book Depository (free shipping). To find your closest Library copy, try WorldCat.

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