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    The Barber Who Read History: Essays in Radical History by Rowan Cahill and Terry Irving (Bull Ant Press, Sydney), 230pp. (9pp colour), Index, paperback. Available via The New International Bookshop, Melbourne,  

    Still selling: Terry Irving, The Fatal Lure of Politics. The Life and Thought of Vere Gordon Childe, Monash Publishing, 2020.

    ONGOING: Terry Irving's website is at Terry Irving: Radical Historian, Author and Educator; Rowan Cahill's website is at Rowan Cahill: Radical Historian, Author, Educator

    Rowan Cahill's award winning ('Jim Hagan Memorial Prize', UOW) PhD dissertation (2013) on the journalist, communist, intellectual Rupert Lockwood (1908-1997) is online (open access) via Research Online at the University of Wollongong, NSW.     

      What is Radical Sydney about?
      Sydney is represented to its citizens and to the rest of the world as a postcard, an impressive, beautiful city, a desirable tourist destination.

      But there has always been another Sydney not viewed so fondly by the city’s rulers, a radical Sydney they are intent on ‘disappearing’ beneath concrete and glass. In the arc of working-class suburbs to the south and west, menace and disaffection developed. From the early nineteenth century through to the late twentieth century these suburbs were large and explosive places of marginalised ideas, bohemian neighbourhoods, dissident politics and contentious action.

      Through a series of snapshots of people, episodes, and places, Radical Sydney captures aspects of this ‘other’ Sydney, from the days of early settlement through to the late 1970s, from Governor Phillip’s head-hunting expedition to freeing protestors in the anti-conscription movement during the Vietnam War; and in between, resident action movements in Kings Cross, anarchists in Glebe, Gay Rights activism on Oxford Street, Black Power in Redfern.

      In the mainstream of white masculine and middle-class history, the voices of Aboriginal fighters, convict poets, feminist journalists, democratic agitators, bohemian dreamers and revolutionaries are rarely heard. This book restores some of that clamour and disturbance to the history of the city.

      While the subject of the book is Sydney, authors Irving and Cahill make clear in their ‘Introduction’ that the book has been written as a challenge to the mainstream consensus version of Australian history. The consensus version tends to sanitise the past to present a view of Australian history and society proceeding on the basis of cooperation and consensus, a past in which there is little significant political and/or social turbulence. The authors’ view of the Australian past, on the contrary, is one in which significant political and social ferment, dissent, turbulence are not strangers, nor occasional.

      The cover features author Kylie Tennant at a fancy dress party. During the 1930s she was a fiery advocate for the International Labor Defence organisation.

      [Published in 2010, the book remains in print and available; if not on shop shelves, then order via your local bookshop or via this link, the publisher filling orders quickly via Print on Demand technology]

      Meet the authors of Radical Sydney...
      The authors met at Sydney University in the 1960s and have variously worked together on historical projects since. In various capacities - academic (Irving); freelance journalist (Cahill) - and as independent scholars, the authors have collectively spent decades researching, and writing about, aspects of Australia’s radical and dissident past, at times recording it first-hand, and participating in its making.

      Dr. Terry Irving (left): Radical educationist and historian, Terry taught history and politics at the University of Sydney. He was one of the founders of the Free University (Sydney, 1967-1972), and a prominent New Left figure in the labour history movement. Continuing the tradition of radical history in Australia, but extending its scope, he writes about class analysis, youth politics, labour intellectuals, and radical democracy. His books include Class Structure in Australian History (with R. W. Connell, 1980, 1992), Childe and Australia: Archaeology, Politics and Ideas (edited with Peter Gathercole and Gregory Melleuish, 1995), Youth in Australia: Policy, Administration and Politics: A History Since World War 11, (with David Maunders and Geoffrey Sherington with assistance from Janet Sorby, 1995), The Southern Tree of Liberty (2006). He is currently Visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of Wollongong. For a more detailed listing of Terry's writings, click here. Terry's website is at

      Rowan Cahill (right) was prominent in the anti-war, student, and New Left movements during the 1960s and early 1970s. He was also one of the founders of the Free University. Rowan has worked as a teacher, freelance writer, agricultural labourer, and for the trade union movement as a journalist, historian, and rank and file activist. Currently a part-time teaching academic at the University of Wollongong, and an Honorary Fellow with the university's Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, he has published extensively in labour movement, radical, and academic publications. His books include The Seamen’s Union of Australia, 1872-1972: A History (with Brian Fitzpatrick, 1981), Twentieth Century Australia: Conflict and Consensus (with David Stewart, 1987), A Turbulent Decade: Social Protest Movements and the Labour Movement, 1965-1975 (edited with Beverley Symons, 2005). For a more detailed listing  of Rowan's writings, click here. Rowan's website is at

      ...& what are the authors doing post-Radical  Sydney?

       Rowan [left, addressing a National Conference of the Maritime Union of Australia] is currently working on a memoir about growing up in Australia and becoming a prominent leftist warranting ASIO surveillance during the period 1945-1972, titled Crucible Years: Reflections of a Cold War Kid. With colleague Terry Irving, he is also working on a collection of his own and their joint writings since 2010 on Radical History.  

      Terry [right] is writing a book about the rewards and disappointments of everyday political life on the revolutionary left in the first half of the twentieth century as seen through the lives of  overlooked people in the Australian Communist movement who had significant post-Communist lives. This book will illuminate a moment of radical democracy whose earlier history he explored in The Southern Tree of Liberty (Federation Press, 2006). With colleague Rowan Cahill he is also working on a collection of his own and their joint writings since 2010 on Radical History. Before his local government spot rezoned him out of his house for commercial redevelopment, he tried guerrilla gardening.  

      What readers said about Radical Sydney...
      "I just read an amazing book called Radical Sydney by Rowan Cahill and Terry Irving. It recounts Sydney's creative, political and Indigenous moments in time with great descriptions of buildings and streets we're all familiar with."-- Jesse Miller, Domain, 11 July 2017.
       "By extension, their (Irving/Cahill) objective speaks to what Walter Benjamin recognised as the need 'to make the continuum of history explode' by breaking the procession of the victors of history, embodied by their triumphal monuments of historical consciousness, and to re-establish the redemptive dimensions of social struggle that may speak to the present". --Adam David Morton, For the Desk Drawer, 9 April 2014.

      "Perhaps what Radical Sydney does best, is remind us not to take our civil liberties for granted....(and) subtly permits us to rediscover our radical roots and champions our efforts to really make a splash".-Danielle, February 2012.

      "It is only after reading Irving and Cahill's book that one realises the extent to which political dissent in Australia has been tamed."---Maurie MulheronIllawarra Unity, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2010/11.

      "It is a quintessential 'people's history', framed by a humanist emphasis on people rather than structures, agents rather than agency, stories rather than narrative.....this lively, engaging book will encourage readers to explore the bibliography and investigate further".---Jeff RickerttAustralian Journal of Politics and History, March 2011.

      "These tales of idealism, subversion, insubordination and uprising tell the story of Sydney that is rich and diverse in its development......Irving and Cahill have brought these stories to life in this meticulously detailed and lovingly assembled volume, and, in doing so, should give inspiration to a new generation of change-makers.---Chris Gambian, Journal of Industrial Relations, March 2011.

      ".....Radical Sydney is not just a fascinating alternative look at a part of Australia's history. It is also a timely argument in a discussion that is raging in newspapers in the country at the moment".---Ingeborg van TeeselingAntipodes, December 2010.

      "...this is a project that seeks to rekindle a sense of wonder and exhilaration in labour history....radicals of today could do a lot worse than lose themselves in the pages that Irving and Cahill have compiled here."--Jeff SparrowLabour History, November 2010

      "Tremendous stuff". --Sydney Alumni Magazine, November 2010

      "This book is an education and a delight".--Janis BaileyThe Queensland Journal of Labour History, September 2010

      Radical Sydney does an expert job at reminding us that Sydney has been indelibly shaped by movements, protests and incendiary upstarts of the past. Full of extraordinary details on everything from the gay pride movement on Oxford Street to the growth of black power in Redfern, Radical Sydney is an engrossing, well-researched study that rounds out the city’s more conventional histories.”--Johanna LeggattSun-Herald, 12 September 2010

      "The characters of Radical Sydney are so diverse that the authors’ brief introductory overview could profitably have been longer and deeper. This work will appeal to overseas visitors browsing the shops at museums and galleries, to a popular readership hungry for racy anecdotes and to Sydney residents curious about their history."--Tony SmithAustralian Review of Public Affairs, September 2010

      "Radical Sydney often reads like a conversation with a long lost friend describing their childhood and future all at once. It also shines a burning torch on the ruling class's dark secrets".--Sarah SchmidtSocialist Alternative, 10 August 2010

      "History teachers will welcome this long overdue book......Copies of Radical Sydney should be in the Australian history section of every library and no history teacher should be without their own personal copy". --Desmond MooreEducation, 2 August 2010.

      "Even though co-authors Irving and Cahill are both left-wing academics, this history is mercifully free of theoretical jargon and will be enjoyed by any reader interested in the subject".--Mandy SayerSydney Morning Herald, July 10-11, 2010.

      "I am giantly into this book ... all about Sydney's dark and twisty past ... It makes me love Sydney even more."--Sarah, at

      "...this book will not be warmly welcomed by the conservative commentators of the centre pages of the Sydney Morning Herald...or of The Australian......This is all the more reason to welcome it here." --Don AndersonAustralian Book Review, July 2010.

      "Despite...shortcomings Radical Sydney is a very important work. It's well worth reading and is recommended".-- Peter MacThe Guardian, 21 Juy 2010.

      "This book is a delight for anybody who agrees with ...the authors' editorialising about the evils of capitalism past and present....For Sydneysiders old enough to remember the last hurrah of street politics in the 70s it is fascinating, full of protest movement folklore".--Stephen MatchettThe Weekend Australian, July 3-4, 2010.

      "....this original, lively 'people's history' will give you a greater appreciation of the radicals that made Sydney what it is today. Five out of five." --ChrisBetter Read Than Dead Bookstore, Newtown, Sydney, June 2010

      "......superbly illustrated......this excellent book.........(is) interesting, revealing and crispily written..........(it) is a most enjoyable and illuminating history." --Ross FitzgeraldThe Weekend Australian, June 5-6, 2010.

      [Referring to the spate of books about alternative-Sydney due for publication in June 2010] "...arguably the best of the bunch is Radical Sydney racily written by academics Terry Irving and Rowan Cahill...." -- John HuxleySydney Morning Herald, May 29-30, 2010.

      "It took me by surprise, this hidden history of defiance, crazy idealism and the trashing of cop shops. It’s a Sydney of fabulous characters, some fresh from uprisings in Europe, determined to flick away the trappings of avarice and class. Today we are sleepwalkers, compared to these egalitarian-seeking bookworms and brawlers, who sure knew how to paint the town red." --Richard Neville, a founder of Oz (Sydney and London, 1960s), author and futurist.

      "Sydney has long needed a people’s political history. This book begins to fill that gap." --John Pilgerjournalist and documentary filmmaker, winner of Sydney Peace Prize, 2009.

      "The authors, with nearly fifty stories on “radical Sydney” have done a wonderful job of capturing the diversity and the spirit of Sydney over two hundred years." --Jack Mundey‘Green Ban’ pioneer and leader of the NSW Builders Labourers’ union.

      "From the Venerable Boote to Mike Matteson and the bolt-cutters, the authors explore radical Sydney in rollicking and sometimes hilarious detail. Did you know that the first Women’s Weekly was printed on Australian Workers’ Union presses and that Merv Flanagan was killed by a scab in Camperdown during the 1917 General Strike? Why wasn’t this excellent book written ages ago?" --Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmannradical student activist, historian and Labor MP.

      Reviews of Radical Sydney:
      There have been twenty-two Reviews of Radical Sydney; these are listed below from earliest to the latest.

      Ross Fitzgerald, "Emerald City's immortal subversives", Weekend Australian, June 5-6, 2010

      Stephen Matchett, "The numbers game", Weekend Australian, July 3-4, 2010

      Don Anderson, "Radical Love", Australian Book Review, July-August, 2010

      Mandy Sayer, "There's trouble in town: a snapshot of 200 years of activism", Sydney Morning Herald, July 10-11, 2010

      Peter Mac, "Radical Sydney"The Guardian, 21 July 2010

      Desmond Moore, "Radical Sydney"Education (Journal of the NSW Teachers Federation), August 2, 2010 [reprinted on Mark Gregory's Union Songs website]

      Sarah Schmidt, "A history of rocking the foundations", Socialist Alternative, 10 August 2010

      Paul Robinson, "Radical Sydney" , Qantas The Australian Way, August 2010

      Tony Smith, "A good idea at the time"Australian Review of Public Affairs, September 2010

      Johanna Leggatt, "Radical Sydney", Sun-Herald, 12 September 2010

      Janis Bailey, "Radical Sydney", The Queensland Journal of Labour History, No. 11, September 2010, pp. 45-47

      Jim Wilson, "History including wharfies not shy of its roots", Lloyd's List Daily Commercial News, 7 October 2010

      "Union At Heart Of Radical Sydney", Maritime Workers' Journal, Spring 2010, p. 33

      Diana Simmonds, "Radical Sydney", Sydney Alumni Magazine, November 2010, p. 35

      Jeff Sparrow, "Radical Sydney", Labour History, Number 99, November 2010, pp.275-276

      Des Moore, "Radical Sydney", Hummer, Vol.6, No. 2, 2010.

      Maurie Mulheron, "Radical Sydney", Illawarra Unity, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2010, pp.66-68. Republished in Education, 9 May 2011, p. 33.

      Ingeborg van Teeseling, "Radical Sydney", Antipodes, Volume 24, Issue Number 2, December 2010, pp. 214-215.

      Chris Gambian, "Radical Sydney", Journal of Industrial Relations, Volume 53, Number 1, 2011, pp. 133-134.

      Jeff Rickertt, "Radical Sydney", Australian Journal of Politics and History, Volume 57, Number 1, March 2011, pp. 125-126.

      Danielle Chiaverini, "A Return to our Radical Roots",, 17 February 2012.

      Adam David Morton, "The Spatial Resources of Radical Sydney", For the Desk Drawer, 9 April 2014.