The Paradoxes of Edward Truelove, Radical publisher of High Holborn

A look at at the life and work of the radical publisher, Edward Truelove (1809-99), defender of free speech, democracy, individual liberty, republicanism, freethought, birth control, women’s rights– and the right to blow up Napoleon III.

Tuesday 22nd January 2019 at 7.15pm  (Doors open at 6.45pm)

Camden Local Studies & Archives Centre , 2nd Floor, Holborn Library, 32-38 Theobalds Road, London WC1X 8PA, Admission Free

ANNIE BESANT and the Liberal, Radical, Socialist and Feminist Opposition to Birth Control in the 19th century.

Big Annie

Talk Wednesday 28th November 2018 at 7pm at Conway Hall 25 Red Lion Square | London | WC1R 4RL

The story of birth control is usually told as one of almost linear progress against blinkered bigotry. Opposition to contraception may have been blinkered and bigoted, but it was also often liberal, radical, socialist and feminist. Some very surprising figures, including Charles Darwin, Millicent Fawcett and Karl Marx, opposed the early birth controllers. This talk looks at why. It also discusses new material about Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh’s decision to challenge the obscenity law by republishing the birth control pamphlet Fruits of Philosophy. The saga reveals some unexpected historical bedfellows and some new feminist stars.

Annie Besant and the Liberal, Radical, Socialist and Feminist Opposition to Birth Control in the 19th century is just one of six talks in the series Writing Wrongs,  as part of the Heritage Lottery funded project Victorian Blogging.
For information about the entire series and booking:

Anna Kingsford vs Vivisection and Annie Besant


Vivisection has always been a divisive issue, and it very much divided 19th century radicals and feminists. While Dr Anna Kingsford was a consistent anti vivisectionist;  in the  1880s,  Annie Besant was a very strong pro vivisectionist. Their public clash in 1881 has largely been forgotten, yet their different visions  of progress  remain relevant today.

Saturday  17 Feb 2018
The Theosophical Society in England
50 Gloucester Place
London W1E 8UA.
Tel: 020 7563 9817

For information about the all the speakers at this one day event; and  for tickets:

ANNIE BESANT’S NEO-MALTHUSIAN PASSION, International Conference on Annie Besant (1847-1933)

Annie Besant

Annie Besant’s Passion for neo-Malthusianism belongs to her life in the radical secular movement, well before she became a Theosophist; and while she remained on good terms with some of her old radical, secular and neo-Malthusian colleagues, she soundly repudiated their ideology. Nevertheless Annie Besant’s time as a radical-secularist and neo-Malthusian is not unimportant; and the battle she fought, culminating in her trial at Queens Bench, alongside Charles Bradlaugh for re-publishing  the birth control pamphlet The Fruits of Philosophy, is an historical landmark.

Part of the two day International Conference on Annie Besant (1847-1933) chaired by Dr Muriel Pécastaing-Boissière,
held on 30th September and 1st October 2017
at The Theosophical Society of England
50 Gloucester Place,
London W1U 8EA

Further details about all the speakers, contact the



Law of Pop

A  new look at the 1857 Obscenity Law and the 1867 Hicklin Test for Obscenity in relation to Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh’s 1877 trial at Queens Bench for republishing Dr Charles Knowlton’s Fruits of Philosophy. And a discussion of the behind-the-scenes Establishment moves to keep the  firebrand, but still “gentlewoman” Annie Besant out of prison, even if it meant keeping her co-defendant the “Atheist, Republican and Malthusian Charles Bradlaugh out as well.

2.00 pm 12th November 2016
Older Feminist Network
Millman Community Centre,
50 Millman St, London WC1N 3EW

The Older Feminist Network meets every second Saturday of the month at the Millman Community Centre from 12.00 noon, with a talk or presentation at 2.00 pm. New members  and visitors welcome.



THINKING ON SUNDAY at CONWAY HALL, Annie Besant’s Passion for Malthusiansm

A variation on a talk given at the Theosophical Society on September 30th 2017 as part of a two day conference on Annie Besant, but with more emphasis on Annie Besant’s role in the National Secular Society and her working partnership with the “Atheist, Republican and Malthusian”, Charles Bradlaugh, founder and leader of the National Secular Society, which still exists today.

Annie Besant is now most famous for her role in the 1888 Matchgirls’ strike,  and perhaps for her association with George Bernard Shaw and the Fabians, but she first became known to her contemporaries in 1877, when she stood trial  alongside  Charles  Bradlaugh,  charged under the Obscene Publications Act  1857 for re-publishing a birth control pamphlet “The Fruits of Philosophy” first published anonymously but written by an American, Dr Charles Knowlton.  Annie Besant’s pro contraception stand has associated her with feminism, but her principle argument for birth control was Malthusian, while the majority of  late 19th century feminists, including Millicent Fawcett condemned  birth control as likely to lead to the greater oppression of women. A striking example of autres temps, autres moeurs.

Part of The Thinking on Sunday series at Conway Hall
2.30 Sunday 26th November 2017

Brockway Room
Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
London WC1R 4RL



Bradlaugh and the Early Years of the National Secular Society (1866-1891)

The talk looks again at the maverick Charles Bradlaugh, Sledgehammer of a Speaker and his management skills in creating what was the largest radical as well as secularist organisation in the country; the issues he championed, including his defeats as well as his successes; his long struggle to take his seat  in parliament and something of the Fruits of Philosophy “Obscenity” Trial.

Part of all day event “Celebrating 150 years of the National Secular Society
hosted by the National Secular Society on September 3rd  2016

Keynote speaker: Jaques Berlinerblau
Other Speakers:  Douglas Murray, Raheel Raza, Maajid Nawaz,  Safak Pavey, Tehmina Kazi, Keith Porteous Wood, Paul Rowe, Stephen Evans, Judy Audaer.

National Secular Society

Anti-Socialist, Working Class Radicalism in the Second Half of the 19th Century


February 16th 2015 at 5.30

Most radicals in the the 19th century wanted the vote and other constitutional reforms, they promoted compulsory education for the working classes and a women’s right to work and enter the professions, but in a de facto alliance with the Liberal party, they had no great quarrel with capitalism. Instead, partly financed by the “London Millionaire” and newspaperman Samuel Morley M.P. , leading radicals, including Charles Bradlaugh  and George Odger  quarreled with Karl Marx and his allies (in and outside the IWMA)  and put forward a radical and individualistic alternative to the Socialist Revival and the Second International.

London Socialist Historians
Venue: Room 102 Institute of Historical Research, Senate House,
University of London, Malet St, WC1, further information

Political Skulduggery, What kept Charles Bradlaugh out of Parliament?

Bradlaugh out and in

The “Atheist, Republican and Malthusian” Charles Bradlaugh  was a “sledgehammer” of a public speaker and he  had a huge following among  the working and artisan class, but he  was  not everyone’s hero. Otherwise at ideological loggerheads, Karl Marx and William Gladstone were both united in hating Bradlaugh.

Bradlaugh was elected as a Liberal MP for Northampton in the General Election of 1880, but though the Liberals won a majority, Bradlaugh  was kept from taking his seat in Parliament for six long years. From the Tory benches Lord Randolph Churchill initially organised the “Fourth Party” just to  harry Bradlaugh, and despite Gladstone being prime minister and the Liberals being in power, Bradlaugh publicly blamed the Tories for his exclusion. He also gave hostility to his  atheism as the reason for the endless manoevres to keep him from taking his seat. History has tended to share Bradlaugh’s view, but many  contemporaries saw Bradlaugh’s well known support for birth control as a greater threat to the world as they knew it, than his atheism.

Either way Bradlaugh was kept out of parliament for six years on various fluctuating arguments over his eligibility as an atheist to take the oath of allegiance on the Bible. And equally various and fluctuating arguments on whether atheists could affirm or not. The issue was finally resolved when the Tories were returned and an Act was passed allowing atheists to affirm allegiance, though before that Salisbury’s  Tory government had already allowed, what Gladstone’s Liberal government  had denied, and  quietly just allowed Bradlaugh to take the oath in the normal way. But there is more to the tale than simply that!

October 25th 2015 at 11am and again at 2pm
The Library
Conway Hall,
25 Red Lion Square,

Part of Parliament’s Magna  Carta “Festival of Freedoms” celebrations.

More information


Annie Besant and the Two Separate Inaugural Congresses of the Second International: Paris, August 1889.

eight hour day

Annie Besant’s interventions at the two conflicting inaugural Congresses of the Second International in Paris 1889 are now little remembered. Yet with other anti-socialist radical  and trade union allies, she fought hard and successfully to prevent the two  congresses (the Possibilist and the Marxist)  from merging.  And she worked equally hard, but this time unsuccessfully, to prevent the adoption of the statutory Eight Hour Working Day as a key Second International demand.

Annie Besant was the Pall Mall Gazette’s correspondent in Paris for the duration of the two inaugural Second International congresses  and her heavily slanted reports  reveal far more than she knew.

The talk is part of the two day conference at the School of History, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK to be held on 15-16 February 2014.

Hosted by the UEA School of History, in conjunction with the journal Socialist History and the Institute of Working Class History (Chicago) are hosting a conference on “Workers’ Internationalism before 1914“.
Check website for details of the many other speakers