Saturday, April 24, 2004

Tony Martin and spring guns

Edis Bevan's blog MKNE Political Information makes a telling comparison between the supporters of Tony Martin and those who defended the use of spring guns by landowners in the nineteenth century.

A couple of explanatory notes: Tony Martin was a British farmer gaoled for murder after shooting a burglar; spring guns were automatic guns intended to hit poachers and anyone else wandering on their owners' land.

Edis refers to one of my favourite books Roads to Ruin by E S Turner. It is a study of the people who opposed various social reforms like banning the use of little boys to sweep chimneys. I am rather alarmed to learn that it is one of Tony Benn's favourite books too.

E S Turner, by the way, is still alive, in his nineties and writing regularly for the London Review of Books.

One of the best parts of Roads to Ruin is the introduction, where Turner says that he had originally intended to include the people who campaigned against the abolition of the requirement for motor cars to be preceded by someone carrying a red flag. However, on studying the matter, he found that their chief argument was that if the flagmen went then many people would be killed by cars.

As he says, history has proved them right.