Raphael Samuel

On the long flight to Shanghai, I read Alison Light’s sad and occasionally tortured, but highly evocative and deeply felt memoir A Radical Romance of her relatively brief marriage to Raphael Samuel, the social and labour historian who she joined to live in cheerful, but sometimes claustrophobic chaos in his house in Elder Street, recalling a time when Spitalfields was still dominated by its market and before the invasion of a later generation of middle-class conservationists. She well conveys his personality, always late, hectic, fascinated by people and their lives, acquisitive of records and things, working away in the British Library and Bishopsgate Institute until his premature death from cancer and burial in Highgate Cemetery.

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