I happened to be in the vicinity of the LSE recently, and having heard about a new exhibition in the Library entitled 'Campaigning: Causes and Connections' I thought I'd take a look. I found a strikingly designed space, well structured and full of thought-provoking items about electoral reform, the suffragettes, CND and gay rights. The centrepiece is the superb wall display, which features a stunning sequence of photographs and text that are blown up to monumental size and set on a slow-moving loop. This wall almost forms an artwork in itself; the photographs of crowd scenes are full of incident and detail, and - as with all great paintings - I'm sure that different people will see and interpret different things. It probably says a lot about me, but I also found the ostensibly mundane items fascinating: typed and handwritten letters, minutes, memos, postcards of staged scenes and what not don't sound up to much, but the typeface, old-fashioned letterheads, scrawled handwriting, even the shoddy quality of the original paper itself somehow exert a strange spell.
As to the historical content, I have to say that I found this to be something of a fillip after the intellectually dispiriting election campaign that we have just endured. (I realise that to some extent the comparison is unfair as the concentrated burst of political activity - I don't think that I can dignify it with the term campaigning - during a modern general election is nothing to do with the sustained commitment and engagement that working for deep societal change requires - Parliament is the last place that you're going to get that!) While walking around I jotted down a few themes, many of which struck me as perennial: the need to take the long view when seeking to achieve change; the inevitable despondency following reverses and defeats, and the difficulty of maintaining the faith; colossal personality clashes among leaders; disagreements, infighting, tactical blunders and - yes, occasionally - triumph: it's all here. And it made me think how much we do owe to these campaigners, their reserves of stamina, patience, courage and fortitude, and how poorly we compare in some respects. We could learn a thing or two from them: it takes more than a tweet to change the world.