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The Brian Micklethwait Archive

Our very own Brian has written an awful lot over the years; his writings have influenced, encouraged and advised many of us Samizdatistas and other libertarians. When I heard that he was trying to find his old writings and get them in order, I had a think about how I could help, and so began the Brian Micklethwait Archive.

The idea is first of all to put a lot of old writing in a more convenient, easy to find, search, quote and refer-to location. Some writings exist only as PDFs which do not render well on mobile devices and do not work well with the rest of the internet. That part to do with fixing that has got started already. The next idea is to find all the places Brian has scattered his work, such as his many defunct blogs, and make sure that it stays online and is easy to navigate. Then there are other things such as podcasts to be organised and catalogued, and a database of quotes to build.

Why go to all this trouble? The writings and ideas are valuable. Brian himself has argued for the value of repetition: old audiences need reminding and new audiences need a chance to discover things for the first time. An archive does not have to be a musty museum, seldom-visited: its contents can be blogged and tweeted about and memed for eternity. And it gives me something useful to do: my creativity has not been flowing in the direction of blogging lately, so here is a way I can help the cause of liberty.

And you can help too, by commenting here or otherwise pointing me in the direction of particular bits of Brianalia that I ought to get to sooner rather than later. Or keep an eye on that site or its Twitter account and read and tell people about it.

10 comments to The Brian Micklethwait Archive

  • Patrick Crozier

    Rob, I would like to thank you publicly – I already have privately – for taking on this work. For much the same reasons you state. This is valuable stuff and ought to be propagated. I am currently compiling a list of all the podcasts that Brian has ever participated in. I hope that in due course, the BArch can accommodate them all – assuming we can find them.

  • Rob Fisher

    Excellent, thanks Patrick! Will look forward to working with you to add the podcasts.

  • Mr Ed

    Wonderful work. Just one little request, the first way in which Brian registered on my radar was as the result of a tale (which ought to be clarified) that I heard that in the 1980s, at a time when the Daily Mail ran a prolonged campaign against the Unification Church ‘The Moonies stole my daughter‘ by which the Mail sought to terrify middle-class parents with tales of brainwashing and mass weddings of adherents: Brian had gone to stay with some Moonies at one of their retreats at their invitation (perhaps in York) to discuss religion. The story was that he insisted on discussing matters, and having got to the finer points of predestination and their view of it, he would not shut up about it (as it were) or leave (on the basis that this was a form of contract, which it could well have been). The upshot was that the Moonies called the police, begging them to remove Brian. I still laugh trying to imagine the scene, and the preceding desperate phone call. “There’s a man here who insists on discussing predestination and he won’t leave. Help!“. “Is anyone injured? Do you need an ambulance?”.

  • Another anecdote, indirectly about Brian, is here. Beyond mentioning a pamphlet title, this does not help with the archive, but when writing a front-page to it, such material may assist.

    Sadly, in these days of cancel culture, the importance of archiving is rising. Once upon a time, we said “the web never forgets”, “the web is forever” – still far truer than those who hate free speech would like, but just at the moment (new protocols may help) it is wise to think about whether what you are looking at could disappear.

  • The Pedant-General


    That is a good point – is there a plan afoot to gather all this material into one place? I note that the archive site (currently?) simply points to “Brian’s old blog” which might not achieve that archiving idea – what if “Brian’s old blog” stops being hosted in some way or other?

  • Patrick Crozier

    Mr Ed, the way I remember it was that he was having a go at the Scientologists. And all the action took place in London. Can I find this pamphlet/blog post? No, I can’t.

  • Rob Fisher

    Mr Ed, Niall – I am thinking about adding things that are about Brian in addition to things by him, somehow or another at some point.

    P-G : I would like to gather blog posts, as much as makes sense. The software I am using supports blogging so it’s a matter of importing the data. I’m sure I will figure it out.

  • Paul Marks

    A life time spent in the service of liberty – and a man who was always a very tolerant host when I visited.

    I hope his archive of work helps others – but, I believe, it was the man himself who has been the most help.

    Dealing with libertarians is like “herding cats” – we are very likely to fall out with each other and go our own way. Brian M. managed to keep on good terms with almost everyone – people from radically opposed factions.

    He is indeed “Mr Libertarian” – a person who anyone well desposed to liberty could fee at home with.

    And in his home, or an event he helped organise, he got people to behave with some common decency towards each other – he did so not by threats, but by the power of his own moral example.

    An English Gentleman.

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