New Star Blogs

On the trail of labour turncoat Robert Gosden


Robert Gosden was a working man who, at a time when a wave of socialist revolution looked set to transform the world, was in the very vanguard of change. A little later, however, the historical record shows him spying on his fellow worker on behalf of the RCMP. What was behind this transformation?
Mark Leier, a labour historian at Simon Fraser University, explores this fascinating footnote in BC history in his book Rebel Life: The Life and Times of Robert Gosden, Revolutionary, Mystic, Labour Spy. On Thursday, September 19 at SFU Harbour Centre, Leier will give a talk about Gosden on the occasion of the publication of a revised edition of Rebel Life, originally published in 1999. Rebel Life is shipping now.

Rebel Life pieces together Robert Gosden’s story, and paints a vivid picture of working-class British Columbia in the first half of the 20th century, and of the Marxism-inspired labour agitation of the period that did so much to lift the living standards of the vast majority of Canadian working people. Along the way, Leier offers an equally fascinating lesson in the historian’s craft, as he shares with the reader the process of unearthing Gosden’s story through archival research, interviews, and extensive background reading.

Leier’s SFU Harbour Centre talk serves as the occasion to launch the revised edition of Rebel Life, copies of which will be available for sale. There is no admission charge for the event, which gets underway at 5:30 PM. For more information, see SFU’s event announcement.