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.