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The Verso Book of Dissent: From Spartacus to the Shoe-Thrower of Baghdad

A sparkling anthology of revolt and resistance to orthodoxy and repression.
Throughout the ages and across every continent, people have struggled against those in power and raised their voices in protest—rallying others around them and inspiring uprisings in eras yet to come. Their echoes reverberate from Ancient Greece, China and Egypt, via the dissident poets and philosophers of Islam and Judaism, through to the Arab slave revolts and anti-Ottoman rebellions of the Middle Ages. These sources were tapped during the Dutch and English revolutions at the outset of the Modern world, and in turn flowed into the French, Haitian, American, Russian and Chinese revolutions. More recently, resistance to war and economic oppression has flared up on battlefields and in public spaces from Beijing and Baghdad to Caracas and Los Angeles.

This anthology, global in scope, presents voices of dissent from every era of human history: speeches and pamphlets, poems and songs, plays and manifestos. Every age has its iconoclasts, and yet the greatest among them build on the words and actions of their forerunners. The Verso Book of Dissent will become an invaluable resource, reminding today’s citizens that these traditions will never die.


  • “A delightful anthology to dip into if you are or have ever been disgruntled with the status quo ... for radicals everywhere.”
  • “A very right-on compendium of opposition to authority.”
  • “Reading the [The Verso Book of Dissent] is like encountering the best version of our angry selves.”
  • “A near-definitive anthology.”
  • “The anthology's editors excerpt the writings of a wide array of historical figures, including Socrates ... Martin Luther King ... [and] the Marquis de Sade.”
  • “An anthology of quotes and excerpts to commemorate Verso's 40th anniversary.”
  • “A unique anthology.”
  • “Almost a Leftist coffee-table book ... a good gift for budding activists and writers.”


  • Factory Girl: An extract from Han Kang's Human Acts

    The Gwangju Uprising was a popular rebellion in defiance of martial law in Gwangju, South Korea. To mark the anniversary of the uprising on 18 May, 1980, Verso is proud to publish an excerpt from Human Acts (Portobello, 2016) by Han Kang and translated by Deborah Smith, winners of the Man Booker International Prize 2016. Opening in the Gwangju Commune, Human Acts unfurls in the crucible of the 1980s student and worker-led democratic movement demanding an end to military rule. After a citizen’s army fought back against the crackdown on protests and ejected the military from the city, an autonomous community comparable to the Paris Commune endured for a few days until it was crushed by a military operation on 27 May that killed and injured thousands. Deborah Smith’s Introduction excerpted here contextualises the events of the uprising and is followed by a selection from the chapter ‘Factory Girl’. Featuring a women’s splinter group from the main union, the excerpt portrays the complexities around class and gender in the democratisation movement.  

    (Thousands of Gwangju citizens amassed in the city square during the May 1980 uprising)

    In early 1980, South Korea was a heap of dry tinder waiting for a spark. Only a few months previously Park Chung-hee, the military strongman who’d ruled since his coup in 1961, had been assassinated by the director of his own security services. Presiding over the so-called ‘Miracle on the Han River’ – South Korea’s rapid transformation from dirt-poor and war-shattered into a fully industrialised economic powerhouse – had gained Park support from some quarters, though numerous human rights abuses meant he was never truly popular. Recently, he’d succumbed to the classic authoritarian temptation to institute increasingly repressive measures, including scrapping the old constitution and having a new one drawn up making his rule a de facto dictatorship. By 1979 things were fraying at the edges, and Park’s declaration of martial law in response to demonstrations in the far south was, to some, a sign that something had to give.

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  • History Undergraduate Reading List

    The inevitable passing of summer is as good a reminder as any that while you may make your own history, you don't make it as you please. The books on our undergraduate history reading list below offer even better ones.

    Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism
    Lineages of the Absolutist State 

    Both by Perry Anderson

    “A complex, beautifully interwoven account of Europe from the ancient Greeks to modern absolutist monarchies…Exhilarating.” – Guardian

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  • Costas Lapavitsas: "We are clearly at a critical turning point"

    As a deal between Greece and its lenders begins to look increasingly unlikely, Costas Lapavitsas outlines the respective parties' proposals and argues that the "institutions" have left Greece with little choice: accept public defeat—and still no solution to the debt—or default. Visit the Jacobin to read the original piece. Translated by Wayne Hall.

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Other books Edited by Andrew Hsiao and Audrea Lim Preface by Tariq Ali