Familiar Stranger

Familiar Stranger

A Life between Two Islands


'This is a miracle of a book' George Lamming

'Compelling. Stuart Hall's story is the story of an age' Owen Jones

'Sometimes I feel I was the last colonial'

This is the story, in his own words, of the extraordinary life of Stuart Hall: writer, thinker and one of the leading intellectual lights of his age. Growing up in a middle-class family in 1930s Jamaica, then still a British colony, Hall found himself caught between two worlds: the stiflingly respectable middle class in Kingston, who, in their habits and ambitions, measured themselves against the white planter elite; and working-class and peasant Jamaica, neglected and grindingly poor, though rich in culture, music and history. But as colonial rule was challenged, things began to change in Jamaica and across the world.

When, in 1951, a scholarship took him across the Atlantic to Oxford University, Hall encountered other Caribbean writers and thinkers, from Sam Selvon and George Lamming to V. S. Naipaul. He also forged friendships with the likes of Raymond Williams and E. P. Thompson, with whom he worked in the formidable political movement, the New Left, and developed his groundbreaking ideas on cultural theory. Familiar Stranger takes us to the heart of Hall's struggle in post-war England: that of building a home and a life in a country where, rapidly, radically, the social landscape was transforming, and urgent new questions of race, class and identity were coming to light.

Told with passion and wisdom, this is a story of how the forces of history shape who we are.


  • Much more than a memoir, Familiar Stranger is a fascinating insight into how a life shapes a brilliant mind
    Andrea Levy

About the author

Stuart Hall

Stuart Hall was born in Kingston, Jamaica and educated at Oxford University. A pioneering cultural theorist, campaigner, and founding editor of the New Left Review, Hall was one of the most influential and adventurous thinkers of the last half century. He was Director of the University of Birmingham's Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies from 1972, and from 1979 was Professor of Sociology at the Open University. His published work includes The Popular Arts (1964), the co-authored volume Policing the Crisis (1978), The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left (1988), and, with Sarat Maharaj, Modernity and Difference (2001).
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