E.P. Thompson
in English radicalism in the twentieth century
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Thompson contributed significantly to many fields of radical activity and thought: history, polemics, poetry, literary criticism, biography, adult education and academic research. His most influential book, The Making of the English Working Class, played a key role in the development of ‘history from below’, foregrounding the importance of ‘human agency’ in the historical process and arguing passionately for a humanistic socialism. In 1956, he resigned from the CP, following the suppression of the Hungarian uprising, and became a leading figure in the New Left. Thompson was a lifelong peace campaigner and was especially influential in the European Nuclear Disarmament Movement (END), arguing that peace and ‘third way’ positive neutralism were coterminous with the struggles for liberation in Communist Eastern Europe. His directly political articles and books articulated a powerful case for the historical centrality of a deep-rooted English radicalism, centred on working-class resistance to authoritarian ideologies, both religious and political, from the seventeenth century onwards.


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