E. P. Thompson and English radicalism

Edward P. Thompson's activities and writings were diverse spanning literature, history, fiction and poetry, biography, adult education, socialist and libertarian politics, and peace-movement activism. This book explores the various aspects of his intellectual and political work, and its legacy to later generations of radical thinkers and activists in Britain and internationally. Thompson taught exclusively literature classes for the first three years at the University of Leeds, and aimed to attain and maintain a university standard of adult education. The book examines the way in which The Making of the English Working Class grew out of Thompson's day-to-day work at Leeds. Although Thompson's fusion of Marxism with social history constituted the central attraction of his work, he himself bore a degree of responsibility for subsequent dismissals of the Marxist dimension in his work. The book examines Thompson's career-long commitment to literature and to the craft of writing, and makes clear some significant continuities and contrasts within Thompson's specifically literary output. Thompson's concept of socialist humanism retained a resonance and distinctiveness for the twenty-first century, which was a defining characteristic of the early New Left after 1956. The content of Thompson's analyses provides us with one of the richest account of the flesh and blood of emancipation, and the experience, suffering, failure and courage of the working class. The book also looks at his peace movement from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1950s and 1960s to the European Nuclear Disarmament in the 1980s.

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‘Intellectually exploratory and written with admirable clarity, E.P.Thompson and English radicalism achieves the almost impossible: it does justice to a great historical thinker and practitioner who also wrote poetry, loved liberty, hated humbug and resisted the inner and the outer hold of capital over human existence and experience. It illuminates a valiant, many-sided, quizzical friend of the people for readers who know his work and for those yet to discover his writing.'
Sheila Rowbotham, author of 'Dreamers of a New Day: Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century' (2010)

‘Roger Fieldhouse and Richard Taylor's book provides a comprehensive summary of Thompson's own history and activism...Roger Fieldhouse and David Goodway expand our understanding of Thompson's career as an adult educator, and their essays are arguably ones that bring some new evidence to readers' attention. They offer a fresh view of the origins of The Making and Thompson's decision to resign from the Leeds extramural department due to its increasing bureaucratization and elitism.'
Christos Efstathiou, Journal of Contemporary History
Journal of Contemporary History
January 2016

‘This is a good moment to revive E.P. Thompson's political project – the project, as Kate Soper puts it in a wonderfully illuminating essay, of rescuing the 'moral imagination' from pragmatism (the tendency to accept existing reality as immutable and necessary), the project of celebrating human agency and understanding both history and contemporary events from below. This eloquent set of essays manages to address, both sympathetically and critically, the many and varied aspects of Thompson's life, as a historian, a teacher, a poet, a political activist, a Marxist and libertarian, and an Englishman and a cosmopolitan. Thompson's legacy is hugely relevant for the troubled times in which we now live.'
Mary Kaldor, The London School of Economics and Political Science

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