E. P. Thompson

British historian, writer, socialist and peace campaigner
E. P. Thompson

Edward Palmer Thompson (3 February 1924 – 28 August 1993), usually cited as E. P. Thompson, was a British historian, writer, socialist and peace campaigner. He is probably best known today for his historical work on the British radical movements in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, in particular The Making of the English Working Class (1963).


  • ...class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs. The class experience is largely determined by the productive relations into which men are born—or enter involuntarily. Class-consciousness is the way in which these experiences are handled in cultural terms: embodied in traditions, value-systems, ideas, and institutional forms. If the experience appears as determined, class-consciousness does not. We can see a logic in the responses of similar occupational groups undergoing similar experiences, but we cannot predicate any law. Consciousness of class arises in the same way in different times and places, but never in just the same way.
    • The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin, 1980), pp. 8–9
  • I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the "obsolete" hand-loom weaver, the "Utopian" artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity. Their crafts and traditions may have been dying. Their hostility to the new industrialism may have been backward-looking. Their communitarian ideals may have been fantasies. Their insurrectionary conspiracies may have been foolhardy. But they lived through these times of acute social disturbance, and we did not. Their aspirations were valid in terms of their own experience; and, if they were casualties of history, they remain, condemned in their own lives, as casualties.
    • The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin, 1980), p. 12

Quotes about ThompsonEdit

  • The man who has done more than anyone else to rouse the national conscience over nuclear weapons is E. P. Thompson. ... Like Gladstone, who felt himself called away from writing about the Christine doctrine of eternal punishment to lead the agitation over the Bulgarian atrocities, Thompson abandoned his scholar's desk and the book that he is writing on William Blake last autumn to devote himself to the anti-nuclear cause.
    • Ian Bradley, 'The great crusade gets under way', The Times (25 October 1980), p. 14
  • The life and work of E. P. Thompson exemplified the social and cultural struggles that were taking place in the Britain of the 1950s and 1960s, a period which gave the working class access to higher education in a way that had never happened before. His writings, polemical, astringent and tough minded, had an imaginative sweep which questioned social complacencies and compelled institutions and individuals to look beyond their own narrow concerns and their conception of their past.
    • The Times (30 August 1993), p. 17

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