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E. P. Thompson (1924–1993)

Author of The Making of the English Working Class

65+ Works 3,833 Members 31 Reviews 9 Favorited

About the Author

E.P. Thompson (1924-1993) is among the most acclaimed historians of the twentieth century. He is known for his works The Making of the English Working Class, William Morris, and the Poverty of Theory, among others. Cal Winslow is a Fellow in Environmental History in the Geography Department at the show more University of California, Berkeley, and Director of the Mendocino Institute, a more for profit research and educational center. He was trained at Antioch College and Warwick University where he studied under the direction of E.P. Thompson. His most recent book is Labor's Civil War in California. show less
Image credit: From the Marxists Internet Archive.

Works by E. P. Thompson

The Making of the English Working Class (1963) — Author — 1,742 copies
Protest and Survive (1981) 107 copies
The Unknown Mayhew (1971) — Editor — 79 copies
The Sykaos Papers (1988) 67 copies
Essential E.P. Thompson (2001) 63 copies
Writing by Candlelight (1980) 63 copies
Visions of History (1983) — Editor — 57 copies
The Heavy Dancers (1985) 48 copies
Star Wars (1985) — Editor — 31 copies
Zero Option (1982) 30 copies
Family and inheritance : rural society in Western Europe, 1200-1800 (1976) — Editor; Contributor — 24 copies
Exterminism and Cold War (1982) 15 copies
Out of Apathy: Voices of the New Left Thirty Years on (1989) — Editor; Contributor — 11 copies
Double exposure (1985) 8 copies
Prospectus for a Habitable Planet (1987) — Editor — 7 copies
Defence of Britain (1983) 4 copies
Infant & Emperor (1983) 3 copies
Miseria de la teoría (2021) 1 copy
Collected Poems (1999) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Wheelwright's Shop (1923) — Foreword, some editions — 112 copies
The Modern Historiography Reader: Western Sources (2008) — Contributor — 36 copies
Essays in labour history (1960) — Contributor — 9 copies
THOMAS MCGRATH: LIFE AND THE POEM (1987) — Contributor — 5 copies


Common Knowledge



Note to myself:
around page 88 he talks about how the grundissre has a more idealist conception of history related to its acceptance of the category of political economy and its presentation of capitalism as the idea taking over society without historical movement. The teleological view of history is presented as idealist. It contrasts with his own views of history. I guess what I find interesting is how to separate the idealism and materialism - if conciousness affects the "material" (being as it is part of the material) then it's not always obvious what the idealist part is. If we attribute actions to "capitalism" are we denying that this idea can only work via the actions of human beings. I was thinking about this w/r/t some post structuralist stuff I've seen, which goes completely into attributing all actions to "power" or w/e which basically seems a stand-in for structures or "ideology" and it seems highly idealistic by denying any human action, which of course conflicts with actual experience. the tough thing is being careful when talking about capitalism not to present it as completely autonomous, with capitalism in the material simply being the acting out of the logic of capitalism the idea

I dunno this is 100% incoherent but I wanted to note it down so I remember to go back and re-read this bit.

p119 - he leads up to something that he suggests is a good way of reconciling human agency with structural determinants and then just leaves it there just when you expect him to describe it. Ironically one of his criticisms of Althusser is that he does the same. Which is sort of my frustration with this book - like so far it's had quite a lot of interesting spots but it never really develops them into a really coherent description of his ideas on historical materialism while the quotes from Althusser are often spotty so it doesn't offer a good critique of Althusser either (although it gives some good ideas) and I can't shake the feeling that a lot of his criticism is only vaguely accurate because we don't get a good look at Althusser's ideas. It's also sometimes tough going and I think ironically this is due to the same sort of thing he criticises Marx for - he tries to criticise Althusser within his own sort of terms and gets entangled.

That's not to say I regret reading this book or anything, it's just got a lot of problems, (and I feel Thompson would probably agree on this) mostly due to it trying to be a critique and polemic and explanation of his views on historical materialism. It's tough to fit everything together and give them all their dues. It also solidifies my feelings that most critiques are better using that as a jumping off point and then being 90% just their own views because it avoids the problem of presenting views that are boring to read about and muddled.

p126: i'm pausing this here because it's completely unbearable. Thompson's writing is sometimes a little confusing but I get what he's driving at and it's about things that are tough to explain and that I don't have experience in. Althusser's writing... it's like trudging through tar. Thompson has started quoting him at length and it's like i've read 20 paragraphs all saying "everything is connected" in the most obnoxious, baffling way possible. I can't deal with it. Maybe I'll come back to it when I understand Althusser a bit more. I'll try and read other stuff Thompson has written (his shorter essays and which come with the Monthly Review printing seem really interesting) but for now I'm pausing this.
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tombomp | 2 other reviews | Oct 31, 2023 |
Like a fair amount of academic history, especially older academic history, assumes you know an awful lot going in (e.g., what was the event known as Peterloo?). But a lot of interesting details about the lifeways of the English working class, with emphasis on how what we know is limited because many of the people involved left no records, some deliberately and some because their lives didn’t allow for it, while the records we do have were made by people with very different perspectives from that of most workers. Favorite tidbit: after a Luddite raid on a mill, two raiders were captured alive and probably tortured for information about their compatriots. A clergyman aligned with the ruling class exhorted a 19-year-old to confess. “Can you keep a secret?” he asked. “Yes, yes,” the clergyman said, leaning forward eagerly. “So can I,” he said, and died.… (more)
2 vote
rivkat | 9 other reviews | Feb 11, 2020 |
I will fully admit that this rating is because I had an extremely difficult time following all the moving pieces; I'm not as familiar with English history as I should be, so the names that I probably should know, I didn't, and that did not help much, but Thompson shifts around so often that it's also dizzying geographically and temporally. I did love the immense number of dunks on economic historians he made, and he had some really important points for the field of labor history that I was able to recognize even as a person unfamiliar with the content. It also read much faster than I thought it would! Given the enormous size of the book, it goes by pretty quickly!… (more)
aijmiller | 9 other reviews | Jun 10, 2018 |
I guess I will quip, since no one else has, that a post-structuralist is someone who tries to take the "human" out of the humanities, and thus isn't left with much. While it's a pleasure to read E.P. Thompson, it's a melancholy one. Structuralism and post-structuralism overran academics in capitalist societies like a scourge for the next 30 years after the titular essay was written, all the while actually existing socialism was decaying and collapsing under relentless assault from without and within. So Thompson's humane faith in the historical process as something which is open-ended, evolving and made consciously by actual human beings is like hearing a voice speaking from the grave.… (more)
1 vote
CSRodgers | 2 other reviews | Dec 14, 2017 |



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Associated Authors

Dorothy Thompson Editor, Foreword
Dan Smith Editor
Marshall Arisman Illustrator
Eileen Yeo Editor
Joan Thirsk Editor, Contributor
Daniel Ellsberg Introduction
Staughton Lynd Contributor
Moshe Lewin Contributor
David Montgomery Contributor
Sheila Rowbotham Contributor
Jonathan Schneer Contributor
Vincent Harding Contributor
John Womack Contributor
Eric Hobsbawm Contributor
C. L. R. James Contributor
Linda Gordon Contributor
Peter Dimock Contributor
Betsy Blackman Contributor
Herbert Gutman Contributor
L. K. Berkner Contributor
C. Howell Contributor
Jack Goody Contributor
V. G. Kiernan Contributor
J. P. Cooper Contributor
D. Sabean Contributor
M. Spufford Contributor
Stuart Hall Contributor
Peter Worsley Contributor
Kenneth Alexander Contributor
Ralph Samuel Contributor
Norman Birnbaum Introduction
Alasdair MacIntyre Contributor
John Freeman Photographer
George Walker Cover artist
Heidi Fener Cover designer
Kim Waymer Production manager
Jordi Beltrán Traductor


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