E. P. Thompson

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Edward Palmer Thompson (3 February 1924 – 28 August 1993) was an English 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). He also published influential biographies of William Morris (1955) and (posthumously) William Blake (1993) and was a prolific journalist and essayist. He also published the novel The Sykaos Papers and a collection of poetry.

Thompson was one of the principal intellectuals of the Communist Party in Great Britain. Although he left the party in 1956 over the Soviet invasion of Hungary, he nevertheless remained a "historian in the Marxist tradition," calling for a rebellion against Stalinism as a prerequisite for the restoration of communists' "confidence in our own revolutionary perspectives".[1] Thompson played a key role in the first New Left in Britain in the late 1950s. He was a vociferous left-wing socialist critic of the Labour governments of 1964–70 and 1974–79, and during the 1980s, he was the leading intellectual light of the movement against nuclear weapons in Europe.


Early life

Thompson was born in Oxford to Methodist missionary parents. His older brother was William Frank Thompson (1920–1944), an officer in World War II who died while aiding the Bulgarian communist partisans.[2]

Edward Thompson was educated at Dragon School, Oxford and Kingswood School, Bath. During World War II, he served in a tank unit in the Italian campaign, and then studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he joined the Communist Party. In 1946 he formed the Communist Party Historians Group along with Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, Rodney Hilton, Dona Torr and others. In 1952 this group launched the influential journal Past and Present.

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