A Traditional English (Not British) Country Gentleman of the Radical Left’: Understanding the Making and Unmaking of Edward Thompson's English Idiom
Contemporary British History
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This essay discusses E. P. Thompson's relationship with an English sense of tradition, exploring in particular his shifting characterisation of an English idiom in the three closely linked, polemical rejoinders he offered to the ideas advanced by major Marxist intellectual figures in the 1960s and 1970s. It draws particular attention to themes that have either been overlooked or relegated to the margins by previous commentary—specifically, his rhetorical style and sense of audience. And it charts a notable, yet largely unnoticed, shift in his thinking in this period—from an appeal to an English sense of tradition to an assertion of the merit of historical forms of understanding.