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Scenes from Common Life

V.G. Kiernan, 1 November 1984

A Radical Reader: The Struggle for Change in England 1381-1914 
edited by Christopher Hampton.
Penguin, 624 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 14 022444 0
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Riots and Community Politics in England and Wales 1790-1810 
by John Bohstedt.
Harvard, 310 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 674 77120 6
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The World We have Lost – Further Explored 
by Peter Laslett.
Methuen, 353 pp., £12.95, December 1983, 0 416 35340 1
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... kitchens as well as sabres, ‘aggressive and efficient philanthropy’. Bohstedt goes beyond E.P. Thompson in rejecting any crude equation between hunger and protest; ‘links between hardship and collective violence’ were on his showing very complex. The World We Have Lost came out first in 1965, established itself before long as a landmark in research ...

Counting weapons

Rudolf Peierls, 5 March 1981

Britain and Nuclear Weapons 
by Lawrence Freedman.
Papermac, 160 pp., £3.25, September 1980, 0 333 30511 6
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Countdown: Britain’s Strategic Forces 
by Stewart Menual.
Hale, 188 pp., £8.25, October 1980, 0 7091 8592 8
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The War Machine 
by James Avery Joyce.
Quartet, 210 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 7043 2254 4
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Protest and Survive 
edited by E.P. Thompson and Dan Smith.
Penguin, 262 pp., £1.50, October 1980, 0 14 052341 3
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... by the Civil Defence Pamphlet Protect and Survive) is a collection of essays, edited by E. P. Thompson and Dan Smith, with emphasis on the effect of nuclear weapons on Europe, and particularly on Britain, and on current statements dealing with Civil Defence. An impressive article by Alva Myrdal discusses the function of tactical nuclear weapons, and ...

Against it

Ross McKibbin, 24 February 1994

For the Sake of Argument 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Verso, 353 pp., £19.95, May 1993, 0 86091 435 6
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... here it includes Trotsky and the Trotskyites, the anarchists and oppositional Marxists like E.P. Thompson. Trotsky, whose career engages Hitchens (‘he remains the century’s most arresting instance of the aesthete and intellectual in politics’), and the anarchists make very incompatible bedfellows, while Edward ...

Reach-Me-Down Romantic

Terry Eagleton: For and Against Orwell, 19 June 2003

George Orwell 
by Gordon Bowker.
Little, Brown, 495 pp., £20, May 2003, 0 316 86115 4
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Orwell: The Life 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 448 pp., £20, June 2003, 0 7011 6919 2
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Orwell: Life and Times 
by Scott Lucas.
Haus, 180 pp., £8.99, April 2003, 1 904341 33 0
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... and flamboyant gesture which recalls some of the less reputable political writings of E.P. Thompson. (Thompson was no fan of Orwell, perhaps in part because he saw in him an image of his own romantic emotivism and self-conscious idiosyncratic bluffness.) Orwell was for the most part incapable of giving an oblique ...

Sexual Politics

Michael Neve, 5 February 1981

Edward Carpenter, 1844-1929: Prophet of Human Fellowship 
by Chushichi Tsuzuki.
Cambridge, 237 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 521 23371 2
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... Peculiar alliances are struck over this dislike, most notably between Taylor himself and E.P. Thompson. The two men united in their pronouncements as to the emptiness of Carpenter’s ‘individualism’, the weedy, private-income vegetarianism that he embodied, the hopeless blend of mysticism and retreatism that took the place of politics. The now ...

I am the Watchman

Linda Colley: William Cobbett, forerunner of the Sun, 20 November 2003

William Cobbett: Selected Writings 
edited by Leonora Nattrass.
Pickering & Chatto, 2312 pp., £495, December 1998, 1 85196 375 8
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Rural rides 
by William Cobbett, edited by Ian Dyck.
Penguin, 576 pp., £9.99, September 2001, 0 14 043579 4
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... obscured by a succession of socialist expositors from his Fabian biographer G.D.H. Cole to E.P. Thompson. Believing that Cobbett’s life coincided with the Industrial Revolution’s most violent assault on English labouring conditions (something many economic historians would now dispute), this school of writers interpreted his abiding interest in rural ...

English Marxists in dispute

Roy Porter, 17 July 1980

Arguments within English Marxism 
by Perry Anderson.
New Left Books, 218 pp., £3.95, May 1980, 0 86091 727 4
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Capitalism, State Formation and Marxist Theory 
edited by Philip Corrigan.
Quartet, 232 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 7043 2241 2
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Writing by Candlelight 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 286 pp., £2.70, May 1980, 0 85036 257 1
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... in particular have been summarily attacked as weeds. The hot temper of so many responses to Edward Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963) indicates that many scholars, herbicide to hand, regard Marxist historiography as a menace. Professor J.H. Hexter’s recent ad hominem assault on Christopher Hill’s scholarly integrity seems to reveal ...

Everybody’s Friend

D.A.N. Jones, 15 July 1982

William Cobbett: The Poor Man’s Friend 
by George Spater.
Cambridge, 318 pp., £15, March 1982, 0 521 22216 8
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... is not inconsistent to recognise that an old enemy is no longer such a danger as an old ally. E.P. Thompson would like Cobbett to have a stricter political theory. He wrote in 1965: ‘Cobbett helped to create and nourish the anti-intellectualism and the theoretical opportunism (masked as “practical” empiricism) which has remained an important ...

Fiery Participles

D.A.N. Jones, 6 September 1984

Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... on ‘as Hazlitt rightly observed’. He accepts Hazlitt’s judgments as trustingly as E.P. Thompson did, in The Making of the English Working Class. Similarly, in her collection of ‘English Prose Texts’, Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy, Marilyn Butler finds it useful to quote Hazlitt when she has to introduce the dull writings ...

In Love

Michael Wood, 25 January 1996

Essays in Dissent: Church, Chapel and the Unitarian Conspiracy 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 264 pp., £25, October 1995, 1 85754 123 5
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... Elmer More whether his God was some kind of Santa Claus. Davie’s eloquent disagreement with E.P. Thompson allows us to see the strength of Davie’s uncompromising position, and also to see what he himself won’t see – or won’t allow himself to say he sees. Davie wishes to divorce Dissent and the Left in Britain, to show that Dissenters in religion ...

It’s a riot

Michael Ignatieff, 20 August 1981

‘Civil Disturbances’: Hansard, Vol. 8, Nos 143-144, 16 July 1981 – 17 July 1981 
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... which triggers riot. Historical analogy with the 18th-century food riots, examined by E.P. Thompson, suggests that explanation should look beyond conditions to the specific legitimising notion or incident which gives reason to riot. In Toxteth, for example, it was not just any arrest which started the trouble but the arrest of the son of a Jamaican ...

Labouring

Blake Morrison, 1 April 1982

Continuous 
by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, £3.95, November 1982, 0 86036 159 4
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, 120 pp., £3.50, November 1981, 0 86036 178 0
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US Martial 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 29 0
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A Kumquat for John Keats 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 31 2
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... the suppression of working-class speech over the centuries. Harrison himself, believing with E.P. Thompson and other historians that ‘the dumb go down in history and disappear’ and that ‘the tongueless man gets his land took’, determinedly departs from that silent heritage: for him,                           the job ’s ...

When Neil Kinnock was in his pram

Paul Addison, 5 April 1984

Labour in Power 1945-1951 
by Kenneth Morgan.
Oxford, 546 pp., £15, March 1984, 0 19 215865 1
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... In the 1940s Labour was soundly élitist. The analysis can be extended to external affairs. E.P. Thompson and others have explained that in the 1890s the British working classes became deeply implicated in imperialism. Indeed, one need look no further than Bevin, or (if he counts as working-class) Morrison, for confirmation. Bevin grew very attached to the ...

Designing criminal policy

David Garland, 10 October 1991

Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law and Policy in England, 1830-1914 
by Martin Wiener.
Cambridge, 391 pp., £30, February 1991, 9780521350457
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... histories much more sceptical and critical than the first. Writers such as Douglas Hay, E.P. Thompson, Michael Ignatieff, and especially Michel Foucault, retold the story in a much more analytical and sophisticated way, showing how criminal justice developments were tied into wider social movements such as the rise of capitalism, the expansion of the ...

Make me work if you can

T.H. Breen, 18 February 1988

Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775 
by Roger Ekirch.
Oxford, 277 pp., £25, November 1987, 0 19 820092 7
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... seemed the perfect answer. His analysis draws, of course, on the seminal work of E.P. Thompson, Douglas Hay, J.M. Beattie, and others who have shown how judges used their discretion to banish persons who might well have been hanged. ‘The Liberties of a free people,’ wrote William Paley, ‘permit not those precautions and restraints, that ...

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