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E.P. Thompson and the Making of the New Left: Essays and Polemics


E. P. Thompson is a towering figure in the field of labor history, best known for his monumental and path-breaking work, The Making of the English Working Class. But as this collection shows, Thompson was much more than a historian: he was a dedicated educator of workers, a brilliant polemicist, a skilled political theorist, and a tireless agitator for peace, against nuclear weapons, and for a rebirth of the socialist project.

The essays in this book, many of which are either out-of-print or difficult to obtain, were written between 1955 and 1963 during one of the most fertile periods of Thompson’s intellectual and political life, when he wrote his two great works, The Making of the English Working Class and William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary. They reveal Thompson’s insistence on the vitality of a humanistic and democratic socialism along with the value of utopian thinking in radical politics. Throughout, Thompson struggles to open a space independent of official Communist Parties and reformist Social Democratic Parties, opposing them with a vision of socialism built from the bottom up. Editor Cal Winslow, who studied with Thompson, provides context for the essays in a detailed introduction and reminds us why this eloquent and inspiring voice remains so relevant to us today.

Also available from Monthly Review Press: The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays by E. P. Thompson

This collection introduces readers to the thought of an outstanding left historian who combined commitment with original and open-minded inquiry. Thompson’s brilliance and wit transformed the scope of working class history internationally, documenting how the action of human beings had shaped the present. Equally engaged in the creation of new forms of left politics as a libertarian socialist, his writings are indispensable weapons for a new generation of activists struggling to reinvent radicalism.

—Sheila Rowbotham, author, Dreamers of a New Day

Thompson led a cometary life as teacher, protester, and socialist historian. Cal Winslow’s invaluable anthology—a gift to the new generation—includes the legendary essays that were so seminal to the emergence of the English New Left in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They exemplify the polemical precision and moral clarity with which EPT opposed both dogma and concession in his quest to recover the soul of the English revolutionary tradition.

—Mike Davis, author, In Praise of Barbarians

Through this timely, well-chosen collection of Edward Thompson’s political and historical essays, Cal Winslow gives vital new life to one of the most creative radical thinkers and activists of the twentieth century.

—Marcus Rediker, author, The Amistad Rebellion

What gift in these troubled times! The full range of Edward Thompson’s work is represented here, a reminder of what a public intellectual should be. This collection educates and inspires.

—John Gillis, author, The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History

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.

A longtime labor, antiwar, and peace activist and educator, Cal Winslow is currently a Fellow in Environmental History in the Geography Department at the University of California, Berkeley and Director of the Mendocino Institute, a not-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.

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Publication Date: July 2014

Number of Pages: 288

Paperback ISBN: 9781583674437

Cloth ISBN: 9781583674444

eBook ISBN: 9781583674550