Best Selling Books by EP Thompson

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The Making of the English Working Class
A seminal text on the history of the working class by one of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth century. 

During the formative years of the Industrial Revolution, English workers and artisans claimed a place in society that would shape the following centuries. But the capitalist elite did not form the working class—the workers shaped their own creations, developing a shared identity in the process. Despite their lack of power and the indignity forced upon them by the upper classes, the working class emerged as England’s greatest cultural and political force. Crucial to contemporary trends in all aspects of society, at the turn of the nineteenth century, these workers united into the class that we recognize all across the Western world today. E.P. Thompson’s magnum opus, The Making of the English Working Class defined early twentieth-century English social and economic history, leading many to consider him Britain’s greatest postwar historian. Its publication in 1963 was highly controversial in academia, but the work has become one of the most influential social commentaries every written.
release date: Jan 01, 1978
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Poverty of Theory
This classic collection of essays by E.P. Thompson, one of England’s most renowned socialist voices, remains a staple text in the history of Marxist theory. The bulk of the book is dedicated to Thompson’s famous polemic against Louis Althusser and what he considers the reductionism and authoritarianism of Althusserian structuralism. In lively and erudite prose, Thompson argues for a self-critical and unapologetically humanist Marxist tradition. Also included are three essays of considerable importance to the development of the New Left.
release date: Nov 01, 2001
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release date: Aug 01, 1993
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Customs in Common: Studies in Traditional Popular Culture
Customs in Common is the remarkable sequel to E.P. Thompson’s influential, landmark volume of social history, The Making of the English Working Class. The product of years of research and debate, Customs in Common describes the complex culture from which working class institutions emerged in England—a panoply of traditions and customs that the new working class fought to preserve well into Victorian times.

In a text marked by both empathy and erudition, Thompson investigates the gradual disappearance of a range of cultural customs against the backdrop of the great upheavals of the eighteenth century. As villagers were subjected to a legal system increasingly hostile to custom, they tried both to resist and to preserve tradition, becoming, as Thompson explains, “rebellious, but rebellious in defence of custom.” Although some historians have written of riotous peasants of England and Wales as if they were mainly a problem for magistrates and governments, for Thompson it is the rulers, landowners, and governments who were a problem for the people, whose exuberant culture preceded the formation of working-class institutions and consciousness.

Using a wide range of sources, Thompson shows how careful attention to fragmentary evidence helps to decode the fascinating symbolism of shaming rituals including “rough music,” and practices such as the ritual divorce known as “wife sale.” And in examining the vigorous presence of women in food riots from the sixteenth century onwards, he sheds further light on gender relations of the time.

Essential reading for all those intrigued by English history, Customs in Common has a special relevance today, as traditional economies are being replaced by market economies throughout the world. The rich scholarship and depth of insight in Thompson’s work offer many clues to understanding contemporary changes around the globe.
release date: Feb 28, 2001
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Essential E.P. Thompson

E.P. Thompson was one of the most visionary and influential historians of the last century, acclaimed as the innovator of “history from below”—the immersion in the many details of everyday life, particularly among the working class, as a vital means of understanding the past and the patterns of history itself. His classic work, The Making of the English Working Class, changed the ways in which not only historians but a whole new generation looked at the past. The Essential E.P. Thompson, the largest collection of Thompson’s historical work published in one volume, gives us the full range of his scholarly output, from William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary and The Making of the English Working Class, to Albion’s Fatal Tree and Customs in Common. Both a superb introduction for those new to Thompson’s work, and an invaluable addition to any history lover’s collection, The Essential E.P. Thompson is a stirring testament to the range, complexity, and vision of “one of the most eloquent, powerful, and independent voices of our time” (The Observer, London).

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release date: Oct 24, 2011
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Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England
In the popular imagination, informed as it is by Hogarth, Swift, Defoe and Fielding, the eighteenth-century underworld is a place of bawdy knockabout, rife with colourful eccentrics. But the artistic portrayals we have only hint at the dark reality. In this new edition of a classic collection of essays, renowned social historians from Britain and America examine the gangs of criminals who tore apart English society, while a criminal law of unexampled savagery struggled to maintain stability.

Douglas Hay deals with the legal system that maintained the propertied classes, and in another essay shows it in brutal action against poachers; John G. Rule and Cal Winslow tell of smugglers and wreckers, showing how these activities formed a natural part of the life of traditional communities. Together with Peter Linebaugh’s piece on the riots against the surgeons at Tyburn, and E. P. Thompson’s illuminating work on anonymous threatening letters, these essays form a powerful contribution to the study of social tensions at a transformative and vibrant stage in English history.

This new edition includes a new introduction by Winslow, Hay and Linebaugh, reflecting on the turning point in the social history of crime that the book represents.
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release date: Mar 01, 2013
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Whigs and Hunters
With Whigs and Hunters, the author of The Making of the English Working Class, E. P. Thompson plunged into the murky waters of the early eighteenth century to chart the violently conflicting currents that boiled beneath the apparent calm of the time. The subject is the Black Act, a law of unprecedented savagery passed by Parliament in 1723 to deal with 'wicked and evil-disposed men going armed in disguise'. These men were pillaging the royal forest of deer, conducting a running battle against the forest officers with blackmail, threats and violence. These 'Blacks', however, were men of some substance; their protest (for such it was) took issue with the equally wholsesale plunder of the forest by Whig nominees to the forest offices. And Robert Walpole, still consolidating his power, took an active part in the prosecution of the 'Blacks'. The episode is laden with political and social implications, affording us glimpses of considerable popular discontent, political chicanery, judicial inequity, corrupt ambition and crime.
release date: Mar 01, 2001
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The Essential E. P. Thompson (New Press Essential)
The most comprehensive selection of writings from the acclaimed historian.
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release date: Mar 07, 2011
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William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary (Spectre)
This biographical study is a window into 19th-century British society and the life of William Morris—the great craftsman, architect, designer, poet, and writer—who remains a monumental and influential figure to this day. This account chronicles how his concern with artistic and human values led him to cross what he called the “river of fire” and become a committed socialist—committed not only to the theory of socialism but also to the practice of it in the day-to-day struggle of working women and men in Victorian England. While both the British Labor Movement and the Marxists have venerated Morris, this legacy of his life proves that many of his ideas did not accord with the dominant reforming tendencies, providing a unique perspective on Morris scholarship.
release date: Feb 17, 2020
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Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England
With its landscaped parks and polite culture, Hanoverian England presented a facade of quiet elegance to the world. But the domestic peace of the 18th century was seriously disturbed by gangs of wreckers, smugglers and poachers, and its apparent stability was underpinned by a criminal law of unexampled savagery. In this collection of essays, the authors look at the role of the criminal law in maintaining the role of the propertied classes and, in another essay, reveals it in action against the poachers of Cannock Chase, Staffordshire. The book also discusses smugglers and wreckers and shows how these activities formed a natural part of the life of many traditional communities.
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