Skip to main content Skip to navigation


<?xml version="1.0"?>

<!DOCTYPE TEI.2 SYSTEM "base.dtd">




<title>E.P. Thompson: poet of the past</title></titleStmt>

<publicationStmt><distributor>BASE and Oxford Text Archive</distributor>


<availability><p>The British Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus was developed at the

Universities of Warwick and Reading, under the directorship of Hilary Nesi

(Centre for English Language Teacher Education, Warwick) and Paul Thompson

(Department of Applied Linguistics, Reading), with funding from BALEAP,

EURALEX, the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Board. The

original recordings are held at the Universities of Warwick and Reading, and

at the Oxford Text Archive and may be consulted by bona fide researchers

upon written application to any of the holding bodies.

The BASE corpus is freely available to researchers who agree to the

following conditions:</p>

<p>1. The recordings and transcriptions should not be modified in any


<p>2. The recordings and transcriptions should be used for research purposes

only; they should not be reproduced in teaching materials</p>

<p>3. The recordings and transcriptions should not be reproduced in full for

a wider audience/readership, although researchers are free to quote short

passages of text (up to 200 running words from any given speech event)</p>

<p>4. The corpus developers should be informed of all presentations or

publications arising from analysis of the corpus</p><p>

Researchers should acknowledge their use of the corpus using the following

form of words:

The recordings and transcriptions used in this study come from the British

Academic Spoken English (BASE) corpus, which was developed at the

Universities of Warwick and Reading under the directorship of Hilary Nesi

(Warwick) and Paul Thompson (Reading). Corpus development was assisted by

funding from the Universities of Warwick and Reading, BALEAP, EURALEX, the

British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Board. </p></availability>




<recording dur="00:47:57" n="6772">


<respStmt><name>BASE team</name>



<langUsage><language id="en">English</language>

<language id="fr">French</language>



<person id="nm0086" role="main speaker" n="n" sex="m"><p>nm0086, main speaker, non-student, male</p></person>

<personGrp id="ss" role="audience" size="m"><p>ss, audience, medium group </p></personGrp>

<personGrp id="sl" role="all" size="m"><p>sl, all, medium group</p></personGrp>

<personGrp role="speakers" size="3"><p>number of speakers: 3</p></personGrp>





<item n="speechevent">Lecture</item>

<item n="acaddept">History</item>

<item n="acaddiv">ah</item>

<item n="partlevel">UG3</item>

<item n="module">Historiography</item>




<u who="nm0086"> right <pause dur="4.5"/><kinesic desc="overhead projector is on showing transparency" iterated="n"/> so this is a picture of Edward Thompson # at a peace movement rally <pause dur="0.3"/> in nineteen-eighty-one i think <pause dur="0.4"/> # <pause dur="0.4"/> in Trafalgar Square <pause dur="2.2"/> and i put it up there to make as it were <pause dur="0.4"/> very pointedly the point from the start that Thompson is nothing if not a committed <pause dur="0.4"/> historian <pause dur="0.9"/> let me start by telling you a bit about his biography <pause dur="1.0"/> # <pause dur="1.2"/> he grew up in a household that was full of Indian independence <pause dur="0.4"/> agitators <pause dur="0.2"/> his father was a writer a poet <pause dur="0.3"/> a missionary <pause dur="0.3"/> in India <pause dur="0.6"/> # <pause dur="0.2"/> an anti-imperialist campaigner a friend of Nehru's <pause dur="1.0"/> so <pause dur="0.3"/> Thompson's # childhood spent near Oxford <pause dur="0.5"/> was # <pause dur="0.3"/> very much in a kind of political <pause dur="0.3"/> anti-imperialist world <pause dur="0.7"/> he was educated at a Methodist public school he went to Cambridge <pause dur="0.7"/> # he started <pause dur="0.5"/> reading English <pause dur="1.1"/> which is significant and then he switched to History <pause dur="0.6"/> # <pause dur="0.2"/> he was called up <pause dur="0.3"/> this was during the war he was called up <pause dur="0.8"/> # he fights in a tank regiment in Italy and then in France <pause dur="0.5"/> and he goes back to Cambridge after the war to finish his degree <pause dur="1.5"/> in his first # <pause dur="1.0"/> # # period in Cambridge <pause dur="0.5"/>

he joined the Communist Party <pause dur="0.6"/> # following the example of his elder brother <pause dur="0.7"/> who again is significant Frank Thompson <pause dur="1.1"/> Frank Thompson was a kind of romantic hero for his <pause dur="0.3"/> for Edward <pause dur="0.4"/> # <pause dur="0.5"/> during the war Frank served in the Special Operations Executive <pause dur="0.7"/> # which was # organizing <pause dur="0.2"/> # <pause dur="0.2"/> # liaison with partisans in the Balkans <pause dur="0.4"/> # <pause dur="0.7"/> # he was parachuted in behind enemy lines <pause dur="0.6"/> and he was # <pause dur="0.5"/> shot by the Germans <pause dur="0.9"/> # <pause dur="0.3"/> after he'd # <pause dur="0.3"/> teamed up with some Bulgarian partisans in nineteen-forty-four and they got themselves captured by the Nazis and he was executed <pause dur="1.5"/> Frank's death <pause dur="1.1"/> # cemented an emotional link <pause dur="0.5"/> for his younger brother who admired him hugely <pause dur="0.4"/> # an emotional link <pause dur="0.2"/> with the wartime resistance movements in occupied Europe <pause dur="1.0"/> that were to be the touchstone of Thompson's politics throughout his life <pause dur="2.3"/> okay war's over <pause dur="0.5"/> he's got his degree from Cambridge nineteen-forty-eight <pause dur="0.2"/> he moves to Halifax with his wife <pause dur="0.6"/> Dorothy Thompson who's another Cambridge historian and also a communist <pause dur="0.7"/> # they take

up jobs in the W-E-A in adult education <pause dur="1.1"/> and # over the next decade or so Thompson is active as a communist <pause dur="0.4"/> in the West Riding peace movement and labour movements <pause dur="0.9"/> # and <pause dur="0.3"/> out of that comes his sense of who he's writing history for <pause dur="0.7"/> his sense of a popular audience <pause dur="0.5"/> it isn't academia that Thompson wants to address primarily <pause dur="1.3"/> his first two books were written out of his adult education teaching <pause dur="0.6"/> # and for that audience <pause dur="0.3"/> a biography of William Morris in nineteen-fifty-five <pause dur="1.1"/> which evokes the kind of fervour of <pause dur="0.5"/> the religion of socialism of socialist commitment <pause dur="0.3"/> in the eighteen-eighties and eighteen-nineties <pause dur="0.5"/> and his second book his most famous book <pause dur="0.3"/> The Making of the English Working Class in nineteen-sixty-three <pause dur="0.9"/> which is about the formation of <pause dur="0.6"/> and many of you will have looked at it about the formation of working class consciousness <pause dur="0.6"/> in England in the seventeen-nineties to the eighteen-<pause dur="0.4"/>thirties <pause dur="0.4"/> very much rooted in evidence from West Yorkshire <pause dur="0.2"/> where he was living and

teaching <pause dur="1.2"/> now one key influence on Thompson's writing <pause dur="0.8"/> during the late nineteen-forties and early nineteen-fifties <pause dur="0.3"/> was the Communist Party <pause dur="1.8"/> British communism of course was a very marginal <pause dur="0.2"/> political force <pause dur="1.1"/> but it had <pause dur="0.9"/> a highly significant impact on intellectual life <pause dur="0.5"/> both in Britain and beyond <pause dur="0.8"/> because the Communist Party fostered a group of Marxist historians <pause dur="0.4"/> who were among the most distinguished of Britain's post-war historians <pause dur="1.1"/> Rodney Hilton <pause dur="0.6"/> medieval history Christopher Hill <pause dur="0.4"/> and the English Revolution <pause dur="0.3"/> Eric Hobsbawm <pause dur="1.4"/> # <pause dur="1.1"/> and Edward Thompson would be the biggest names among them but there were others as well other significant historians coming out of the Communist Party <pause dur="1.5"/> # <pause dur="0.9"/> for most of these people <pause dur="0.4"/> nineteen-fifty-six <pause dur="0.3"/> was the crunch year when they did their reckoning <pause dur="0.5"/> with official communism <pause dur="0.4"/> that's to say the year when Khrushchev <pause dur="0.4"/> made his famous speech about Stalin's crimes <pause dur="0.4"/> and when the Soviet Union invaded Hungary <pause dur="1.8"/> Thompson was to play a leading role in the <pause dur="0.5"/>

breakaway <pause dur="0.6"/> of intellectuals from the Communist Party <pause dur="0.2"/> at that time <pause dur="1.0"/> and he was central with other ex-communists <pause dur="0.3"/> in establishing <pause dur="0.2"/> what became known as the new left <pause dur="1.4"/> an attempt to work out a <pause dur="0.2"/> kind of post-Stalinist democratic <pause dur="0.6"/> Marxism <pause dur="0.5"/> that was non-sectarian <pause dur="0.2"/> and above all was non-aligned in the Cold War that didn't see <pause dur="0.8"/> Moscow as any better than Washington <pause dur="2.5"/> Thompson's <pause dur="0.4"/> <trunc>a</trunc> and the major political intervention <pause dur="0.4"/> of this new left <pause dur="0.4"/> coming out of the # <pause dur="0.3"/> the breakaway from communism in nineteen-fifty-six <pause dur="0.3"/> was the first wave of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament <pause dur="0.8"/> <trunc>ch</trunc> <pause dur="0.2"/> between <pause dur="0.5"/> late fifties nineteen-fifty-nine nineteen-sixty-four <pause dur="2.1"/> and in fact it was just at the end of that period i first met <pause dur="0.4"/> Edward Thompson on an Aldermaston march <pause dur="0.9"/> the <trunc>f</trunc> <pause dur="0.6"/> second one i went on i think but i was amazed to find myself # <pause dur="0.4"/> walking alongside this fellow <pause dur="0.2"/> whose book i'd <pause dur="0.3"/> just been reading and he talked exactly like he wrote i couldn't understand how a man could be <pause dur="0.3"/> quite that eloquent in just ordinary

conversation <pause dur="1.5"/> i'll give you more of these little personal insights as we go along <pause dur="0.3"/> right <pause dur="0.6"/> # <pause dur="0.8"/> in the same year <pause dur="0.4"/> # nineteen-sixty-five <pause dur="0.7"/> that i <pause dur="0.2"/> met him on an Aldermaston march he was appointed as one of the first members of <pause dur="0.4"/> <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/>'s History department <pause dur="0.5"/> and he stayed at <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> <pause dur="0.3"/> until nineteen-seventy-two establishing the <pause dur="0.2"/> Social History Centre <pause dur="1.7"/> and developing the insights of The Making of the English Working Class back in time essentially <pause dur="0.7"/> # <pause dur="0.6"/> working on <pause dur="0.2"/> crime <pause dur="0.3"/> and the link between crime and popular protest <pause dur="0.7"/> # he got together a group of graduate students <pause dur="0.5"/> # they <pause dur="0.3"/> collectively published <pause dur="0.3"/> a book <trunc>o</trunc> <pause dur="0.2"/> of essays Albion's Fatal Tree in nineteen-<pause dur="0.3"/>seventy-five <pause dur="0.3"/> and in and in the same year Thompson published <pause dur="0.5"/> the book that will be the text <pause dur="0.6"/> for the course <pause dur="0.4"/> # Whigs and Hunters in nineteen-seventy-five <pause dur="2.5"/> now <pause dur="0.4"/> the job at <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> <pause dur="0.2"/> was Thompson's only full time academic appointment <pause dur="1.2"/> # he subsequently after he left <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> <pause dur="0.3"/> lived on royalties journalism the occasional American lecture tour <pause dur="0.4"/> his wife

Dorothy remained <pause dur="0.2"/> in academia <pause dur="0.6"/> and had a distinguished career herself as a historian of Chartism <pause dur="2.0"/> while at <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> <pause dur="0.3"/> Thompson <pause dur="0.2"/> didn't <pause dur="0.5"/> and # simply devote himself <pause dur="0.4"/> to <pause dur="0.4"/> # <pause dur="0.3"/> academic work <pause dur="0.3"/> he was also <pause dur="0.2"/> he went on being a political activist <pause dur="0.9"/> # <pause dur="0.6"/> he writes a series of # <pause dur="0.2"/> # sorry <pause dur="0.3"/> i've lost my <pause dur="0.2"/> place there <pause dur="0.4"/> # <pause dur="0.2"/><vocal desc="sniff" iterated="n"/><pause dur="3.6"/> in the early sixties <pause dur="0.6"/> the new left which i just described as this formation of <pause dur="0.2"/> <trunc>b</trunc> of of anti-<pause dur="0.2"/>Stalinist Marxism that comes out of the break up of the C-P and <pause dur="0.4"/> # the Communist Party in nineteen-fifty-six <pause dur="0.5"/> # <pause dur="0.3"/> the new left <pause dur="0.2"/> splits apart <pause dur="0.3"/> # in the early nineteen-<pause dur="0.2"/>sixties <pause dur="0.4"/> and there's particularly a fall out between younger Marxists on New Left Review <pause dur="0.5"/> and that group of people who are now much older Marxists very much older Marxists still control <pause dur="0.2"/> New Left Review <pause dur="0.6"/> and <pause dur="0.2"/> the people who'd set it up originally Thompson and his friends <pause dur="0.8"/> the younger Marxists <pause dur="0.2"/> embrace a kind of structuralist Marxism <pause dur="0.3"/> that's coming out of France at that time <pause dur="0.2"/> i'll say more about that later <pause dur="0.4"/> but Thompson <pause dur="0.6"/>

defines during the # <pause dur="0.5"/> # <pause dur="0.2"/> # these years he defines a distinctive relationship to Marxism <pause dur="0.4"/> he writes a series of <pause dur="1.0"/> # polemical essays <pause dur="0.2"/> directed at <pause dur="0.6"/> these structuralists on New Left Review notably his essay on the peculiarities of the English <pause dur="0.3"/> in nineteen-sixty-five <pause dur="0.3"/> and it culminates in his book <pause dur="0.3"/> or collection of essays but also the big essay in the book <pause dur="0.2"/> The Poverty of Theory <pause dur="0.8"/> in nineteen-seventy-eight and the an extract from The Poverty of Theory <pause dur="0.8"/> is also part of the text for the seminar <pause dur="1.1"/> and that <pause dur="0.5"/> essay <pause dur="0.4"/> was a polemic against the French Marxist philosopher <pause dur="0.4"/> Althusser <pause dur="0.6"/> who was all the rage among young younger Marxists <pause dur="1.2"/> so Thompson was doing <pause dur="1.2"/> Marxist argumentation as it were <pause dur="0.2"/> while he was <pause dur="0.2"/> teaching at <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> <pause dur="0.4"/> he was also playing a leading role <pause dur="0.4"/> in the unsuccessful campaign of resistance to what <pause dur="0.3"/> he called <pause dur="0.3"/> <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> University Limited <pause dur="0.9"/> that's to say the very close relations the university has always had from the start <pause dur="0.4"/> with # local and national and international <pause dur="0.4"/> business organizations <pause dur="0.7"/> # <pause dur="0.6"/>

you probably all have some idea of the story of what happened perhaps you don't perhaps it's just disappeared in the mists of times i don't know but there was <pause dur="0.3"/> a student occupation of the registry they found a lot of files <pause dur="0.4"/> # that # some of those files <pause dur="0.2"/> # showed the Vice-Chancellor of the time <pause dur="0.4"/> # <pause dur="0.5"/> # going along with Rootes <pause dur="0.5"/> of <pause dur="0.3"/> Rootes <pause dur="0.2"/> yeah <pause dur="0.4"/> # and <trunc>r</trunc> and Rootes Hall <pause dur="0.3"/> # <pause dur="0.2"/> paying # a lawyer to spy on visiting academics who were talking to Coventry workers <pause dur="0.4"/> and stirring up trouble in Coventry factories <pause dur="0.5"/> so # <pause dur="0.5"/> that stuff came out <pause dur="0.2"/> # <pause dur="1.3"/> in fact <pause dur="0.2"/> i went along with Edward the night <pause dur="0.3"/> those files were found to the registry which was occupied by students <pause dur="0.6"/> # <pause dur="0.6"/> we lifted the files we took them home i organized the illegal <trunc>distri</trunc> those <gap reason="inaudible" extent="1 sec"/> the university took out an injunction <pause dur="0.6"/> i organized the illegal distribution of these files while Edward wrote the polemics <pause dur="0.5"/> # about how the liberal university was abusing its <pause dur="0.2"/> position <pause dur="1.4"/> that <pause dur="0.5"/> little local campaign <pause dur="0.9"/> was # part of a much broader issue

for Thompson about civil liberties <pause dur="0.7"/> and throughout the nineteen-seventies he's writing polemical journalism <pause dur="0.3"/> attacking the secret state <pause dur="0.8"/> # defending the right to strike defending the jury system which is under threat and so on <pause dur="0.6"/> and that in a way is <pause dur="0.6"/> quite surprising the the all this is informed by a quite surprisingly un-Marxist sense <pause dur="0.6"/> of the law <pause dur="0.7"/> as an instrument <pause dur="0.2"/> not just of repression <pause dur="0.9"/> but also as an instrument of resistance to repression <pause dur="1.1"/> there were real liberties to be defended he believed <pause dur="0.3"/> the final period of Thompson's life was dominated by the new Cold War <pause dur="0.7"/> from nineteen-seventy-nine <pause dur="0.5"/> by the second wave of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the early nineteen-eighties which owed a great deal to Thompson's <pause dur="0.2"/> skills as a pamphleteer <pause dur="0.3"/> and a public speaker <pause dur="1.0"/> and if i can put myself in the picture once again why not <pause dur="0.3"/> # <pause dur="0.6"/> # <pause dur="0.4"/> i went along to hear Edward talk in Leamington Spa that swept me <pause dur="0.2"/> off my feet and i spent the next six years <pause dur="0.3"/> more or less full time doing peace

movement work and occasionally coming in here to lecture and somehow <pause dur="0.3"/> holding down the job <pause dur="0.6"/> # <pause dur="1.5"/> Thompson <pause dur="0.3"/> gave up history altogether <pause dur="0.6"/> # <pause dur="0.7"/> he helped to found and lead an organization called European Nuclear Disarmament which was <pause dur="0.4"/> all about getting up some kind of non-aligned dialogue between dissidents in the East <pause dur="0.4"/> and dissidents like himself in the peace movement in the West <pause dur="0.7"/> # <pause dur="2.2"/> and his critical intervention in all that was <pause dur="0.2"/> to talk about the importance to theorize about the importance of popular revolt on both sides of the Iron Curtain against what he saw <pause dur="0.2"/> and defined as the <pause dur="0.2"/><kinesic desc="makes quotation mark gesture" iterated="n"/> exterminist was the word he used <pause dur="0.2"/> the exterminist logic <pause dur="0.2"/> of the bloc system <pause dur="0.5"/> we all at that time of course <pause dur="0.2"/> thought <pause dur="0.3"/> that nuclear war <pause dur="0.3"/> was quite possible and would quite possibly happen quite soon <pause dur="0.9"/> that danger might seem quite remote now <pause dur="0.7"/> # but in the early eighties <pause dur="0.3"/> as twenty years earlier <pause dur="0.7"/> the idea that the Cold War confrontation had built into it a structure of exterminism <pause dur="0.9"/> had compelling

force for millions of people and <pause dur="0.3"/> as i say Thompson gave up history <pause dur="0.2"/> altogether <pause dur="0.3"/> full time commitment to the peace movement <pause dur="1.8"/> he's eventually killed <pause dur="0.7"/> by a disease that he picked up while travelling in India <pause dur="0.8"/> which was always part of his kind of one of his places <pause dur="0.6"/> because of the importance of how he grew up as i <pause dur="0.2"/> # said <pause dur="0.4"/> # <pause dur="0.6"/> he died but before he died in nineteen-ninety-three he had time to complete a book on William Blake <pause dur="2.0"/> which was part of a lifelong engagement with the Romantic poets when he was here he taught a special subject <pause dur="0.5"/> on # <pause dur="0.3"/> the making of the English working class and the poets <pause dur="0.6"/> Wordsworth and so on <pause dur="0.6"/> # the book on Wordsworth was never written <pause dur="0.6"/> Thompson had originally intended to be a poet <pause dur="0.8"/> like his father and his brother <pause dur="1.1"/> # <pause dur="0.2"/> not a historian <pause dur="0.9"/> and he did write poetry he wrote a novel <pause dur="0.5"/> a <pause dur="0.4"/> not terribly good novel actually <pause dur="0.4"/> # <pause dur="0.5"/> but his poetic sensibility <pause dur="0.2"/> and craftsmanship went above all into his writing of history <pause dur="9.1"/><kinesic desc="changes transparency" iterated="y" dur="3"/> a contrast there between what i'm calling <pause dur="0.5"/>

Thompson a poet of the past and what Marx said about where poetry <pause dur="0.2"/> has to come from <pause dur="0.6"/> i will come back to <pause dur="1.3"/> now it's clear i think from the sketch i'd given you already that there's an intimate link between history and political commitment <pause dur="0.6"/> for Thompson <pause dur="2.5"/> i'll talk about <pause dur="0.3"/> his take on Marxism a bit later </u><gap reason="break in recording" extent="uncertain"/> <u who="nm0086" trans="pause"> what i want to stress now is the kind of politics <pause dur="0.5"/> that turned Thompson on <pause dur="1.6"/> it certainly wasn't orthodox electoral politics <pause dur="0.8"/> he joined the Labour Party some years after he left the Communist Party but he was never active <pause dur="0.4"/> and he tended to be contemptuous <pause dur="0.2"/> of the kind of machine politics <pause dur="0.4"/> of <pause dur="0.2"/> the established parties <pause dur="0.5"/> though he did actually have Robin Cook <pause dur="0.2"/> working with him closely in European Nuclear Disarmament <pause dur="0.6"/> how things change <pause dur="0.8"/><vocal desc="laughter" iterated="y" dur="1" n="ss"/> # <pause dur="1.9"/> it wasn't electoral politics it wasn't revolutionary politics either which probably is where i was coming from at the time i was <pause dur="0.6"/> with Edward and <pause dur="0.2"/> got rather impatient with him <pause dur="0.2"/> he was very critical of

younger revolutionary Marxists <pause dur="0.3"/> in the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies <pause dur="0.6"/> # <pause dur="0.6"/> though he continued to think of himself as a communist <pause dur="1.2"/> # <pause dur="0.2"/> and imagined a future transformation of society on liberal <pause dur="0.3"/> libertarian democratic communist lines <pause dur="1.0"/> he never thought the time was right for that though <pause dur="1.3"/> the key to Thompson's politics and to the politics actually of a whole generation <pause dur="0.5"/> of leftists <pause dur="0.2"/> that he belonged to <pause dur="0.3"/> was anti-fascism <pause dur="1.3"/> # <pause dur="0.8"/> he'd grown up in the late nineteen-thirties and the nineteen-forties <pause dur="0.7"/> in when the compelling <pause dur="0.6"/> thing was to be part of a popular front against fascism <pause dur="1.1"/> it was a politics of socialism in defeat <pause dur="0.8"/> the highest goal <pause dur="0.2"/> for the time being <pause dur="0.3"/> was to resist fascism <pause dur="1.0"/> and to defend democratic values <pause dur="0.7"/> the revolution the dream of October nineteen-seventeen <pause dur="0.3"/> hadn't been abandoned <pause dur="0.8"/> but it'd been pushed forward into <pause dur="0.3"/> you know a pretty unreal future <pause dur="0.4"/> and it remained there for <pause dur="0.2"/> throughout Edward's life <pause dur="0.2"/> so far as he was concerned <pause dur="0.9"/> the emotional touchstone of his politics

as i said before <pause dur="0.7"/> was the cause for which brother Frank died <pause dur="0.3"/> the European resistance movements against fascism <pause dur="1.0"/> and whatever opportunities existed <pause dur="0.6"/> for a move towards some kind of democratic socialist outcome of the Second World War <pause dur="1.3"/> which Thompson would have argued there were real opportunities for <pause dur="0.2"/> for that to happen <pause dur="1.0"/> # those were decisively closed down of course by the emergence of the Cold War <pause dur="1.5"/> Thompson always had a profound sense that this wasn't actually a very good time to be alive <pause dur="1.9"/> one was if one was coming from where he was standing struggling on the margins of history to defend <pause dur="0.2"/> what you could of human values <pause dur="0.3"/> against a new Dark Ages <pause dur="0.3"/> that the Cold War threatened <pause dur="0.5"/> extermination <pause dur="0.4"/> possibly <pause dur="0.9"/> # <pause dur="1.2"/> when Thompson issued calls for political action he did it not in the language of socialism <pause dur="1.6"/> and social transformation <pause dur="0.5"/> he did it more in a in a more modest language of the defence <pause dur="0.3"/> of democratic values <pause dur="0.3"/> and of human survival <pause dur="1.1"/> the key terms are always

resistance <pause dur="1.8"/> and the English working class is imagined in Thompson's study as a resistance movement <pause dur="0.4"/> against industrial capitalism <pause dur="0.6"/> just like <pause dur="0.5"/> Frank had fought in a resistance movement <pause dur="0.2"/> against Nazism <pause dur="1.1"/> resistance on the one hand and the other key word is protest <pause dur="0.5"/> yeah <pause dur="0.6"/> the whole of his politics is in fact summed up <pause dur="0.2"/> in the title of the pamphlet he wrote that had enormous <pause dur="0.3"/> mobilizing power in the early nineteen-eighties <pause dur="0.2"/> in the peace movement <pause dur="0.2"/> which was called Protest <pause dur="0.2"/> and Survive <pause dur="2.7"/> in difficult times <pause dur="1.5"/> the survival of human values or of humanity itself was about as much as you could expect <pause dur="1.8"/> but it <trunc>req</trunc> <pause dur="0.2"/> require a huge mobilization of human spirit and effort <pause dur="1.9"/> protest wasn't a one-off march down the street or a rally in Trafalgar Square <pause dur="0.3"/> it was a lifelong commitment to untiring activism </u><gap reason="break in recording" extent="uncertain"/> <u who="nm0086" trans="pause"> okay so # <pause dur="1.6"/> why does Thompson matter <pause dur="1.9"/> why am i going on about him <pause dur="0.3"/> well you can see one reason is that i'm totally intoxicated with the man and always was <pause dur="0.7"/> # <pause dur="0.6"/> and <pause dur="0.5"/> given his history it would be impossible

for a course on historiography in the <gap reason="name" extent="1 word"/> History department <pause dur="0.2"/> to leave him out <pause dur="0.5"/> or it will be impossible at least so long <shift feature="voice" new="laugh"/>as i'm around <shift feature="voice" new="normal"/><pause dur="0.6"/> # <pause dur="0.6"/> but where does he fit in <pause dur="0.2"/> to get more serious where does he fit in to the <pause dur="0.2"/> trajectory of the course <pause dur="1.7"/> i think the key <pause dur="0.5"/> point about Thompson is his rejection of <pause dur="0.9"/> structuralism <pause dur="0.4"/> all kinds of structuralism <pause dur="0.7"/> in the name of human agency <pause dur="1.7"/> when he's <pause dur="0.5"/> working in particularly in a Marxist tradition he's <pause dur="0.8"/> rejecting a <trunc>s</trunc> structuralist versions of Marxism <pause dur="1.5"/> but <pause dur="0.3"/> he's working at a time <pause dur="0.2"/> in the mid-twentieth century <pause dur="1.3"/> when <pause dur="0.3"/> much of social theory not only in Marxism <pause dur="0.3"/> but in non-Marxist social theory as well <pause dur="0.5"/> is very much into structuralist understandings of the way society works <pause dur="0.6"/> Weber's iron cage <pause dur="0.8"/> Talcott Parsons and American structural functionalism <pause dur="1.7"/> or the Annales Braudel's idea of the <distinct lang="fr">longue durée</distinct> <pause dur="1.3"/> all these <pause dur="0.3"/> point <pause dur="0.6"/> to <pause dur="0.7"/> underlying often unrecognized determinants of human behaviour <pause dur="0.2"/> as being the secret <pause dur="0.8"/> of

history <pause dur="2.2"/> against that <pause dur="1.1"/> Thompson is committed <pause dur="0.2"/> politically <pause dur="0.3"/> and historically <pause dur="0.6"/> to <pause dur="1.0"/> what <pause dur="0.2"/> is perhaps a very attractive <pause dur="0.2"/> reassertion <pause dur="0.4"/> of <pause dur="0.2"/> human agency <pause dur="0.8"/> against <pause dur="0.7"/> the power of the structures <pause dur="1.5"/> men were free within limits to make their own history <pause dur="2.0"/> Thompson as Thompson put it <pause dur="0.4"/> i think the the quote here is on the sheet i handed round <pause dur="0.3"/> # <pause dur="1.5"/> the <trunc>conce</trunc> he was defending <pause dur="0.6"/> <reading>the precious space of partial of partial free agency <pause dur="0.9"/> against structuralist notions of a history without subjects</reading> <pause dur="0.8"/> yeah <pause dur="0.3"/> a history in which we're just the playthings <pause dur="0.2"/> of the big forces <pause dur="2.3"/> now the most famous statement of # <pause dur="0.4"/> this humanist <pause dur="0.9"/> position <pause dur="0.3"/> is in the preface to The Making of the English Working Class <pause dur="1.0"/> which he saw as a process happening between the seventeen-nineties eighteen-thirties <pause dur="1.3"/> and he describes that process as an <trunc>a</trunc> <reading>an active process <pause dur="0.4"/> which owes as much to agency <pause dur="0.7"/> as it does to conditioning</reading> <pause dur="0.9"/> the working class he says <reading>did not arise like the sun at

the appointed time <pause dur="0.7"/> it was <pause dur="0.2"/> present at its own making</reading> <pause dur="1.9"/> a very paradoxical phrase <pause dur="0.3"/> present at its own making <pause dur="0.9"/> that's to say it didn't simply this whole process doesn't simply reflect changes in the economic base <pause dur="1.0"/> Thompson was embattled against crude mechanical <pause dur="0.4"/> models of working class <pause dur="0.2"/> formation that you might draw out of The Communist Manifesto for instance <pause dur="0.5"/> # as being all about simply a process of massification in towns and factories <pause dur="2.1"/> for Thompson class consciousness <pause dur="0.6"/> far from being <pause dur="0.2"/> working class consciousness <pause dur="0.3"/> far from being an automatic reflex <pause dur="0.8"/> of <pause dur="0.2"/> workers' objective positions in the relations of production <pause dur="2.1"/> involved <pause dur="1.8"/> new ways in which individuals perceive themselves in relation to other people <pause dur="0.2"/> new senses of the self <pause dur="1.2"/> and a whole <pause dur="0.4"/> cultural revolution as it were <pause dur="0.6"/> in people's heads <pause dur="0.2"/> achieved through protracted struggles involving <pause dur="0.5"/> moral energy and tenacity intelligence <pause dur="0.4"/> creative reinterpretation <pause dur="0.3"/> of the social environment <pause dur="0.7"/> difficult choices of

allegiance <pause dur="0.4"/> all kind of individual crises of conscience <pause dur="0.9"/> so it was a very morally <pause dur="0.8"/> # weighted <pause dur="0.3"/> process the process of the formation of class consciousness <pause dur="3.3"/> Thompson's insistence on situating <pause dur="1.4"/> on saying it's present at its own making <pause dur="0.6"/> the working class <pause dur="0.2"/> doesn't come from nowhere it's situated in long traditions <pause dur="0.3"/> of popular protest stretching back to Christopher Hill's <pause dur="0.4"/> radical movements <pause dur="0.4"/> in the seventeenth century and before <pause dur="1.6"/> now here <pause dur="0.2"/> this is the Communist Party history group talking this is Thompson working in a <pause dur="0.2"/> frame of reference that was <trunc>v</trunc> common to all the people in the Communist Party history group <pause dur="0.3"/> it actually <pause dur="0.8"/> much of it comes from Maurice Dobb's studies in the development of capitalism the details are on your sheet <pause dur="0.3"/> # <pause dur="2.0"/> but for Thompson <pause dur="1.0"/> late eighteenth early nineteenth century <pause dur="0.5"/> workers inherit a <pause dur="0.3"/> old and sophisticated popular culture <pause dur="0.7"/> # <pause dur="0.9"/> they aren't a blank sheet on which capitalism writes its agenda <pause dur="0.3"/> <reading>these men</reading> he writes <reading>didn't pass in one

generation from the peasantry to the new industrial town <pause dur="0.6"/> they suffered the experience of the Industrial Revolution as articulate free born Englishmen</reading> <pause dur="1.5"/> like the people he'd been teaching in his W-E-A classes in West Yorkshire <pause dur="2.9"/> now Thompson's equally <pause dur="0.2"/> dismissive <pause dur="1.0"/> of <pause dur="1.4"/> the economic reductionism that's apparent in many non-Marxist accounts of popular protest <pause dur="0.5"/> Chartism was not a knife and fork question <pause dur="0.4"/> it's not simply hunger that drives popular protest <pause dur="0.3"/> popular protest can't be understood as many non-Marxist historians <pause dur="0.6"/> # understood it at the time <pause dur="0.3"/> as irrational outbursts of desperate people <pause dur="1.8"/> popular protest is <pause dur="0.4"/> about moral outrage <pause dur="0.3"/> at the imposition of <pause dur="0.5"/> above all for Thompson the anti-human values of the market <pause dur="2.1"/> the imposition against customary practices <pause dur="0.2"/> embodying values of human community <pause dur="1.0"/> so it's a great drama of a traditional moral economy <pause dur="0.2"/> up against <pause dur="0.2"/> the expansion of the capitalist marketplace the <pause dur="0.4"/> alternative rationality <pause dur="0.4"/> of the cash nexus <pause dur="2.5"/> probably the

most <pause dur="0.4"/> famous # phrase in the preface to The Making of the English Working Class is # which you will all have heard i'm sure <pause dur="0.4"/> is <pause dur="0.3"/> <reading>i am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger the Luddite <pause dur="0.3"/> the obsolete handloom weaver <pause dur="0.2"/> the utopian artisan <pause dur="0.3"/> to rescue them <pause dur="0.2"/> from the enormous condescension of posterity</reading> <pause dur="2.0"/> now he doesn't just mean that we should seek <pause dur="0.6"/> to reconstruct the rationality of the actions of the poor <pause dur="1.3"/> rather than simply seeing them as victims <pause dur="0.6"/> of the great steamroller of progress <pause dur="2.5"/> he's also trying to say there's something more positive than that <pause dur="0.5"/> it's not just that they're not victims <pause dur="0.6"/> they actually <pause dur="1.1"/> may have something to teach us <pause dur="2.0"/> the history of popular protest <pause dur="0.8"/> may make us aware that apparently defeated <pause dur="0.2"/> and futile protest <pause dur="0.7"/> can embody values that speak to our own times <pause dur="1.6"/> the big structure of Thompson's thought is all about <pause dur="0.4"/> traditional attitudes <pause dur="0.7"/> precapitalist if you like attitudes to economic life <pause dur="0.3"/> being swept aside by the logic of the capitalist

market <pause dur="0.5"/> but perhaps those precapitalist <pause dur="0.4"/> moral economies <pause dur="0.2"/> hold clues to what a post-capitalist society might be like <pause dur="3.8"/> so working class consciousness the working class consciousness he evokes in the making <pause dur="0.8"/> # <pause dur="0.3"/> represented a refusal of the value system or rather the amorality <pause dur="1.1"/> of market forces <pause dur="0.9"/> <reading>it is</reading> <pause dur="0.3"/> he writes at one point <reading>a resistance movement</reading> there's resistance again <pause dur="0.2"/> <reading>a resistance movement to the <pause dur="0.2"/> annunciation of acquisitive man</reading> <pause dur="0.7"/> and an insistence that <pause dur="0.3"/> human and community values <pause dur="1.2"/> # were of more worth than the anti-human categories <pause dur="0.9"/> of political economy of economic man </u><gap reason="break in recording" extent="uncertain"/> <u who="nm0086" trans="pause"> it would be easy to be swept along <pause dur="1.2"/> and i can say this with authority <pause dur="0.2"/> it would be easy to be swept along by the force of Thompson's rhetoric <pause dur="2.8"/> but criticism <pause dur="0.4"/> from more orthodox Marxists <pause dur="1.1"/> of Thompson's position from those # <pause dur="0.2"/> younger <pause dur="0.4"/> men <pause dur="0.2"/> # attracted to French structuralism on New Left Review <pause dur="0.3"/> is also worth listening to <pause dur="0.7"/> i've listed i think on the

on the handout # some of those <pause dur="0.2"/> criticisms <pause dur="0.2"/> particularly Perry Anderson <pause dur="0.9"/> # <pause dur="1.5"/> Thompson's approach <pause dur="1.2"/> to class <pause dur="0.9"/> involved a rejection of the notion employed by moth <trunc>mar</trunc> by most Marxists <pause dur="0.5"/> that class has an objective existence prior to any <pause dur="0.3"/> subjective awareness <pause dur="0.9"/> of class <pause dur="1.3"/> you know <pause dur="0.2"/> the the distinction between class in itself and class for itself <pause dur="0.3"/> class as defined objectively <pause dur="1.4"/> and <pause dur="0.9"/> <trunc>c</trunc> <trunc>c</trunc> a class consciousness as representing people's consciousness a coming to <pause dur="0.2"/> a consciousness of their class position and interests <pause dur="0.9"/> now most Marxists <pause dur="1.1"/> use <pause dur="0.7"/> some kind some such distinction between objective and subjective <pause dur="0.2"/> class class in itself class for itself <pause dur="1.8"/> Thompson refused that language <pause dur="1.1"/> he argued that as soon as you concede that <pause dur="0.2"/> class that a class can exist <pause dur="0.3"/> without being conscious in some way <pause dur="0.2"/> of its existence <pause dur="0.7"/> then you're on the road to a mechanical Marxism <pause dur="0.6"/> in which class consciousness is simply given by the economic base not made by human agency <pause dur="1.0"/> class he insists in another of his famous

phrases <pause dur="0.5"/> is not a thing <pause dur="0.3"/> it's a happening <pause dur="4.0"/> on the face of it this is rather a curious argument <pause dur="1.3"/> there's absolutely no <pause dur="0.3"/> reason in logic <pause dur="0.8"/> why <pause dur="0.6"/> making an analytical distinction <pause dur="1.2"/> between <pause dur="0.2"/> objective and subjective class class in itself class for itself <pause dur="0.5"/> must lead <pause dur="0.5"/> to <trunc>proposish</trunc> to the proposition that class consciousness <pause dur="0.4"/> that the process of a class becoming aware of itself as it were <pause dur="0.2"/> is mechanically determined by productive relations <pause dur="0.9"/> a structural definition of class doesn't necessarily imply any mechanical <pause dur="0.3"/> notion <pause dur="0.2"/> of how class consciousness happens <pause dur="0.7"/> class consciousness is a happening not a thing <pause dur="0.8"/> class in itself could be structurally determined class for itself <pause dur="0.4"/> could still be <pause dur="0.3"/> understood <pause dur="0.6"/> as <pause dur="0.2"/> a process <pause dur="1.0"/> a <trunc>dr</trunc> an open drama of the historical process to use one of <pause dur="0.3"/> Thompson's phrases <pause dur="0.3"/> something which emerges or fails to emerge <pause dur="1.0"/> but in so far as it emerges is human agency at work <pause dur="1.6"/> it seemed to more orthodox Marxists that by

placing so much stress on agency <pause dur="0.6"/> Thompson was effectively rejecting the basic claim of Marxism altogether <pause dur="0.7"/> the claim that class struggle <pause dur="1.4"/> was very important in history and was rooted in relations of production <pause dur="0.5"/> and that that was the motor driving historical change <pause dur="6.2"/> Thompson always denied that he was <pause dur="0.2"/> # departing totally from his Marxist formation he always claimed to be some kind of a Marxist <pause dur="1.1"/> # <pause dur="0.7"/> he rejected the notion that class could exist objectively <pause dur="0.3"/> without <pause dur="0.2"/> existing subjectively <pause dur="0.5"/> and his rejection of that was not <pause dur="0.7"/> because he wanted to deny <pause dur="0.6"/> that class was all about the relations of production <pause dur="1.5"/> are you following me here <pause dur="0.3"/> not that he wanted to deny <pause dur="0.4"/> that class <pause dur="0.8"/> was rooted <pause dur="0.5"/> in the processes of production and the relations of production <pause dur="1.0"/> but <pause dur="0.7"/> that he wanted to insist that the relations of production themselves economic life itself <pause dur="1.6"/> <trunc>wa</trunc> <pause dur="0.4"/> was nothing but human relationships <pause dur="1.0"/> this was not <pause dur="0.2"/> there wasn't an economy which was an objective structure out there <pause dur="0.7"/> that human beings

couldn't <pause dur="0.2"/> influence that determined what they did <pause dur="0.4"/> the economy itself was all about human subjectivity and agency <pause dur="3.4"/> what Thompson rejected was the mechanical implications of that favourite Marxist <pause dur="0.2"/> metaphor of the base and the superstructure <pause dur="0.7"/> the economic base political legal cultural superstructure <pause dur="2.2"/> Thompson the poet <pause dur="0.4"/> reacted very sharply against that metaphor <pause dur="0.7"/> so he writes on one occasion <reading>any poet could tell in an instant <pause dur="0.4"/> that trying to contain the fluidity <pause dur="0.2"/> of human existence <pause dur="0.2"/> in a metaphor out of a textbook of constructional engineering <pause dur="0.9"/> base superstructure <pause dur="0.2"/> must be constricting and deforming</reading> <pause dur="1.8"/> base superstructure <pause dur="0.2"/> the accompanying language of causal relationships between different levels of the social formation <pause dur="0.3"/> economy here <pause dur="0.4"/> polity <pause dur="0.3"/> law <pause dur="0.2"/> religion whatever <pause dur="1.2"/> that thinking about <pause dur="1.1"/> a society in terms of levels <pause dur="0.9"/> <reading>does violence <pause dur="0.3"/></reading> Thompson says <reading>to the interaction of social being and social

consciousness</reading> <pause dur="1.1"/> because it suggests a <trunc>s</trunc> distinct <trunc>f</trunc> sphere of the economic from which culture law <pause dur="0.2"/> social consciousness are in some sense <pause dur="0.2"/> absent <pause dur="2.2"/> in reality Thompson argues <pause dur="0.3"/> economic life directly involves <pause dur="0.2"/> all kinds of things <pause dur="0.5"/> relegated by the metaphor to the superstructure <pause dur="0.8"/> it involves the law you can't have an economy without law <pause dur="0.5"/> or not for long <pause dur="0.7"/> it involves religion <pause dur="0.4"/> it involves custom and practice rooted in cultural attitudes <pause dur="1.3"/> as he puts it in The Poverty of Theory <pause dur="0.3"/> reflecting on his study of <pause dur="0.2"/> the eighteenth century <pause dur="0.5"/> <trunc>le</trunc> system <pause dur="1.5"/> normally thought of by Marxists of of eighteenth century law <pause dur="0.8"/> which would normally be thought of by Marxists as belonging to the non-economic <pause dur="0.2"/> superstructure <pause dur="0.7"/> <reading>law</reading> he says <pause dur="0.3"/> <reading>didn't keep politely to a level <pause dur="0.9"/> but was at every bloody level <pause dur="1.6"/> it was <pause dur="0.3"/> imbricated</reading> <pause dur="0.8"/> whatever that means <pause dur="0.9"/> # it was <pause dur="0.2"/> mixed up with <pause dur="0.3"/> <reading>the mode of production and productive relations themselves <pause dur="0.3"/> as

property rights definitions of agrarian practice and so on</reading> <pause dur="1.1"/> now he wrestles throughout his life with <pause dur="0.4"/> how you can express the relationship between social being <pause dur="0.7"/> and <pause dur="0.2"/> the material <pause dur="0.3"/> existence <pause dur="0.2"/> and social consciousness <pause dur="0.5"/> allowing the fluidity and the subtleties of real life <pause dur="0.6"/> how you can do that without abandoning which he didn't want to abandon <pause dur="0.3"/> a materialist insistence on the primary importance <pause dur="0.2"/> of the way in which a society feeds itself <pause dur="0.4"/> the way in which a society <pause dur="0.4"/> produces <pause dur="0.7"/> # <pause dur="0.4"/> on its # in <trunc>d</trunc> in in determining in in shaping <pause dur="0.3"/> the whole structure of its culture and mentality and the dynamics of the conflicts <pause dur="0.2"/> within that society <pause dur="2.3"/> the solution he found was to talk about not a separate <trunc>e</trunc> economic sphere <pause dur="0.5"/> but <pause dur="0.2"/> relations of production as a kind of kernel of everything else that happened in the society a bit of an <pause dur="0.2"/> acorn and oak <pause dur="0.5"/> imagery </u><gap reason="break in recording" extent="uncertain"/> <u who="nm0086" trans="pause"> whether in or not he found a more satisfactory way of avoiding a merely economic determinist Marxism <pause dur="2.4"/> than the

structuralist Marxists who he criticized <pause dur="0.6"/> now appears to be much less important <pause dur="0.2"/> than the implications of his critique of economic determinism for any kind of Marxism <pause dur="3.4"/> the key argument of much of Thompson's work <pause dur="1.5"/> is <pause dur="1.1"/> that the <pause dur="0.3"/> abstract conception of the economy <pause dur="1.2"/> as something other than men and women working together <pause dur="0.2"/> in greater or lesser degrees of conflict and harmony <pause dur="1.7"/> and something which stands over and against human relationships <pause dur="0.5"/> an iron cage if you like <pause dur="1.0"/> with its own imperatives and demands its own laws of the market <pause dur="2.0"/> before which human beings have to bow down <pause dur="0.7"/> that that notion of <pause dur="0.2"/> an economy <pause dur="0.2"/> was itself very recent <pause dur="1.5"/> it was itself <pause dur="0.8"/> a historical product <pause dur="0.5"/> of precisely the rise of <pause dur="0.3"/> modern capitalist industry <pause dur="3.2"/> the major critique <pause dur="0.2"/> of that ideology <pause dur="1.4"/> this notion of an economy was itself highly ideological <pause dur="0.2"/> that was his point <pause dur="0.4"/> yeah <pause dur="0.8"/> # the major critique of that ideology would be found precisely in the alternative value system sustained by resistance

movements of working people <pause dur="0.4"/> refusing to be dehumanized <pause dur="0.2"/> as hired hands <pause dur="0.3"/> refusing to become mere proletarians <pause dur="1.7"/> so that Thompson what's <trunc>thomp</trunc> Thompson's writing about is the discursive origins of economic man <pause dur="0.4"/> how did that phrase come into the discourse <pause dur="0.7"/> why did it come to seem a reality that the <trunc>cou</trunc> you could talk about the economy <pause dur="0.4"/> as something that wasn't <pause dur="1.1"/> that was different <pause dur="0.3"/> simply from <pause dur="0.9"/> certain kinds of human relationships <pause dur="1.8"/> now the process <pause dur="2.0"/> he's talking about is the process by which for example the word industry <pause dur="1.6"/> industry <pause dur="1.4"/> moves <pause dur="0.9"/> from being a word that refers essentially to a human activity <pause dur="0.9"/> industry is about industriousness <pause dur="0.9"/> and you're all being very industrious in still paying attention at this point in the lecture <pause dur="0.3"/> that's industry <pause dur="0.6"/> huh <pause dur="0.8"/> industry moves from that to being <pause dur="0.2"/> a thing a structure an institution an iron cage <pause dur="0.6"/> or the word society <pause dur="2.1"/> oh <pause dur="0.2"/> society <pause dur="0.3"/> what's society human fellowship <pause dur="0.8"/> it's a word that primarily <pause dur="0.4"/> in an earlier period describes fellowship companionship <pause dur="0.4"/>

relationships among individuals <pause dur="0.5"/> yeah <pause dur="0.9"/> by the nineteenth century society <pause dur="0.9"/> is a big thing out there isn't it it's a structure <pause dur="2.3"/> mm <pause dur="1.0"/> # it's an object a system operating according to its own laws of motion <pause dur="1.3"/> so the point i'm making here is that Thompson's critique <pause dur="0.2"/> of the economic <pause dur="0.6"/> of the idea of an economy and of economic man and of laws of political economy <pause dur="1.8"/> Thompson's critique of the economic can be seen as opening the way <pause dur="0.5"/> to a historicization <pause dur="1.2"/> of all the foundational concepts of social science <pause dur="1.3"/> yeah <pause dur="1.5"/> the polity <pause dur="1.1"/> society <pause dur="1.3"/> the culture <pause dur="0.8"/> the culture nature distinction <pause dur="0.5"/> # this is <pause dur="0.3"/> # <trunc>m</trunc> much of the way we think that <pause dur="0.5"/> happened in the eighteenth century <pause dur="0.6"/> male female <pause dur="0.8"/> yeah <pause dur="0.4"/> the way we think that <pause dur="0.4"/> is a social product <pause dur="0.3"/> and <trunc>s</trunc> in its current form quite recent <pause dur="0.9"/> all this <pause dur="1.1"/> of course can be seen as pointing the way towards a post-structuralist <pause dur="0.5"/> historical practice <pause dur="1.0"/> yeah <pause dur="0.6"/> in which the point <pause dur="0.2"/> of <pause dur="0.2"/> critical history <pause dur="0.7"/> is not to find out what the structures were and how they operate <pause dur="0.6"/> right <pause dur="0.7"/>

the economy society <pause dur="0.6"/> and so on not to find out these what these structures are <pause dur="0.5"/> but to explain how those concepts came into existence <pause dur="0.9"/> mm <pause dur="1.4"/> so you're not working with the concepts of social science <pause dur="0.7"/> you're explaining how social science is just the ideology of modern society <pause dur="2.0"/> yeah <pause dur="1.4"/> then you get into territory that we will get into next term when we turn to look at Foucault <pause dur="1.1"/> in which <pause dur="0.2"/> what the job of the historian is to do is to mine down and uncover the origins of the discourses <pause dur="0.5"/> by which we speak about <pause dur="0.2"/> the way power operates <pause dur="1.2"/> yeah <pause dur="1.2"/> but we can't then say well we'll explain how societies society whatever that is is developing by talking about the economy <pause dur="0.8"/> these concepts are themselves <pause dur="0.2"/> what we need to investigate how did we come to think <pause dur="0.6"/> in that way <pause dur="0.6"/> now that's a route Thompson didn't want to go down <pause dur="0.3"/> and i don't want to go any further down it now <pause dur="0.2"/> we will explore that much more next term <pause dur="0.4"/> yeah <pause dur="0.8"/> as to a history <pause dur="0.3"/> which is essentially an analysis of the production and

reproduction of discourses <pause dur="1.1"/> yeah <pause dur="0.6"/> Thompson didn't want to go round down that road <pause dur="1.5"/> he clung to the Marxist notion <pause dur="0.5"/> that relations of production were fundamental to the ways in which society worked <pause dur="0.6"/> and he was content to avoid economic reductionism <pause dur="1.0"/> by insisting that the economy <pause dur="2.3"/> was not <pause dur="0.2"/> a separate level <pause dur="1.8"/> that it involved <pause dur="0.3"/> as he said all the bloody levels <pause dur="2.9"/> when more orthodox Marxists objected that this wasn't <pause dur="0.7"/> what Marx meant <pause dur="1.4"/> then Thompson began to lose <pause dur="0.4"/> patience with <pause dur="0.2"/> theological <pause dur="0.3"/> takes on Marxism <pause dur="0.9"/> Thompson was well aware that <pause dur="0.3"/> after the eighteen-forty-eight defeats <pause dur="1.2"/> Marx himself had moved away from a humanist position <pause dur="0.3"/> as expounded in his early writings <pause dur="0.4"/> towards more structuralist <pause dur="0.2"/> positions <pause dur="2.3"/> Thompson would argue that Marx's <pause dur="1.1"/> the writing of Das Kapital <pause dur="0.3"/> Marx's engagement with <pause dur="0.3"/> structuralist engagement with political economy investigating the laws of motion of the capitalist economy <pause dur="0.8"/> represented <pause dur="0.4"/> for Marx something of a capitulation <pause dur="1.3"/> to the very categories of thought <pause dur="1.4"/> which the

working class movement and the early Marx <pause dur="0.2"/> had set out to challenge in the name of humanity and human agency <pause dur="1.6"/> when Thompson cites <pause dur="0.6"/> that <pause dur="0.5"/> passage from The Eighteenth Brumaire <pause dur="0.4"/> <reading>men make their own history but they do not make it just as they please</reading> <pause dur="0.2"/> he puts the emphasis on the first part of the sentence <pause dur="2.3"/> a more orthodox reading of The Eighteenth Brumaire <pause dur="0.2"/> stresses the second half of the sentence <pause dur="2.0"/> now you've all read The Eighteenth Brumaire <pause dur="0.6"/> haven't you <pause dur="0.7"/> so <pause dur="0.4"/> you should <pause dur="0.2"/> # be able to make a judgement <pause dur="0.2"/> about this <pause dur="0.5"/> but let me just sketch out for you so you can situate Thompson <pause dur="0.2"/> in relation to orthodox more orthodox Marxism <pause dur="1.1"/> the structuralist <trunc>reas</trunc> reading <pause dur="0.5"/> of The Eighteenth Brumaire is going to stress the but <pause dur="0.2"/> aren't they men make their own history but <pause dur="0.2"/> only under certain conditions <pause dur="1.6"/> for the orthodox Marxist agency <pause dur="0.8"/> self-determination <pause dur="0.5"/> are what are going to happen in the future <pause dur="1.0"/> that's what the socialist revolution will produce <pause dur="0.2"/> in the

meantime however <pause dur="0.4"/> men are doomed to be playthings of forces they don't understand <pause dur="0.5"/> locked in false consciousness <pause dur="0.5"/> inherited attitudes ideas traditions which <pause dur="0.4"/> Marx writes <reading>weigh like a nightmare on the brain of the living</reading> so you know in The Eighteenth Brumaire they <pause dur="0.7"/> they do the English Civil War out of the Bible and the French # first French Revolution out of the Roman Republic and eighteen-forty-eight out of the first French Revolution and so on <pause dur="0.2"/> they're living in a mental prison of tradition <pause dur="0.4"/> the players in these games <pause dur="0.8"/> and that's a major source of their inability to understand what they're really at <pause dur="0.3"/> and therefore to be in control <pause dur="0.4"/> of the consequences <pause dur="0.2"/> of their own actions <pause dur="1.5"/> for Marx the past is a nightmare <pause dur="0.7"/> from which we're struggling to wake up <pause dur="0.4"/> and the revolution will be that wake up process <pause dur="0.8"/> that and the nightmare's a land of false consciousness a land of <pause dur="0.2"/> vast impersonal forces <pause dur="0.7"/> <reading>the poetry of the proletarian

revolution</reading> <pause dur="0.3"/> he says <pause dur="0.4"/> yeah <pause dur="0.8"/> <reading>will be drawn not from the past but from the future <pause dur="0.6"/> let the dead bury their dead</reading> <pause dur="0.3"/> says Marx talking about all that junk past history <pause dur="2.8"/> a humanist reading of The Eighteenth Brumaire on the other hand would privilege the first part of the sentence men make their own history <pause dur="0.3"/> but only under certain conditions <pause dur="1.2"/> agency that is to say <pause dur="1.0"/> for Thompson <pause dur="0.2"/> is already with us <pause dur="0.9"/> and <pause dur="0.2"/> it's in agency that the ultimate meaning of history is to be found <pause dur="1.8"/> human agency for Thompson is too important to be booted into the future <pause dur="1.8"/> the past <pause dur="0.2"/> is not just a vale of necessity <pause dur="0.6"/> in which men are pathetic victims at the mercy of impersonal forces <pause dur="1.3"/> class struggle <pause dur="0.9"/> is <pause dur="0.6"/> an open undetermined process what comes out what eventuates <pause dur="0.8"/> does so through blood sweat intelligence energy <pause dur="2.3"/> now he's not arguing of course that <pause dur="0.3"/> men <pause dur="0.4"/> or women are in complete control <pause dur="0.3"/> the second half of the sentence is still there the outcome is often unintended <pause dur="3.1"/>

nevertheless the meaning of history <pause dur="0.4"/> is to be found in <pause dur="0.3"/> the will and the action that precious space of partial <pause dur="0.3"/> free agency <pause dur="1.0"/> not in the triumph of impersonal laws of motion over the puny and <pause dur="0.3"/> confused efforts of human beings <pause dur="1.1"/> Thompson rescuing the poor from the condescension of posterity <pause dur="1.3"/> well it's the condescension that Marx among others that he's trying to rescue them from <pause dur="0.8"/> Marx's contemptuous dismissal <pause dur="0.2"/> let the dead bury their dead those old struggles are done and gone <pause dur="1.0"/> for Thompson the investigation of previous movements of protest and resistance <pause dur="0.2"/> wasn't just a record of failure <pause dur="0.9"/> it was a major resource <pause dur="0.2"/> for the future <pause dur="1.5"/> as i pointed out earlier <pause dur="0.8"/> Thompson never thought the revolution was round the corner <pause dur="0.3"/> he didn't expect to hear Marx's poetry of the future <pause dur="1.6"/> the time wasn't right for the audacity of revolutionaries kind of junking history <pause dur="0.2"/> starting off from year one and reinventing society out of pure reason <pause dur="0.8"/> time wasn't right for that kind of stuff <pause dur="1.0"/>

for Thompson <pause dur="0.4"/> and this is true of the whole British school of Marxist historians much more generally <pause dur="0.9"/> the poetry <pause dur="0.7"/> was to be found precisely in the past <pause dur="1.8"/> in the capacity of human beings over centuries of oppression <pause dur="0.4"/> to resist <pause dur="0.5"/> to resist the iron logic of the structures <pause dur="0.7"/> that held out hope for the future <pause dur="0.5"/> it was a record of <pause dur="0.4"/> will and struggle and only partly defeated human values <pause dur="0.9"/> <reading>men</reading> Thompson writes <reading>are the</reading> <pause dur="0.8"/> and the phrase is there <pause dur="0.2"/> <reading>the ever baffled <pause dur="0.2"/> and ever resurgent agents <pause dur="0.2"/> of an unmastered history</reading> <pause dur="1.2"/> there's everything to play for <pause dur="1.4"/> ever baffled ever resurgent <pause dur="0.7"/> there's a deep sense of the tragedy of human existence <pause dur="0.5"/> in the way Thompson approaches thing <pause dur="0.5"/> alongside <pause dur="1.6"/> people's capacity to change the world or at least to resist <pause dur="1.4"/> any final triumph of the anti-human changes wrought by such malevolent forces <pause dur="0.2"/> as in his view <pause dur="1.3"/> free market capitalism <pause dur="1.0"/> or indeed exterminism what he labelled the <pause dur="0.4"/>

military industrial complexes of East and West confronting each other <pause dur="0.2"/> with nuclear missiles <pause dur="0.2"/> in the nineteen-<pause dur="0.3"/>#-<pause dur="0.3"/>seventies and eighties <pause dur="1.0"/> now this is radically different from Marx's version of the idea of progress <pause dur="0.6"/> yeah <pause dur="0.3"/> for Marx <pause dur="2.1"/> come the revolution men will <pause dur="0.8"/> become their own agents they'll escape from the realm of necessity prehistory will end real history will begin <pause dur="0.2"/> you'll move into the realm of freedom <pause dur="1.1"/> you're not ever baffled ever ever resurgent <pause dur="0.5"/> you're finally triumphing over the weight of the past this nightmare that weighs down on the brains of the living <pause dur="0.5"/> you're taking conscious control of your destiny <pause dur="0.5"/> that's Marx's vision <pause dur="1.3"/> it wasn't one that Thompson <pause dur="0.6"/> attuned to the depressing realities of mid-twentieth century history <pause dur="0.7"/> # could give much meaning to <pause dur="1.2"/> Thompson had a decidedly jaundiced view of progress what did progress mean <pause dur="0.4"/> Soviet industrialization and the Gulag <pause dur="1.0"/> or <pause dur="1.5"/> the United States military industrial <pause dur="0.3"/> complex and exterminism <pause dur="1.3"/> ecological disaster <pause dur="0.8"/> capitalist globalism <pause dur="1.5"/>

for Thompson <pause dur="0.7"/> the best hope and <pause dur="0.2"/> of both <trunc>re</trunc> surviving and resisting the anti-human logic <pause dur="0.5"/> of these systems <pause dur="0.9"/> <trunc>wa</trunc> lay in recovering some of the human values <pause dur="0.5"/> which had been defended by those who <pause dur="0.2"/> resisted <pause dur="0.2"/> the rise of that world system <pause dur="0.2"/> from the outset <pause dur="1.3"/> their battles <pause dur="0.2"/> clearly were unsuccessful <pause dur="0.9"/> but the values they fought for <pause dur="0.3"/> weren't altogether lost <pause dur="0.8"/> and Thompson <pause dur="0.5"/> history was all about <pause dur="1.0"/> recovering it <pause dur="0.8"/> mounting defences on the basis of those values confident not perhaps of any ultimate victory but that something could be <trunc>atre</trunc> <pause dur="0.2"/> achieved <pause dur="0.3"/> at least you could keep the struggle alive <pause dur="0.8"/> so that human beings could go on <pause dur="0.9"/> surviving which means being ever baffled but also ever resurgent <pause dur="2.3"/> and that really <pause dur="0.3"/> brings me <pause dur="0.5"/> to the end and it brings me to <pause dur="0.2"/> where i'm going to start my next <pause dur="0.3"/>

lecture <pause dur="0.2"/> because that's the standpoint from which Whigs and Hunters <pause dur="0.5"/> set out to recover the history <pause dur="0.7"/> in Whigs and Hunters Thompson sets out to recover the history <pause dur="0.3"/> of a really very obscure group of people <pause dur="0.8"/> # <pause dur="0.7"/> foresters <pause dur="0.4"/> in <trunc>win</trunc> around Windsor <pause dur="0.2"/> in the early eighteenth century <pause dur="0.4"/> who are reacting against the onrush of capitalist property relations in and around the forest <pause dur="1.0"/> what i'll do <pause dur="0.4"/> in the first week of next term is explore <pause dur="1.4"/> some of the methods and the arguments of Whigs and Hunters <pause dur="1.0"/> and look at the some # but also <pause dur="1.0"/> look <pause dur="0.8"/> # perhaps more critically than i've done in this lecture <pause dur="0.8"/> at some of the major tensions and difficulties <pause dur="0.4"/> in Thompson's approach to history <pause dur="0.9"/> and on the bottom of the handout you'll see i've given you some advice <pause dur="0.3"/> about how to skip read Whigs and Hunters <pause dur="0.5"/> if you # <pause dur="0.8"/> can't bear to read it all <pause dur="0.4"/> # <pause dur="0.5"/> though you need to read a good deal of it but the advice is there