- Publisher: Peter Smith Pub Inc (June 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0844669938
- ISBN-13: 978-0844669939
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,609,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Making of the English Working Class
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Thompson's work combines passion and intellect, the gifts of the poet, the narrator and the analyst -- Eric Hobsbawm * Independent * A dazzling vindication of the lives and aspirations of the then - and now once again - neglected culture of working-class England -- Martin Kettle * Observer * Superbly readable . . . a moving account of the culture of the self-taught in an age of social and intellectual deprivation -- Asa Briggs * Financial Times * An event not merely in the writing of English history but in the politics of our century -- Michael Foot * Times Literary Supplement * The greatest of our socialist historians -- Terry Eagleton * New Statesman * --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
"Thompson's book has been called controversial, but perhaps only because so many have forgotten how explosive England was during the Regency and the early reign of Victoria. Without any reservation, The Making of the English Working Class is the most important study of those days since the classic work of the Hammonds."--"Commentary
"Mr. Thompson's deeply human imagination and controlled passion help us to recapture the agonies, heroisms and illusions of the working class as it made itself. No one interested in the history of the English people should fail to read his book."--London "Times Literary Supplement --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This is a History (please note the capital "H") of decades of action by millions of people. It is not light reading. Sometimes that story can only be told through statistics and citing government reports. Be prepared to do at least a bit of work to follow along. That said, the writing is clear and concise and the narrative easy to follow. The subject is vast and much of what Thompson had to say flew in the face of the happy histories those in power wrote about themselves and their forebears, making necessary detail otherwise omitted if other honest works had been more readily available. Hence, a book longer than it might, under other conditions, have been. For myself, the work has exactly the right number of words.
I'm having to pare down my hard copy collection of books and my 45 year old copy of "The Making of the English Working Class" will have to go to another home, so I'm thankful for this inexpensive electronic version. Hopefully, the problems noted by previous reviewers have been corrected.
The Industrial Revolution ushered a sea change for workers by usurping the old paternalist economy by laissez faire. The economic policies and changes in each industry coupled with the abrogation of paternalist legislations in the early 1800s united workers in common misery: `for the field laborer, the loss of his common rights, and the vestiges of village democracy; for the artisan, the loss of his craftsman's status; for the weaver, the loss of livelihood and of independence.' Collectively, the group felt `a sense of loss status as memories of their `golden age' lingered'.
The horrors of the French revolution and the fear of violent revolution at home joined landowners and manufacturers to block reforms. With the advent of Paine's `Age of Reason' and `Rights of Men,' gentry reformers such as Wyvill became alarmed by the linkage of `political with economic demands' and the demands of expropriation of the landowners. With support from both the aristocracy and the middle class, the government swiftly adopted reactionary measures, such as the Two Acts, suspension of habeas corpus, Combination Act and even planting spy as agent of provocateur to extirpate agitators. Pitt transitioned from a champion of `piecemeal reform into diplomatic architect of European counter-revolution.'
Thus, reform followed a circuitous path, though it remained `a contest of the middle class and the working class.' The reformers were generally divided among constitutionalists, like Cobbett, and Spencer's radical revolutionary. Radicalism divided the society between `useful' or `productive classes' or courtiers, sinecurists, fund-holders, speculators, parasitic middlemen.' In the face of government intransigence, such as the fruitless and expensive recourse to the Parliament between 1800 and 1812 showed, skilled men, artisans and some outworkers turned to the radical culture for reform. With each succeeding crisis, such as the Peterloo massacre, the radical's clout accreted and gained moral consensus among the general populace, culminating to the Pentridge rising, `one of the first attempts in history to mount a wholly proletarian insurrection, without any middle-class support.' In a wrestle for control, the Reform Acts 1832 was the middle class's effort to thwart a revolution were it to occur.
The changing responses to the government measures shepherded the coming of class consciousness. During the early part of the French revolution, `Church and King' mobs could be manipulated against the reformers. With the tightening of government control, a growing number of communities began to follow their own moral codes - from the transitional mobs during the food riots, the plebian jury's refusal to convict reformers and `seditionists' termed by the government, the centralized tactics of Luddism and to the support of and participation in trade unionism. From the experiences of passive and active resistance and cooperation, this new working class culture unified the mass to voice their demands and work toward their goals - a force that could not be suppressed.
Thompson is at the top of his profession. This remarkable and essential book proves him so to be.