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Penelope J. Corfield
E.P. Thompson, the Historian: an Appreciation
Edward Thompson was a remarkable person and a great historian. That does not mean that he was always right or that later generations will always read his works in the same ways. But he was wonderfully creative and original, full of pioneering insights, with his own distinctive style and interpretation. As a result, he became one of the most influential British historians of modern times. Moreover, he was a polymath—a man of letters, political campaigner, polemicist, and theorist as well as student of the past —a remarkable combination that is unique among contemporary historians. Perhaps the closest comparison is with a figure from an earlier generation—R.H. Tawney, who was like him both a historian and a theoretician of the Left. In both men, there was a strong moral dimension to their history and politics. However, the comparisons are not exact. Edward Thompson was a more passionate and public figure than was Tawney, although both were able to inspire others through their teaching and writing—which is a great gift.
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