Apparently, it has been 50 years since The Making Of The English Working Class was first published, or at least so says Ian Bone. I read my parents’ copy a while back (10 years ago, o dear), and keep on referring to it. When my dad gave me L’Insomiaque’s new book on the Luddites (which I strongly recommend, but as it is in French, I have not written about it), I was quite excited that it largely draws from E.P. Thompson’s book, as it guarantees an interesting approach to the Luddites (compared to works in which they are described as out-dated romantics or eco-warriors before their time).
The Making Of The English Working Class does what it says on the cover: instead of centering on the industrial revolution as the birth of capitalism, it centres on the violent process of creating an industrial working class. Sadly, I don’t have a copy around, for which I have no excuse as it is one of those Pelican major classics that can be picked up from many charity shops. It is a pretty long book, and it does have an interest to read it in its continuity, but even if you only read a couple of chapters about what interests you more particularly, it will still be worth it.
I am always highly suspicious of Marxist historians, but E.P. Thompson’s work is as far as I can tell entirely intellectually honest. I would say that its development about how the working-class was made has consequences for people who wish to ‘un-make’ it and dream of a classless society which largely contradicts orthodox Marxist views (and some anarchists’ views as well, to be fair).