Another look at E. P. Thompson and British Communism, 1937-1955


McIlroy, J. 2017. Another look at E. P. Thompson and British Communism, 1937-1955. Labor History. 58 (4), pp. 506-539.
TitleAnother look at E. P. Thompson and British Communism, 1937-1955
AuthorsMcIlroy, J.

Examination of E. P. Thompson’s activism in the Communist Party (CPGB) has been limited. Some historians, basing themselves on his memories and interpretations of his 1955 biography of William Morris, have portrayed him as a dissenter, at best a loyal critic of CPGB policy. Others have deduced political conformity from his fourteen years membership of a declining organisation. This article reappraises the literature and reassesses the making and unmaking of a Communist intellectual. It explores Thompson’s contemporary writings – rarely exposed to critical scrutiny – and employs recently released security files to reconstruct the historian’s ideas and activity across the post-war decade. The article concludes that in these years Thompson remained a faithful supporter of the Soviet Union, the party line and ‘high Stalinism’. Khruschev’s ‘Secret Speech’ and the Russian invasion of Hungary did not validate pre-existing dissent. They were the pivotal factors provoking a rupture with the Stalinism Thompson had championed from 1942 to 1955.

PublisherTaylor and Francis
JournalLabor History
Publication dates
Online26 Jun 2017
Print08 Aug 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited08 Dec 2017
Accepted09 May 2017
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
Copyright Statement

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Labor History on 26/06/2017, available online:

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Permalink -

Download files

Accepted author manuscript
  • 9
    total views
  • 17
    total downloads
  • 1
    views this month
  • 1
    downloads this month

Export as