E. P. Thompson, Europe & eating out in North London & Oxford

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2016 by kmflett

EP Thompson, Europe and eating out


In 1975 before the first Referendum on Europe called by Harold Wilson’s Labour Government, the Sunday Times (pre Rupert Murdoch) gave a number of writers the chance to write briefly on their view of Europe.

One was the late socialist historian and campaigner EP Thompson.

Thompson of course was a passionate European and internationalist but also no fan of what was then called the Common Market.

As often in Thompson’s writings his serious points on the matter were illustrated by some slightly less serious observations.

Thompson suggests that the market is ‘about the belly.. about consumption’. He argues that the EU was seen 40 years ago as a stomach with ‘digestive chambers and fiscal acids..’ He observes wryly that in the middle class mind it digests a pasta of fiats and a concorde thermidor.

Thompson thinks that the Euro-stomach is the ‘logical extension of the existing eating-out habits of Oxford and North London’ He goes on to suggest that the market was also seen as something cultural. Just as the middle classes had once consumed US culture, now they saw in the EU with French and Italian films a common cultural stomach.

I’m not sure that Thompson was making a particular criticism of European food or culture here, although he was determinedly and deliberately provincial living on the outskirts of Worcester. The serious point is that the arguments for the then ‘common market’ was not central to what its actually purpose was.

He does however consider working class diet and eating habits in some detail in the Making of the English Working Class

Thompson went on to write more seriously about Europe and that will form the second part of this post


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