E P Thompson & the Partisan Coffee House

In Uncategorized on May 20, 2017 by kmflett

As part of a much wider project which is exploring the relevance of EP Thompson’s historical writing, and to some extent his wider politics, for the twenty-first century, Ive been pondering what relationship he had to one of the first new left projects- the Partisan Coffee House in Soho.

The Partisan was open from 1958 until 1963, the year Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class was published.

That book focused to a considerable extent on research into the West Riding, Thompson living in Siddal, Halifax at the time.

Given that he was employed as an adult education lecturer working out from Leeds University clearly Thompson’s ability to ‘hang out’ at the Partisan would have been very limited.

The wider point is whether in any case he would have wanted to.

Thompson was determinedly provincial, best summed up in his essay Homage to Tom Maguire, which began by noting that the real labour movement was to be found not in London Head Offices but in grassroots locations outside of the Capital.

Nevertheless in the current exhibition on the Partisan at Four Corners in Roman Rd E2 (until the end of the month) there is displayed a greetings telegram from Halifax addressed to Raph Samuel which reads ‘congratulations to all and to you in particular on opening from northern new reasoners’.

It seems likely that this came from Thompson and he certainly spoke at least one meeting associated with the Partisan (though not held at the coffee house as it wasnt large enough for the numbers attending).

Perhaps Thompson was happy to salute the Partisan from afar. MI5’s view from Thompson’s file is here:


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