Theresa May, terrorism & E.P. Thompson’s ‘Freeborn Englishman’

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2017 by kmflett

Theresa May, terrorism & the Freeborn Englishman


EP Thompson in the Making of the English Working Class discussed the ‘Freeborn Englishman’ the archetypal British patriot. He is referring to the early nineteenth century and the ‘man’ is related to historical evidence and documentation. Even so work on the ‘Freeborn Englishwoman’ is long overdue.

Thompson makes the point that the English patriot can be on the political left or the political right depending on the specific times and context.

He identifies some key characteristics. The first he notes is ‘freedom from foreign domination’ which in a modern context was a feature of the  EU Referendum campaign, whether genuinely so or not.

Many others relate not to economic or social liberty but political liberty. These included, freedom from arbitrary arrest, trial by jury, equality before the law and freedom from the home being arbitrarily entered by the authorities.

Thompson also indicated the notion of some specific political freedoms around elections, free thought and speech and Parliamentary opposition.

The bottom line however was what Thompson called a ‘moral consensus’ of limits beyond which the patriotic Englishman would not be pushed. In short the Freeborn Englishman wanted the right to be ‘left alone’.

Theresa May’s statement on terrorism following the dreadful attack at London Bridge shifted the emphasis from people who are actively involved in planning an attack to a wider layer of people who may, for example, have strong views about British foreign policy, but have no idea of taking that further than making a political point.

The plan is in short not to leave people alone, free to speak out.

As The Guardian amongst others has underlined criminalising dissent hinders rather than helps the vital effort to stop terrorist attacks.


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