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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:E. P. Thompson, social history, and South African historiography 1970-90
Author:Delius, Peter
Periodical:The Journal of African History (ISSN 0021-8537)
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:social history
About person:Edward Palmer Thompson (1924-1993)
External link:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021853716000670
Abstract:It is often suggested that the work of E. P. Thomson played a pivotal role in shaping South African historical writing and provided the foundations for a new school of social history. Thompson's writings - often refracted through many other texts - were one influence amongst many. This article, drawing on my own experiences of key moments of individuals and institutions, argues that the decisive and central role that is ascribed to his work does not accord with much more complex and localised realities. The article touches on numerous other influences that shaped the research and writing of succeeding cohorts of historians. It also suggests that while 'The Poverty of Theory' was an influential publication, it did not initiate new forms of research and writing, but rather contributed to debates that were already well underway. In conclusion, the usefulness of the category of social history is disputed, as in the South African context it lends to a lazy lumping together of a very diverse selection of historians and needs to be rethought or replaced. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]