English radicalism in the twentieth century

A distinctive politics?

By Richard Taylor

English radicalism in the twentieth century


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9319-1
  • Pages: 280
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: September 2020
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Society & social sciences / Political ideologies, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, Humanities / British & Irish history, Politics, Politics & government, POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General
  • Series: Manchester University Press


England has had a predominantly conservative political culture for some centuries. Yet there is a persistent, minority strand of radicalism that has challenged the practices, beliefs and structures of power of the established order. This book explores this 'radical tradition' as articulated in the twentieth century. The main currents of English radicalism range from liberal reformers, through socialist parliamentarians, to social movement activists in the peace, women's and labour movements. Despite their differing agendas, all have held in common their moral and political commitments to achieving a free, democratic, equal and just society. Moreover, all have believed, whatever their other differences, in the importance of extra-parliamentary social movements. What is it that has constituted this 'radical tradition'? Is it a coherent, distinctive and important political force in the twentieth century? And how do these ideas and practices relate to radical politics in England in the early twenty-first century?

This book offers an analysis of the historical and ideological development of English radicalism from the English Civil War onwards. Richard Taylor examines how the problems of achieving radical change in England in the twentieth century were approached by ten key figures from a range of ideological positions within the tradition: Bertrand Russell, Sylvia Pankhurst, Ellen Wilkinson, George Orwell, E.P. Thompson, Michael Foot, Joan Maynard, Stuart Hall, Tony Benn and Nicolas Walter.


'As we seek to steer through the darkness of the times in which we live, we need every tool at our disposal, including the distinctive trait of English radicalism. Richard Taylor's book is an important guide for those who want to understand that tradition, as told through an introduction to the beliefs of a diversity of figures from the last century. Politics needs history and the Left needs to draw on its traditions. Taylor's study is an invaluable way to help us understand the past and thereby guide to us a better future.'
Ed Miliband, MP

'This book is a vivid celebration of ten English twentieth century radicals and their causes, offering many rewarding insights into their lives and politics, family and educational backgrounds, achievements and failures.'
Marxism and Philosophy


1 The Nature of English Radicalism
2 An Overview of English Radicalism
3 Bertrand Russell
4 Sylvia Pankhurst
5 Ellen Wilkinson
6 George Orwell
7 EP Thompson
8 Michael Foot
9 Joan Maynard
10 Stuart Hall
11 Tony Benn
12 Nicolas Walter
13 A Distinctive Politics?
Select Bibliography


Richard Taylor is Emeritus Professorial Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. He is the co-author of British Labour and Higher Education, 1945 to 2000 (2011) and E.P. Thompson and English Radicalism (2013).

English radicalism in the twentieth century

By Richard Taylor

Hardcover £80.00 / $120.00

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