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Features

February 1990

Raymond Williams in retrospect

by Maurice Cowling

Between 1965 and 1985 there was a major transformation of the English intellectual Left, as R. H. Tawney and Archbishop Temple were forgotten, C. A. R. Crosland and Roy Jenkins were edged aside, and a new body of sages has delivered a more uncompromising and more revolutionary message in their place.

Of these sages, Raymond Williams, Eric Hobsbawm, and E. P. Thompson were the most important. All three are or were “tenured radicals,” all three used academic subjects as instruments of persuasion— literature in Williams’s case, history in the other two cases—and all three had a stimulating effect on the English student revolutionaries of the late 1960s and their successors as these came to maturity without the restraint and respectability that the English student revolutionaries of the 1930s had acquired through participation in the “just and unavoidable war against fascism.”

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Maurice Cowling is the author of A Conservative Future.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 8 February 1990, on page 10

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