Dorothy Thompson (historian)

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Dorothy Katharine Gane Thompson (née Towers) (30 October 1923 – 29 January 2011[1]) was a social historian, a leading expert on the Chartist movement.


Born in Greenwich, south-east London,[2] she entered Girton College, Cambridge, in 1942. During the war, her work as an industrial draughtswoman for Royal Dutch Shell interrupted her formal education. Nonetheless, she continued to pursue a career in history and was politically active. She joined the Young Communists, married the historian Edward Thompson in 1948, and moved to Halifax, where they both worked in adult education and the peace movement. They had three children. Kate Thompson, the award-winning children's writer, is their youngest child.[3]

In 1968 Dorothy Thompson took a teaching post at the University of Birmingham. She taught in the School of History from 1968 to 1988. In January 1995 she was presented with a festschrift, The Duty of Discontent. Edited by Owen Ashton, Stephen Roberts (both her former students) and Robert Fyson, the volume consists of 12 essays spanning the whole range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century British social history. The importance of Thompson's writings on Chartism and Irish and women's history is recognised by scholars internationally. Her work, like that of her husband, was always been informed by a passionate radicalism and a deep sympathy for the underdog.[4]

She was a member of the Communist Party Historians Group.

Selected articles/works[edit]

  • Early Chartists (1971)
  • Bibliography of the Chartist Movement, 1837-1976 (with J. F. C. Harrison) (1978)
  • The Chartist Experience : Studies in Working-class Radicalism and Culture, 1830-60 (edited with James Epstein) (1982)
  • Over Our Dead Bodies : Women against the Bomb (editor) (1983)
  • The Chartists : Popular Politics in the Industrial Revolution (1984); (reprinted Breviary Stuff Publications, 2013)
  • Chartism in Wales and Ireland (1987)
  • British Women in the Nineteenth Century (1989)
  • Outsiders : Class, Gender and Nation (1993)
  • The Duty of Discontent : essays for Dorothy Thompson (edited by Owen Ashton, Robert Fyson, and Stephen Roberts) (1996)
  • Queen Victoria: Gender & Power, Virago Press (2001)
  • Selected Poems by Frank Thompson, edited by Dorothy Thompson and Kate Thompson (2003)


External links[edit]