EP Thompson Wouldn't Recognize It Any More, but Hebden Bridge Is Still Living History. in Fact History Is Its Best Raw Material

By Barker, Paul | New Statesman (1996), August 23, 1996 | Go to article overview

EP Thompson Wouldn't Recognize It Any More, but Hebden Bridge Is Still Living History. in Fact History Is Its Best Raw Material


Barker, Paul, New Statesman (1996)


A stumpy obelisk sits on bare moorland above Hebden Bridge. The rain clouds sweep across it, from the alien valleys of Lancashire into these Yorkshire hills. You couldn't call Stoodley Pike beautiful, but it has the right kind of stubborn obstinacy about it. It will do as a symbol of the way people are, or were, hereabouts.

The Pike was put there after Napoleon was driven into exile in Elba. It celebrated the collapse of his Continental System, which blocked the export of British textiles.

It had another purpose, also. Cutting and shifting the local hard sandstone was make-work for the unemployed. (The symbolism of the obelisk is masonic; but Freemasonry then didn't just mean mutual back-scratching over council contracts.) This Pennine valley became the most hostile territory for Chadwick's New Poor Law. It took the national commissioners 30 years to force the local Board of Guardians to accept that men should be put, idly, into a so-called work-house, rather than subsidised to do real work on the outside.

Staring up at the Pike you start to believe in the circularity of history. A new Continental System, with powers of blockade, has been created in Brussels. A costly social security administration agonises over how to balance benefits and the job market. But things are never the same: you never step into the same river twice.

These philosophic musings are hard to avoid in Hebden Bridge. This small West Yorkshire town - not much more than a village, really - was built on the textile trade. It was in at the start of the Industrial Revolution. On these hillsides E P Thompson did much of his research into the traumatic erasure of hand-loom weaving. Hebden Bridge boomed in the big upsurge of working-class purchasing power in the late 13th century. At one point it made more cheap, tough corduroy than anywhere else in the world, and liked to call itself Fustianopolis. The sewing shops, staffed by tough-minded women on piece rates, meant that families had an alternative bread-winner, even during the 1930s.

You can still buy a fine pair of moleskin trousers at the mill shop on Albert Street. But most of the factories went bankrupt, or were merged and closed, in the 1960s and 1970s. History has become the principal economic raw material.

The canal has been dredged and reopened to houseboats and tourism barges. The old canal wharf, which used to be a jumble of rickety sheds behind a filling station, is now a marina, laid out with granite setts, bollards and imitation gas lamps. The local railway station is a listed building and wins prizes for the thoroughness of its upkeep. An old chemist's shop was long ago converted into an information centre, where you can buy leaflets on heritage trails. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

EP Thompson Wouldn't Recognize It Any More, but Hebden Bridge Is Still Living History. in Fact History Is Its Best Raw Material
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.