E. P. Thompson's work over the last thirty years or so has been a remarkably wide-ranging, consistent and challenging presence in socialist intellectual life in this country. Forged in the heat of argument, his writings typically generate counterpolemic or adulation. Readers and listeners are never left in any doubt that important practical problems of the day lie behind even his most specialist interests. It is this embattled, political, and even rhetorical mode of historiography which Thompson exemplifies that demands our attention. And even in moments of open provocation, Thompson's work enforces self-examination on those who seek to assess his contribution.