Why this book?
I adore this book. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class might be better known, but his book that I return to time and time again, his most brilliant, most detailed, most political, is Whigs and Hunters. More than any other book, this gets absolutely to the heart of how power was practiced in early eighteenth century. Against the protests of poor forest dwellers, the British state in one swoop made more acts punishable by death than the rest of the statute combined. If you want to understand how and why inequality persists, and how foodstuffs became a battleground between the rich and poor, this is essential.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
With Whigs and Hunters, the author of The Making of the English Working Class, E. P. Thompson plunged into the murky waters of the early eighteenth century to chart the violently conflicting currents that boiled beneath the apparent calm of the time. The subject is the Black Act, a law of unprecedented savagery passed by Parliament in 1723 to deal with 'wicked and evil-disposed men going armed in disguise'. These men were pillaging the royal forest of deer, conducting a running battle against the forest officers with blackmail, threats and violence. These 'Blacks', however, were men of some substance; their…