REVIEW ESSAY E.P. THOMPSON, METHODISM, AND THE "CULTURALIST" APPROACH TO THE HISTORICAL STUDY OF RELIGION STEPHEN HEATHORN Edward Thompson's death in the late summer of 1993 produced a rash of eulogies and will likely give rise to many new evaluations of his intellectual legacy by the current practitioners of social history.' Thompson's re-figuring of the practice of social history, in particular his re-shaping of the notions of class, human agency, and "popular" culture, were central to the explosion of interest in social history as a discipline in the late 1960s, and his continuing example helped sus- tain this interest through into the 1990s. In particular, Thompson's work has been recently invoked to defend the "new social history" from challengers who have taken the "linguistic turn" (Kirk 1994; Mayfield and Thome 1992; Palmer 1990). Indeed, although Thomp- son was a vocal critic of rigid models and the systematic application of "Theory", and even if he chose to downplay its existence in his own work, his own methodology was itself theoretically informed. Arguably, it was his methodological example and his passionate com- mitment to the contemporary importance of the study of history that made him one of the most influential
Method & Theory in the Study of Religion – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1998
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