Thompson's first major work of scholarship was his biography of William Morris, written while he was a member of the Communist Party. Subtitled From Romantic to Revolutionary, it was part of an effort by the Communist Party Historians' Group, inspired by Torr, to emphasise the domestic roots of Marxism in Britain at a time when the Communist Party was under attack for always following the Moscow line. It was also an attempt to take Morris back from the critics who for more than 50 years had emphasised his art and downplayed his politics.
"The passage of the early English working class from revolt to political integration is often explained solely by Britain's ascendancy as the first major imperialist power. In this essay Nairn focuses upon the political culture which British workers inherited from the British bourgeois class and argues that this was a crucial element in its domestication. Taking as his starting point Edward Thompson's pioneering and influential work The making of the English working class he seeks to demonstrate that 'history from below' must be complemented by a 'history from above'."