This presentation takes as its point of departure a major debate on the English Left in the 1960s. On one side were the young firebrands of the New Left, on the other an older strain of English Leftism represented by E.P. Thompson. At issue in the debate werethe perceived conservatism of English culture, and possible historical explanations for this state of affairs, including the absence of an enlightenment, a revolution and a native sociological tradition. This talk focuses upon the historical puzzle of England’s absent Enlightenment, but relates it to more recent themes in intellectual history and to the broader question of England’s relationship with Europe.