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God's Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution [Paperback]

Christopher Hill
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Aug 1990
A nuanced biography of Oliver Cromwell, breaking down Cromwell's life into different parts: fenland farmer and humble backbencher; stalwart of the good old cause and the New Model Army; key figure of the Commonwealth; and finally Lord Protector. Hill leads the reader unsentimentally through Cromwell's life from his beginnings in Huntingdonshire to his brutal end. Hill brings all his considerable knowledge of the period to bear on the relationships God's Englishman had with God and England. Such a detailed understanding of the workings of providence is vital to understanding Cromwell.

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God's Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution + The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) + The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714 (Routledge Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (30 Aug 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140137114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140137118
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 13.1 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Christopher Hill was educated at St Peter's School, York, and at Balliol College, Oxford, and in 1934 was made a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. In 1936 he became lecturer in modern history at University College, Cardiff, and two years later fellow and tutor in modern history at Balliol. After war service, which included two years in the Russian department of the Foreign Office, he returned to Oxford in 1945. From 1958 until 1965 he was university lecturer in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century history, and from 1965 to 1978 he was Master of Balliol College. After leaving Balliol he was for two years a Visiting Professor at the Open University. Dr Hill, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the British Academy, has received numerous honorary degrees from British universities, as well as the Hon. Dr. Sorbonne Nouvelle in 1979.

His publications include Lenin and the Russian Revolution; Puritanism and Revolution; Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England; Reformation to Industrial Revolution (second volume in the Penguin Economic History of Britain); God's Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution; The World Turned Upside Down; Milton and the English Revolution, which won the Royal Society of Literature Award; The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries; A Turbulent, Seditious and Factious People: John Bunyan and His Church, which won the 1989 W. H. Smith Literary Award; The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution, which was shortlisted for the 1993 NCR Book Award; and Liberty against the Law. Many of these titles are published by Penguin.

Dr Hill is married with two children.


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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By S Wood TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Was what Oliver Cromwell told the Barebones Parliament before going onto declare that what really mattered was "those things wherein the life and power of them lay". In Christopher Hills biography of Cromwell - "God's Englishman" - he attempts to do both: tell the story of Cromwell and the English Revolution, as well as looking behind the story to see within what context those momentous events occurred, and to look at the ideas and forces that brought them to pass.

Hill doesn't by any stretch of the imagination present the reader with an orthodox biography of Cromwell. Those looking for a collection of the small details, events, and developments that together form a life would be better served elsewhere. What "God's Englishman" does is narrate the history of England in parallel with that of Cromwell (with the emphasis on the developments in England) until the two come together during the tumultuous times of the 1640's and 50's. These weren't ordinary times by any standard: a civil war ensued, the King lost his head, an explosion of pamphleting included many new and novel ideas including those of the lower orders, Britain was a Republic, and the foundations of the British Empire and Britain's eventual industrial development were considerably firmed up.

If, to paraphrase the quote of Cromwell that leads this review: there are narrative histories that are gripping and exciting reads, there are also histories that delve into those areas where the life and power of events lie (the intellectual, religious, social and economic spheres) that can be just as exhilarating. Christopher Hill has written one such history.

If one is not familiar with the era perhaps Hills
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iconic Book on Iconic Figure 15 Jun 2009
Christopher Hill (1912-2003) was one of the key British Marxist historians of the twentieth century. He became interested in the English Civil War before the Second World War - when he also became a member of the Communist party. Later he served with distinction for many years as the Master of Balliol College.

The book has been fairly described - by Martin Kettle - as 'the bestselling (but not adulatory) biography'. Certainly it presents a captivating picture of a human Cromwell surrounded by the forces of God, providence, and Revolution. As such, and as a piece of writing of its time, it remains an essential volume. Nevertheless it does have significant weaknesses. Perhaps the most obvious is the lack of detail on Cromwell the soldier, and in particular on Cromwell's crucial role in the Second Civil War of 1648. As in many retrospective views of Cromwell Sir Thomas Fairfax is also reduced to relative insignificance.

Nevertheless an important and a highly recommended work which should now be supplemented by more recent studies for sake of completeness.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars COMPLEX 10 Oct 2013
By perseka
Verified Purchase
This is quite the best book I have read on Oliver Cromwell. It goes into depth on the complexities of the man, the times, and the misnomers concerning him. Without a doubt, this man took the reins of the nation - not by design - but by necessity - bridging the gap between the medieval world and the age of reason. England could not go back, it could only go forward.
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16 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't mention the genocide 24 Oct 2012
Its instructive that not one of the reviews here mentions the word 'Ireland' In impressively short order Cromwell put half the population of a country to the sword.

Without the aid of machines or chemicals and with explicit instruction not to spare women, children or infants in their cots, he orchestrated mass killing of civilians on a scale that was and is unique in these islands. Those who he wiped out died not because of anything they had done, but simply because of who they were.

This butchery of a people is the central fact of Cromwell's life. Unlike the reviewers here, and the authors of most books about Cromwell published in England, Cromwell himself did not seek to cover up his actions and was proud of what he had done.

Its interesting that, when confronted, most Cromwell fans are well aware of his genocide. Its not ignorance, its more that it just doesn't matter that much. It doesn't matter because the people he killed didn't matter and still don't matter in the minds of those who adulate him.

Its sad that those prejudices and feelings of superiority blind people, even now, to the suffering and pitiless slaughter Cromwell inflicted on his innocent victims.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cromwell by "The Commanding Interpreter of 17th Century England" 17 Nov 2007
By Douglas S. Wood - Published on Amazon.com
When Christopher Hill died in 2003 at the age of 91 the Guardian rightly called him "the commanding interpreter of 17th-century England". Upon publication in 1970 his book `God's Englishman - Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution `, a nuanced biography of Oliver Cromwell, was a bestseller.

Hill leads the reader unsentimentally through Cromwell's life from his beginnings in Huntingdonshire to his brutal end. Hill's Cromwell reaches his apogee in the Commonwealth he helped create and then only grudgingly accepts the `necessity' of the Protectorate. Hill argues that the English Revolution did indeed change the balance of political power between the King and Parliament for good, despite the eventual return of Charles II to the throne.

The book presumes the reader possesses a good bit of knowledge about the English Civil War. References to individual actors, even the less prominent, are often made without context.

Hill was an active Communist up to 1956 when the repression of the Hungarian Revolt led to disenchantment with the Soviets. He remained a Marxist thereafter, suffered blacklisting, but persevered and saw his career reach its great heights. His personal views do not enter into the matter of his biography of Oliver Cromwell.

This book is not for the beginner looking for an introduction to the English Civil War, but the weekend scholar will find it intriguing, especially his analyses in the closing chapters, especially Cromwell's religious views. (Personally, I enjoyed much more Hill's The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History), a unique study of the revolution's true radicals: the Diggers, the Ranters, the Levellers.) A must read for anyone with a serious interest in the English Civil War.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Importance of Cromwell 2 Feb 2009
By Clement Hamer - Published on Amazon.com
Indeed this book is for the more advanced reader in English and European History. As stated by another reviewer the latter part of the book certainly becomes most interesting when comparing Cromwell with subsequent British History and other Revolutions in the world, even when compared to 20th century revolutions and it's leaders. I consider this book more than informative, as the book contains many insights into political,social and economical change, and therefore this book is quite educational. Finally let us not forget that this book stresses the importance of Cromwell, how his role influenced England,Britain and later the world.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Indeed There Are Histories That Do Give You A Narrative" 20 Mar 2012
By S Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Was what Oliver Cromwell told the Barebones Parliament before going onto declare that what really mattered was "those things wherein the life and power of them lay". In Christopher Hills biography of Cromwell - "God's Englishman" - he attempts to do both: tell the story of Cromwell and the English Revolution, as well as looking behind the story to see within what context those momentous events occurred, and to look at the ideas and forces that brought them to pass.

Hill doesn't by any stretch of the imagination present the reader with an orthodox biography of Cromwell. Those looking for a collection of the small details, events, and developments that together form a life would be better served elsewhere. What "God's Englishman" does is narrate the history of England in parallel with that of Cromwell (with the emphasis on the developments in England) until the two come together during the tumultuous times of the 1640's and 50's. These weren't ordinary times by any standard: a civil war ensued, the King lost his head, an explosion of pamphleting included many new and novel ideas including those of the lower orders, Britain was a Republic, and the foundations of the British Empire and Britain's eventual industrial development were considerably firmed up.

If, to paraphrase the quote of Cromwell that leads this review: there are narrative histories that are gripping and exciting reads, there are also histories that delve into those areas where the life and power of events lie (the intellectual, religious, social and economic spheres) that can be just as exhilarating. Christopher Hill has written one such history.

If one is not familiar with the era perhaps Hills The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714 is the best place to start. "God's Englishman" is a thorough look at the times, and on occasions is dense with information and argument that may overwhelm a reader in unfamiliar territory. I'd also recommend a good dictionary, or google, for definition of some of the terminology, without which a full appreciation of the book will elude the reader. The effort is well worth it.
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