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The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) Paperback – 12 Dec 1991


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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (12 Dec. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140137327
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140137323
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 65,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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POPULAR revolt was for many centuries an essential feature of the English tradition, and the middle decades of the seventeenth century saw the greatest upheaval that has yet occurred in Britain. Read the first page
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Bull on 13 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
Love it or loath it 'The World Turned Upside Down' is a landmark in the history of the study of the Civil Wars, and arguably the zenith of the career of Christopher Hill. The original was published in 1972, and as a schoolboy I was lucky enough to attend a seminar at which he, Koenigsberger, and GR Elton were all present. A close run thing but Hill was probably the star turn. I finally got my own paperback penguin edition in 1981 - its still here now, and remains influential in the way we think about the period. It is particularly interesting to note that after the first edition Hill took on board many suggestions and corrections from a swathe of luminaries including Roots, Hobday, Thomas and Capp.

So what is actually in this volume ? The thrust of the book is that the Civil Wars were a 'revolution', and that within this event - which did turn over the world as men knew it - both 'common people' and a middle class played an important intellectual role. Hill's main concern is not chronology, but the ideas and philosophy. The moot point of course is whether what actually happened is reconcilable with the 'social tensions' and 'class antagonism' which Hill regarded as a mainspring of events. Whatever your opinion on this crucial matter Hill clearly researched extensively, covered widely, and wrote with great elegance and conviction.

Key players in Hill's thoughtful vision are the Diggers, Levellers, Seekers, Ranters and Quakers, all of whom he probed and explained with great lucidity. The unleashing of these non-comforming idealists who ranged across the spectrum from the sober and pacifist to the most wonderful and bizarre of crackpots did indeed have an impact on religion and society that stretched far beyond 1660.
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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Barry Marshall on 24 Aug. 2001
Format: Paperback
Christopher Hill is one of my favourite historians, and of his books, of which I have about a dozen on my bookshelves, this is probably the best. Its style owes much to EP Thompson's monumental 'The Making of the English Working Class', both in terms of structure and historical methodology. Hill is a Marxist historian, but there is little dogmatic or reductionist about his work, and, contrary to the review below, a familiarity with Marxist concepts is not at all necessary to appreciate the value of this important book.
Hill begins the work with a general survey of the social, religious and economic background to the English Revolution; the forces which created it, and the openings it itself created through, eg, the New Model Army, the consequences of the Protestant Reformation, and so on. Hill is looking at 'internal' and 'external' causes of the 'flourishing of radical ideas' in the revolutionary decades, 1640-1660. He traces the development of the ideas in themselves, and the response to social conditions, conceived here in the broadest sense possible. Thus his work follows a sophisticated dialectical structure, whereby 'ideas' are discussed in themselves, but always related to the social and cultural millieu in which they operate.
And what ideas! Christopher Hill shows enormous sympathy for the 'exhilirating freedom' of the revolutionary decades. He shows us, like Thompson, people making their own history, not because but in spite of thier 'circumstance'.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 May 1999
Format: Paperback
If the English Civil War is your concern, then this book is a must. Hill even makes you consider the Ranters (who believed it their duty to sin as frequently and openly as possible) as a group with logical ideas. Hill is concise, clear and often very witty. This book has helped my study of the period a great deal.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Coral Carrington on 23 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
As a history sudentent Christopher Hill appeals to me because of the way he presents his ideas. His works are great in helping you develop your own ideas, partly because of his selective use of evidence, he gives you something to contest. Christopher Hill has an agenda - but who doesn't. The same can be said for any text- you must read with care. He has a fantastic style and this work is one of my favourites. 'The World Turned Upside Down' is engaging and exciting.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Simon Ash on 6 April 2005
Format: Paperback
Certainly a candidate for it. Hill's monumental work is probably the definitive work of the British Marxist Historians group of scholars who appeared in the immediate after of World War II. It featured such lumanaries as E.P. Thompson and Rodney Hilton and basically invented Social History through its study of what became known as 'History from Below'.
Thompson's 'The Making of the English Working Class' is the most famous publication of the group, but 'World turned Upside Down' is, in the humble opinion of this author, the best.
It expands on Hill's thesis about the two revolutions that took place in England at the time of the Civil War. Focussing on the second, democratic, revolution, that ultimately failed; Hill examines some of the main players.
Groups such as The Levellers, The Diggers and The Ranters are examined as are the early Quakers, in a way that is sad, compelling and eminently readable. At the same time important questions are asked about the so-called 'traditional' view of history.....
Buy this book, read it and inject the arguments into your brain
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