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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Milestone in Civil War Historiography
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...
Published on 13 Aug 2009 by Stephen Bull

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very readable
I found this rather "intellectual" and hard going. Uninterestingly written. I gave up about third of the way through.
Published 5 months ago by Mr S P Crouch


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Milestone in Civil War Historiography, 13 Aug 2009
By 
Stephen Bull - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (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. Yet we need to remain aware, as Hill plainly was, that it was the war and the freedom that the lifting of various forms of censorship that followed that allowed this to happen - not that the ideas expressed from the mid 1640s created the conflict. Another issue with the Hill thesis is that what he takes as significant belief is highly selective, great chunks of thought and print being dismissed as 'nonsense' - whilst other things, now also widely disregarded, are accepted as core to the debate. Finally, the revised edition at least, ends rather oddly. For after the conclusions there are two appendicies one which refers to Hobbes who properly 'has no place in this book' and one on Milton and Bunyan.

In short this is a fascinating and well written volume with which anybody interested in the period should be familiar. Whether it presents a complete historical picture, or a convincing 'explanation' is a different question entirely. Nevertheless highly recommended reading which will doubtless stimulate new conclusions from fresh generations of readers.
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66 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The classic study of the radical seventeenth century., 24 Aug 2001
This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (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'. Thus he presents the Seekers and Ranters, anarchist libertarians who believed, as a logical consequence of Calvinist doctrines of predestination, that the holy were justified sinners; the radical Quakers; and individuals like Samuel Fisher, Abeizer Coppe, the anonymous author of the anarchist 'Tyranipocrit Discovered', and John Bunyan.
Of course the book is most famous for its portrait of True Leveller Gerrard Winstanley, the hero of the book. For Hill, Winstanley is the apogee of seventeenth century radicalism. His agrarian communist priciples strikingly resemble modern libertarian socialism, and his social theory, like Hegel and Marx, was dialectical, in a way. Winsatanley's shadow stretches long and dark over the book, and it is no worse for that.
The book has a scope far beyond the sects of the English Revolution, also discussed are the protestant ethic, the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, Milton's epics, the burgeoning scientific revolution, the 'puritan sexual revolution', and much more. From this book one gets a sense of the experience of the civil war, as Hill states in his Introduction, from a worm's eye view.
But it is a very one-sided view. More balance is necessary. It would be interesting if Hill had had more to say about popular conservatism, about resistance to these ideas, so that a greater understanding of the radicals may be brought to light.
Yet this book fully deserves its five stars, and equally deserves to be read, discussed and appreciated after almost thirty years. A testement to one of the greatest historians alive today.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully explorative evocation of its subject, 13 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (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
4.0 out of 5 stars The World Turned Upside Down & The History Student, 23 Oct 2009
This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (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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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best history work in English?, 6 April 2005
By 
Simon Ash (washington, tyne and wear United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (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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5.0 out of 5 stars Admirable introduction to a time of political and social ferment, 25 Aug 2014
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (Paperback)
For my money, the best guide there is to the radical ideas of the English Civil war period. Hill gives an admirable introduction to the intertwined religious and social currents of thought of a time when tensions created by enclosure of the commons were rising, apocalyptic visions were rife, and rootless ‘masterless men’ an ever more prevalent feature of urban and rural life. Hill documents agitation among the ranks of the New Model Army and the activities of the Diggers (a section I particularly enjoyed), Ranters and Quakers, combining a sharp eye for detail with a clear-sighted overview of where each movement fitted into the wider picture, and how they differed from each other. Reflecting more broadly on what those developments portended for science, sex and rational thought, the author ends with a chapter on the fate of radical ideas after the restoration of the monarchy. Appendices discuss the respective approaches of Hobbes and Winstanley to the role of reason in politics, and the contrasting attitudes to radicalism of Milton and Bunyan. It’s clear from Hill’s highly engaging account that this was a time of ferment, with the – sadly unrealised – potential to completely transform participative democracy if things had fallen out differently. Fascinating.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Essentially an academic text, Hill's comprehensive reference book manages ..., 5 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (Paperback)
Essentially an academic text, Hill's comprehensive reference book manages to merge accuracy with intimacy. It is a dense read, and not for the faint-hearted, so should not be rushed. For those interested in this period of change, this book should fill in many gaps, and if they were previously in doubt, they will be far more convinced, despite imprisonments, of the widely different types of freedom of thought and action, that we have lost. Our oppression today is far more insidious.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 29 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (Paperback)
Solid stuff, but I got to the end- very educational,
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 21 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (Paperback)
The best book on the Diggers that I have ever read.
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13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marxist Historiography?, 20 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (Penguin History) (Paperback)
Mr Hill is widely known as *the* historian of the English Civil War. This book, long considered the cornerstone of Civil War historiography, is full of new and bold ideas that Mr Hill puts forth in great detail. A word of warning: if you do not know what millenarianism is, or who the Levellers, Diggers, and Ranters were, then you will not understand this book! Mr Hill assumes a level of knowledge that very few people have, and this book is a very difficult read. If, however, you take well to Mr Hill's Marxist veiws (including a distinct lack of objectivity in the area of religion), and you are well versed in English history, you would do well to read this book. "The World Turned Upside Down" is still, with all its inherent problems, the best book on the subject.
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