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5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible guide to the thinking that made the English Revolution, 11 Nov 2011
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a really absorbing, but surprisingly accessible, series of reflections on both the individuals and the currents of thought that together contributed to, and thus represented something of the tenor of, the English Revolution under Cromwell in the mid-17th century. The first part of the book - originally delivered as the Ford Lectures at Oxford University in 1962 - discusses the influence of new directions in the understanding of science and medicine (and in particular the role of Gresham College) before considering the enormously influential legacies of Francis Bacon (in science), Walter Ralegh (primarily in politics and on the nature of history) and Edward Coke (on the development of law). I found Hill especially fascinating on Bacon's understanding of the necessary interplay between faith and reason - it's clear he had a much less `instrumentalist' view of nature than is sometimes suggested.

The second part of the book is a series of shorter essays that pick up, thirty or so years later, on often understated themes from the original lectures. There's a major re-assessment of the role of the 16th-century translator of the New Testament, William Tyndale, whom Hill sees as providing the language indispensable to later intellectual developments in thinking about, for example, the limits to the power of monarchs; and an appreciative discussion of the way reform of feudal land tenures worked in favour of both the growing gentry class and economic reform, and would stimulate, in the following century, the Industrial Revolution. In revisiting Coke, Ralegh and Bacon, discussing the spectre of poverty, or assessing the extent to which thinking about religion, politics and economics were intertwined, Hill's underlying thesis - that a mild Puritanism was absolutely key to the Revolution - is persuasively and eloquently made. Should be read by anyone with an interest in understanding more about how the 16th and 17th centuries are key to how we got where we are today.
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Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution: Revisited
Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution: Revisited by Christopher Hill (Paperback - 1 Sep 2001)
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