ARRAY(0xa7623780)
 
Customer Review

65 of 67 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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

Reviewer


Top Reviewer Ranking: 38,964