Christopher Hill is one of the modern era of British Civil War historians. He obviously has socialist leanings but his analysis of background and events is interesting and well worth considering if you are studying this period (which I am).
A masterful analysis of the radical revolutionaries of 17th century England, political, social and theological. Some are well known like the Levellers and Quakers, others obscure like Grindletomians and Muggletonians.. Of all the groups only Quakers have continued but the Marxist Hill sees in others the precursors of later revolutions. One learns many new things including about some wild people. The general social revolutionary impact of Puritanism is well described giving the lie to stereotypes and for an unbeliever, Hill copes well with the theological niceties. I have one criticism of Hill's judgement. Baxter was not well to do. He gave away most of his curate's income when he had one and refused royalties to keep the price of his books low. One thing missing is any indication of the numbers of adherents to these various groupings.I know there will be no accurate figures taken at the time but some indication could be offered.
This is not an easy book to read. It assumes considerable familiarity with the events leading up to the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I. It also comes at its subject matter in a thematic rather than a chronological manner, often seeking to draw a conclusion from contemporary sources that may be many years separated from each other, many of which may involve Roundhead or Cavalier bias. Hill does occasionally warn of such bias, but still proceeds to draw selectively on those sources that support his Marxist-inspired interpretation.
Nevertheless, whether you agree with his conclusions or not, this book is an admirable example of scholarly research, as well as of academic argument. There is much interesting information about the many radical groups that flourished during this period, when central authority, intellectual repression and censorship were in abeyance.
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.
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