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).
Love it or loath it 'The World TurnedUpside 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.
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 TurnedUpside Down" is still, with all its inherent problems, the best book on the subject.
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 TurnedUpside Down' is engaging and exciting.
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 turnedUpside 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