As excellent as I expected. Ahead of his time, Hill write also with humanity, wit and synthesises literature, correspondence and history such thst you feel the times, and understand more clearly how little we know of how we got to now.
Although Britain in the seventeenth century had long been my favourite period of history, I had several times put off reading Hill until now. I took against his abrupt and detached style. Additionally, in this book at least, Hill eschews a narrative approach, which I had tended to favour, and chopping the period into four chunks, subdivides each into sections marked narrative, politics, economics and religion.
But as Amazon comments, this may not tell the story of a period, but it helps you understand what was going on.
However I would suggest this is not the place to start a study of the period, which is enormously complex, with radical and continual changes going off throughout the century in all of Hill's demarked areas. Begin with a conventional narrative history like those offered by Trevelyan or Kishlansky, maybe throw in some biographies of key figures. Then you will get the most out of Hill.
But as stated, Hill does help you understand what was going on. What I got from his book chiefly was that the development of opposition to the monarchy was not only the fact that James I for all his intelligence did either not understand or respect the importance of parliament, because his approach to the monarchy of England was Scottish in style however much he revelled in it, but that the opposition parliament brought to the situation was not only steeped in a tradition going back four hundred years to when parliament effectively first became a part of government, but was also being transformed by a revolution in thought, made possible of course by the clarifying momentum of the Renaissance and Reformation, which created the possibility of a scientific method which could be applied not only to learning but industry, and which also allowed fresh perceptions about the spiritual and moral responsibilities of the citizen, which could now be seen in the light of reason as well as faith.
The way Hill tells it, the republicans in the mid-century were tearing up the rule book, not only about what they could do, but why, and what could be deemed right and good, in a way that has never happened in British known history before or since. Many reforms were thrown out after the Restoration, but of these some were resumed after 1688, to become a permanent part of the landscape.
After 1688, according to Hill, what was evident above all, apart from the now dominant role of parliament in government, was the pre-eminence of the business community as now more powerful than the landed aristocracy, better organised, and bound indissolubly to the process of government.
Deprived of the earnestness of Cromwell and his close followers, these commercial interests had become embedded in a kind of legalised corruption which lasted the whole of the next century, and which still taint the processes of government today. But gone were the dominance of arbitrary monarchical power and the possibility of subservience to the universal Catholic church.
Although written over 50 years ago, this book is still worth reading. This book is just right, not to long, but with enough information to please any reader wanting to know the true history of one of this countries most exciting times. The duty of any historian is a most difficult one, he must feed the reader, without over feeding him. He must give facts, without boring the reader. He must research deep and hard for the truth. Christopher Hill does all this and more, in his usual captivating way, when you have put this book down, you will be looking for more works by Christopher Hill.
Don't worry about Hill's Marxist credentials; this book stands well as an almost apolitical description of the origin of British capitalism and modern British society. Fact-based analytical rigour delivered with insight. Exceptionally well written. Hill is persuasive throughout, depicting the emergence of an Anglo-Saxon world that is recognisable even now.