Blair Worden

Blair Worden’s many books include God’s Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell.

Novel and Naughty: Parliament and the People

Blair Worden, 26 September 2019

Where did the ‘radical’ political ideas recounted by the author come from? Were they developments of previously held beliefs? Did they have long roots, or were they generated by the exceptional events of the 1640s and by the rise of mass publication, which was largely a consequence of those events? It is hard to say, because we know so much less about public opinion before the expansion of printed source material in the civil wars. Whatever the answers, it is the short-term incitements to ‘radicalism’ that he brings to life. One essential component of its appeal was the hold on public affection of the institution of Parliament.

Does Peter Lake​ ever sleep? Even at 666 pages this is not the longest of his books, which descend on the study of the decades around 1600 like a great waterfall. There are no signs of fatigue, no inanimate sentences. Behind the loosely conversational manner of his prose lies a precision of thought and structure. How Shakespeare Put Politics on the Stage, an amiably but inherently...

As Bad as Poisoned: James I

Blair Worden, 3 March 2016

In the politics​ of Shakespeare’s time and its sequel, life not so much imitated art as competed with it. The ostentatious theatricality of royal rituals and masques was complemented by the visceral excitements of public events. Which of the stage’s countless trial scenes can have equalled in dramatic effect the moment during the arraignment of the Earl of Essex for treason in...

John Donne​ is a modern rediscovery. His reputation, high among his contemporaries, fell after their time, along with those of other 17th-century metaphysical poets who would wait equally long for rehabilitation. The late 17th century and the 18th, committed to orderliness of metre and feeling, disliked the ‘forced’ and ‘unnatural’ rhythms of his verse, his...

The Tribe of Ben: Ben Jonson

Blair Worden, 11 October 2012

Seventeenth-century critics thought Ben Jonson England’s finest writer. Even until the mid-18th century he was conventionally regarded as at least Shakespeare’s equal. It was he more than anyone who won a new status for authorship, to befit the moral and educative role he claimed for it. Under James I the former bricklayer and soldier and brawler and convict, the one-time mediocre...

Societies, it is sometimes said, get the politics they deserve. Can the same be said for their history? If contemporary Britain is anything to go by then the short answer is probably yes....

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Mighty Causes: the English Civil Wars

Mark Kishlansky, 11 June 2009

Thomas Hardy, it is said, believed the history of humanity could be written in six words: ‘They lived, they suffered, they died.’ As a historical account this was more than adequate....

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‘Politics’ is a strange word, and the particular nature of its strangeness may explain why so many people feel confused by or alienated from political processes. It can refer...

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Shortly after Oliver Cromwell’s death in September 1658, Dryden wrote some ‘Heroique Stanza’s, Consecrated to the Glorious Memory of his most Serene and Renowned Highnesse...

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Austere and Manly Attributes

Patrick Collinson, 3 April 1997

Unlike 1588, the Armada Year, 1578 has not endured in the national memory. But to those alive at the time, and especially those in charge of affairs – committed, ‘forward’...

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Types of Ambiguity

Conrad Russell, 22 January 1987

The Church shall not so expound one place of Scripture that it shall be repugnant to another. Of all the Thirty-Nine Articles, this is perhaps the most difficult, yet it lays down a scholarly...

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Tribute to Trevor-Roper

A.J.P. Taylor, 5 November 1981

The festschrift, a collection of essays in honour of a senior professor, used to be dismissed as a rather tiresome German habit. Now, I think, it has become embedded in English academic...

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