Conrad Russell

Conrad Russell whose books include The Crisis of Parliaments: English History 1509-1660 and Parliaments and English Politics 1621-1629, is at present Professor of History at Yale. He hopes to take up the Astor Chair of British History at University College, London in October.

Leave it to the teachers

Conrad Russell, 20 March 1997

‘This is not how things were done when we were at the schools.’ This is not John Major yearning to get back to basics: it is Pope Innocent IV writing to the schools of Paris in the middle of the 13th century. There is nothing new about politicians aching to stick their noses into the management of education, nor about their belief that because they have received education, they know all about it.

Draining the Whig bathwater

Conrad Russell, 10 June 1993

This is a big book, not only in the sense that it runs to 954 pages, but also in that it contains a prodigious amount of work. All the familiar sources are here, but Dr Sharpe also draws on many manuscript collections which are less familiar because they are newly available or in remote places. He gives us many valuable ‘unconsidered trifles’. I will not soon forget the man protesting against militia rates who believed England was at peace in 1626, when it was at war with both France and Spain. The picture of Charles behaving with a gravity that spoiled the conversation at Henrietta Maria’s private supper parties, brings the couple alive. The proclamation enjoining men to keep their urine for a year for the making of saltpetre captures the impracticality which was characteristic of Charles, and government ministers of any generation will recognise the gentleman in 1640 who hoped that a Parliament would do something to stop so many sparrows eating his grain.

What happened in Havering

Conrad Russell, 12 March 1992

This is perhaps the fullest and most vital study of a single community in Tudor and Stuart England that we yet possess. The Liberty of Havering, moreover, is large enough, and varied enough, to escape many of the typical criticisms of the significance of the local study. It stretched from the Thames, at Hornchurch Marsh, through the village of Hornchurch, to the main road to Chelmsford and Colchester, straddled by the busy market town of Romford, to the village of Havering-atte-Bower, well off the beaten track to the north. One of Dr McIntosh’s greatest successes is in contrasting the development of the very different areas which made up the Liberty of Havering.

They would not go away

Conrad Russell, 30 March 1989

This is a much-needed book. Perhaps no issue, not even those much-discussed issues of Justification by Faith and election, is as central to the debates of the first century of the English Reformation as that of idols or images. In this case, everything is in the word, for one man’s image was another man’s idol: for one, the terms were almost synonyms, while for another they were as opposite as God and the Devil. The issue not only divided theologians: it divided parishes. The altar stone the Marians recovered from the road at Smarden in Kent was potentially divisive: the altar stones at Sutton Valence and Hartlip, which had been built into the fireplaces of Master Harper and Master Norton, were potential sources of riot. The divisive potential of ecclesiastical ornament lasted right down to, and into, the Civil War, as illustrated by the churchwarden of Bromsgrove, who was reported to the Long Parliament for saying he had saved their church windows, and cared not a fart for any orders of the Parliament not confirmed by the king. Images were not only objects of belief: they were visible symbols of the unity of communities, and an unsuccessful symbol of unity is a symbol of disunity. Images were not an issue, like predestination, which authorities could ever hope to confine to the learned obscurity of the schools: they would not go away, even when taken down. A parish divided on whether to bow to the altar was as hard to manage as a Parliament divided on whether to bow to the mace.

Radical Heritage

Conrad Russell, 1 September 1988

It is only necessary to cite the cases of Gwilym and Megan Lloyd George to show that a politician’s biological heirs are not necessarily the infallible custodians of his or her political legacy. The fact that Alan Ryan’s view of Bertrand Russell and my own are very closely similar is not, therefore, proof that we are both right. It is merely proof that our perceptions are compatible with a thorough knowledge of the evidence, and perhaps reason for suspecting that he and I view the evidence from fairly similar political standpoints.

Royal Panic Attack: James VI and I

Colin Kidd, 16 June 2011

Since the 1960s, social historians have made enormous efforts to expand the range of history beyond the familiar cast of monarchs, courtiers and parliamentarians to recover the lives of the lower...

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Swearing by Phrenology

John Vincent, 3 February 2000

This is a rather relaxed book. As such, it may disappoint those who know the author through his brilliant contributions to early Stuart history, or his recent principled interventions in debate...

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Conrad Russell’s Civil War

Blair Worden, 29 August 1991

For fifteen years Conrad Russell has dominated that most embattled and most heavily populated area of historical study, the origins of the civil wars of mid-17th-century England. In doing so, he...

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Bright Old Thing

D.A.N. Jones, 23 July 1987

Conrad Russell was a nephew of the ninth Duke of Bedford: every publisher in Great Russell Street and Bedford Square must have wanted to publish his selected letters, if only from simple loyalty...

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