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Derek Hirst

Derek Hirst is the author of England in Conflict 1603-60.

Writing the English republic

Derek Hirst, 19 August 1999

The appearance of this book on 30 January, the 350th anniversary of the cold morning when the axe fell on Charles Stuart’s neck, was no mere romantic gesture. Rather, it declared David Norbrook’s belief that to vindicate the cultural vitality and integrity of English republicanism at its moment of flowering – a moment of high energy not only in politics but also in political thought, journalism and in literature, too – is to make a contribution to present politics as well as present understanding. When the book’s publicity material invites us to compare the Levellers’ demands of the 1640s with Charter 88 we might suspect the hand of Norbrook himself. The title he has chosen is strategic in its imprecision. With its unclear use of the word ‘writing’, he enlists himself, and the present-day republican poets and artists who appear intermittently, alongside Milton in a common enterprise.’‘

In a narrow pass

Derek Hirst, 19 November 1992

Stephen Sedley and Lawrence Kaplan seek to map a new course for the post-socialist Left, and to turn attention away from that beguiling but now exploded theme, egalitarianism. The long fixation with egalitarianism has, they complain, allowed the Right today to ‘appropriate the word liberty and equate it with the acquisition of power’; and the phenomenon of Thatcherism would certainly bear them out. To enable a redirected Left to know itself, they have edited the eloquent works of a pre-socialist exponent of liberty, John Warr, who in the months around the execution of Charles I in January 1649 urged sweeping legal and political reforms. In Warr’s eyes, ‘liberty was the antithesis of power,’ not of property as Winstanley the Digger might have maintained: ‘it represented both the restraint of the mighty by the law and a people’s right to overthrow rulers who abused their power.’

Items on a New Agenda

Conrad Russell, 23 October 1986

These five books represent something of a cross-section of current work on Tudor and Stuart English history, and they give a picture of how fundamentally the agenda for discussion in this field...

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