Peter Gwyn

Peter Gwyn is working on a life of Cardinal Wolsey.

Scarisbrick’s Bomb

Peter Gwyn, 20 December 1984

Two very different books by two professors at English universities. That written by Professor Ashton is a bad book of a kind that is all too common, that by Professor Scarisbrick is good, perhaps very good, but of a kind that is now all too rare, in that it was written for the simple, old fashioned reason that its author was passionately interested in imparting his views. Professor Ashton, writing to meet the requirements of the A-level student, seems never even to have decided what he really wanted to tell us. It looks as if at one stage he may have had it in mind to engage with Christopher Hill, whose heroic efforts to persuade a sceptical English audience that during the 17th century some kind of Marxist revolution occurred in England, leading to the rise of such things as capitalism and science, will be familiar to all those with any interest in this period. Indeed, it might be thought that so familiar are Dr Hill’s views, and so telling the many criticisms of them, that a book which took them as a major theme might now be redundant.

SIR: For some inexplicable reason most historians these days, but not Sir Moses Finley, have a kind of death wish by which, if presented with a little space and a wider audience, they do everything possible to alienate their readers. C.R. Whittaker did have the grace to admit that what he wrote had very little to do with the book by Finley which he was ostensibly meant to review, and about which the...

Scarisbrick’s Bomb

20 December 1984

SIR: What can I say in reply to Professor Collinson (Letters, 7 February) but that he of all people writes as someone ‘passionately interested in imparting his views’, and that is one of the reasons why he is such a good historian. Of course, passion is not the only criterion: intelligence, knowledge, honesty in confronting the evidence, and no doubt lots of other things as well. But dispassionate...

Out of the East

Blair Worden, 11 October 1990

Can historical biography still be written? Joel Hurstfield, who had planned a life of Robert Cecil, the chief minister inherited by James I from Queen Elizabeth, abandoned it in the 1960s in the...

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