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Friend to Sir Philip Sidney

Blair Worden, 3 July 1986

The Prose Works of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke 
edited by John Gouws.
Oxford, 279 pp., £40, March 1986, 0 19 812746 4
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... Four hundred years ago, on 17 October 1586, Sir Philip Sidney died at the age of 31 of a wound sustained in a skirmish at Zutphen, where his forces had fought for the Dutch cause against Spanish domination of the Netherlands. It was one of the great deaths of English history. His early biographers – or hagiographers – wrought a tale of battlefield heroism and deathbed stoicism that helped the myth of Sidney to become more powerful than the man had ever been ...

Which play was performed at the Globe Theatre on 7 February 1601?

Blair Worden: A Play for Plotters, 10 July 2003

... In the spring or summer of 1599, the Chorus of Henry V, in Shakespeare’s only explicit reference to a contemporary politician, looked forward to the return of the 33-year-old Earl of Essex from his campaign in Ireland, ‘bringing rebellion broached on his sword’ – a light touch from which some heavy inferences have been drawn. Instead, the Earl returned in disgrace in September and was placed under house arrest ...

Tolerant Repression

Blair Worden, 10 May 1990

Thomas Starkey and the Commonweal 
by Tom Mayer.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £32.50, April 1989, 0 521 36104 4
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Politics and Literature in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII 
by Alistair Fox.
Blackwell, 317 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 631 13566 9
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The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Portraits at the Court of Henry VIII 
by Retha Warnicke.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 521 37000 0
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English Travellers Abroad 1604-1667 
by John Stoye.
Yale, 448 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 300 04180 2
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... One characteristic of the historical writing of the Eighties was an expanding readiness to relate the politics of the past to its literature: to the literature of ideas and imagination. The social and economic explanations of political behaviour which had been dominant in the previous decades had left too much unexplained. A growing number of historians turned to literature, as to art and religion, to understand the structures of thought and emotion which distinguish one age from another, and without a grasp of which the political language of the past can be unintelligible ...

Past v. Present

Phil Withington: Blair Worden’s Civil War, 10 May 2012

God’s Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell 
by Blair Worden.
Oxford, 421 pp., £35, March 2012, 978 0 19 957049 2
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... manifestation was especially violent and decisive. The harbingers of ‘modern scholarship’ (as Blair Worden described them at the time) self-consciously identified themselves as ‘Revisionists’ and labelled extant interpretations as ‘Whig’ or ‘Marxist’. They then condemned these Whig and Marxist interpretations as ...

Austere and Manly Attributes

Patrick Collinson, 3 April 1997

The Sound of Virtue: Philip Sidney’s ‘Arcadia’ and Elizabethan Politics 
by Blair Worden.
Yale, 406 pp., £40, October 1996, 0 300 06693 7
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... by the plan to marry him to the daughter of the hero of the Dutch resistance, William of Orange. Blair Worden puts it neatly: ‘Where Sidney’s plan to marry Orange’s daughter was a pledge of commitment to international Protestantism, Elizabeth’s negotiations with Anjou signalled her repudiation of it’. In the late summer of 1579, with things ...

Mighty Causes

Mark Kishlansky: The English Civil Wars, 11 June 2009

The English Civil Wars 1640-60 
by Blair Worden.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £12.99, January 2009, 978 0 297 84888 2
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... body in Westminster Abbey. Hardy’s glass-all-empty perspective is brought forcefully to mind by Blair Worden’s dispiriting account of the English civil wars. This, too, is a remarkable work of concision, narrating one of the most crowded series of events in Britain’s long history in little more than 150 pages. It is aimed at the general reader on ...

Tribute to Trevor-Roper

A.J.P. Taylor, 5 November 1981

History and Imagination: Essays in honour of H.R. Trevor-Roper 
edited by Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Valerie Pearl and Blair Worden.
Duckworth, 386 pp., £25, October 1981, 9780715615706
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... Hebrew studies during the century. Republicans seem much concerned with this search for forebears. Blair Worden shows how the republicans of the Long Parliament ransacked the classics for their examples. Richard Cobb catalogues the fantasy figures which adorned the Jacobin imagination. Biographical essays predominate in more recent times – mostly ...

Sagest of Usurpers

Ian Gilmour: Cromwell since Cromwell, 21 March 2002

Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil Wars and the Passions of Posterity 
by Blair Worden.
Allen Lane, 387 pp., £20, November 2001, 9780713996036
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... 55,000 people made homeless. In his fine, scholarly, closely argued but clearly written book, Blair Worden traces the downs and ups not just of Cromwell’s reputation but that of the Roundheads from the 17th to the 20th century. Until fairly recently Civil War feelings remained high. ‘We are Cavaliers or Roundheads, before we are Conservatives or ...

New Model Criticism

Colin Burrow: Writing Under Cromwell, 19 June 2008

Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England: John Milton, Andrew Marvell, Marchamont Nedham 
by Blair Worden.
Oxford, 458 pp., December 2007, 978 0 19 923081 5
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... sight, though we can’t just blame Nedham’s copious quill for his blindness – and from 1650, Blair Worden argues, had been collaborating in one way or another with his apparently unprincipled friend. Worden shows how Milton and Marvell, just as much as Nedham, had to trim and adapt themselves to political ...

Types of Ambiguity

Conrad Russell, 22 January 1987

War, Taxation and Rebellion in Early Tudor England: Henry VIII, Wolsey and the Amicable Grant of 1525 
by G.W. Bernard.
Harvester, 164 pp., £25, August 1986, 0 7108 1126 8
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Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics and Reform 1500-1550 
by Alistair Fox and John Guy.
Blackwell, 242 pp., £22.50, July 1986, 0 631 14614 8
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The Union of England and Scotland 1603-1608 
by Bruce Galloway.
John Donald, 208 pp., £20, May 1986, 0 85976 143 6
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Stuart England 
edited by Blair Worden.
Phaidon, 272 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 7148 2391 0
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... serious political division was going to make the need to resolve them too urgent to be ignored. Blair Worden and his team of contributors have given us a coffee-table book of considerable quality, in which the 17th century is brought back into line for a reconciliation with the 16th. Blair Worden’s ...

What do we mean by it?

J.G.A. Pocock, 7 January 1993

The Cambridge History of Political Thought: 1450-1700 
edited by J.H. Burns and Mark Goldie.
Cambridge, 798 pp., £60, August 1991, 0 521 24716 0
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... in their focus: Corinne Weston on the ancient constitution, David Wootton on the Levellers, Blair Worden on the English republicans. This may be justified by referring to the section’s title, and claiming that England was the only major society in 17th-century ‘Europe’ in which what is ordinarily called a ‘revolution’ can be said to have ...

The Calvinist International

Colin Kidd: Hugh Trevor-Roper, 22 May 2008

The Invention of Scotland: Myth and History 
by Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Yale, 267 pp., £18.99, May 2008, 978 0 300 13686 9
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Europe’s Physician: The Various Life of Sir Theodore de Mayerne 
by Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Yale, 438 pp., £25, October 2006, 0 300 11263 7
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... Theodore de Mayerne (1573-1655), put together after his death by one of his most brilliant pupils, Blair Worden, is itself a powerful corrective to the balder version of his own argument. As he recognised, before its decline into localised scholastic sterility – not least in the Scotland of the Covenanters – the early 17th-century Calvinist ...


Conrad Russell, 7 November 1985

F.W. Maitland 
by G.R. Elton.
Weidenfeld, 118 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 297 78614 8
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Renaissance Essays 
by Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Secker, 312 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 436 42511 4
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History, Society and the Churches: Essays in Honour of Owen Chadwick 
edited by Derek Beales and Geoffrey Best.
Cambridge, 335 pp., £30, May 1985, 0 521 25486 8
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... together in a review, but some must be mentioned whether they can be pulled together or not. Blair Worden, on Oliver Cromwell and the Sin of Achan, is inside Cromwell’s mind in a way few historians have ever been, and sheds important light on why he refused the crown. Boyd Hilton, on Evangelicals and Providence, distinguishes between those ...

Unusual Endowments

Patrick Collinson, 30 March 2000

Philip Sidney: A Double Life 
by Alan Stewart.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, February 2000, 0 7011 6859 5
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... 1580, as a sublimation, a substitute for virtuous action, and as a spin-off from the Anjou affair. Blair Worden has demonstrated in The Sound of Virtue (1996) the extent to which Sidney’s fiction was saturated in the urgent political concerns of the time. Buried near its heart (in the middle of a wedding!) is a song sung by the shepherd Philisides ...


Neal Ascherson: Hugh Trevor-Roper, 19 August 2010

Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography 
by Adam Sisman.
Weidenfeld, 598 pp., £25, July 2010, 978 0 297 85214 8
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... question – was what Trevor-Roper was about. At his memorial meeting in Christ Church, his friend Blair Worden said: ‘His avowed aim, and his certain achievement, was to make history live.’ And that, for all his faults and failures, he ...

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