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Counting signatures

Christopher Hill, 22 January 1981

Literacy and the Social Order: Reading and Writing in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Cambridge, 246 pp., £12.50, October 1980, 0 521 22514 0
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... This is the first full-scale study of literacy in 16th and 17th-century England. Dr Cressy has long been known to scholars for his work on the subject: here he gives us his conclusions. For the whole of his period, he thinks, about two out of three adult males, and about 90 per cent of women, were illiterate. Proportions varied from region to region ...

Ancient Exploitation

Christopher Hill, 4 February 1982

The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World: from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests 
by G.E.M. de Ste Croix.
Duckworth, 732 pp., £38, December 1981, 0 7156 0738 3
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... This is a powerful book, which should be read by all ancient historians and all Marxists. It will not please the orthodox in either group. Dr de Ste Croix has evolved his own personal brand of Marxism, though he relates it carefully to Marx’s own works, and he gives short shrift to his Marxist predecessors in the field. George Thomson, whose Aeschylus and Athens excited me very much when it came out in 1940, is dismissed in three curt sentences ...

Montereale

Christopher Hill, 6 November 1980

The Cheese and the Worms: the Cosmos of a 16th-Century Miller 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by John Tedeschi and Anne Tedeschi.
Routledge, 177 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 7100 0591 1
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... from 1532 to 1599 or 1600. He was a miller, who spent nearly all his life in Montereale, a small hill town in the Friuli, part of the Venetian republic. The occupation of miller set Menocchio apart. ‘The mill was a place of meeting, of social relations, in a world that was predominantly closed and static.’ Like the ale-house, ‘it was a place for the ...

Reason, Love and Life

Christopher Hill, 20 November 1980

The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
edited by Jeremy Treglown.
Blackwell, 275 pp., £21, September 1980, 9780631128311
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... Rochester is one of the most exciting and paradoxical of English poets. Sexually ambivalent, a notorious member of the gang of young roués at the court of Charles II, he nevertheless managed to write a few poignant and haunting poems which suggest that his public notoriety concealed a sensibility reacting to the intellectual crisis of the later 17th century ...

Exact Walking

Christopher Hill, 19 June 1980

Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 
by R.T. Kendall.
Oxford, 252 pp., £12.50, February 1980, 0 19 826716 9
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... In 16th-century England Protestant theology was overwhelmingly predestinarian. ‘Calvinist’ is the word normally used, but Dr Kendall, as we shall see, is unhappy about it. Bishops like Jewell, Grindal and Whitgift, Puritans like Cartwright and Perkins (though Dr Kendall would not call him a Puritan), later King James I, all agreed on the essentials of theology ...

Newton and God’s Truth

Christopher Hill, 4 September 1980

A Portrait of Isaac Newton 
by Frank Manuel.
Muller, 478 pp., £11.75, April 1980, 0 584 95357 7
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Philosopher at War: The Quarrel between Newton and Leibniz 
by Rupert Hall.
Cambridge, 338 pp., £15, July 1980, 0 521 22732 1
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... There are at least three possible portraits of Isaac Newton. Traditional internalist historians of science depict him as an aloof scholar, remote from the world, solving in his Cambridge ivory tower problems which derived logically from the state of contemporary mathematical knowledge. A second approach, which originated with the Soviet scientist Hessen, relates the problems which Newton studied, together with other scientists of his day, to the economic needs of rising capitalist society, or draws attention to the continued influence of his Puritan background on his mode of thought ...

Full-Employment Utopias

Christopher Hill, 16 July 1981

Utopia and the Ideal Society: A Study of English Utopian Writing, 1516-1700 
by J.C. Davis.
Cambridge, 427 pp., £25, March 1981, 0 521 23396 8
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Science and Society in Restoration England 
by Michael Hunter.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £18.50, March 1981, 0 521 22866 2
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... Dr Davis’s book is a long, careful and detailed study of utopian writing in England from Sir Thomas More to the end of the 17th century. He has interesting things to say about well-known figures like More, Bacon, Winstanley and Harrington, but I found his chapters on lesser writers even more instructive. Robert Burton and Samuel Gott are revealed as more significant ‘utopians’ than has been recognised ...

Good History

Christopher Hill, 5 March 1981

After the Reformation: Essays in Honour of J.H. Hexter 
edited by Barbara Malament.
Manchester, 363 pp., £17.95, December 1980, 0 7190 0805 0
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Puritans and Adventurers 
by T.H. Breen.
Oxford, 270 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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On History 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Sarah Matthews.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £10.95, January 1981, 0 297 77880 3
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Sociology and History 
by Peter Burke.
Allen and Unwin, 116 pp., £6.95, August 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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... Professor Hexter made his mark in the learned world over forty years ago with an article in the American Historical Review called ‘The Problem of the Presbyterian Independents’. He pointed out that many members of the Long Parliament whom historians had traditionally labelled ‘Independents’ were appointed elders of the Presbyterian Church set up in 1645-8, and that many ‘Presbyterians’ sat in the Rump of the Long Parliament, which used to be described as ‘Independent ...

Winner’s History

Howard Erskine-Hill, 20 August 1981

Some Intellectual Consequences of the English Revolution 
by Christopher Hill.
Weidenfeld, 100 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 297 77780 7
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The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714 
by Christopher Hill.
Nelson, 296 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 17 712002 9
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... some good things, and some both great and good, undoubtedly came out of the period 1640-60 which Christopher Hill calls ‘the English Revolution’. What came out, however, was not necessarily originated by the period. It is a nice problem to distinguish causation from succession. In 12 short and easygoing chapters, originally the Merle Curti Lectures ...

Rolodex Man

Mark Kishlansky, 31 October 1996

Liberty against the Law: Some 17th-Century Controversies 
by Christopher Hill.
Allen Lane, 354 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 7139 9119 4
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The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary England: An Essay on the Fabrication of 17th-Century History 
by Alastair MacLaclan.
Macmillan, 431 pp., £13.99, April 1996, 0 333 62009 7
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... It is becoming difficult to remember how influential Christopher Hill once was. When E.P. Thompson dedicated Whigs and Hunters to ‘Christopher Hill – Master of more than an old Oxford college’ he was recognising Hill’s stature as a historian, academic and public figure ...

Playgoing

Donald Davie, 27 May 1993

The English Bible and the 17th-Century Revolution 
by Christopher Hill.
Allen Lane, 466 pp., £25, February 1993, 0 7139 9078 3
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... by religious strife’ was by no means foreign to Milton’s temperament. Is it foreign to Christopher Hill’s? I’d say it is, for his tone in this collection of essays is, for instance as regards other scholars, courteous and kindly. And yet of the 17th-century texts that he puts before us with obvious relish (a relish he supposedly wants us ...

Apocalypse Now and Then

Frank Kermode, 25 October 1979

The Second Coming: Popular Millenarianism 1780-1850 
by J.F.C. Harrison.
Routledge, 277 pp., £9.95
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... Thanks to​ the work of Norman Cohn, Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, Keith Thomas and others, we have, over the past few years, acquired a lot of information about millenarianism as a social and historical force. The belief that the end is nigh, or that a new series of times is about to begin, is very ancient, but it is also modern ...

Danger-Men

Tom Shippey, 2 February 1989

A Turbulent, Seditious and Factious People: John Bunyan and his Church 
by Christopher Hill.
Oxford, 394 pp., £19.50, October 1988, 0 19 812818 5
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The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History 
by Anne Hudson.
Oxford, 556 pp., £48, July 1988, 0 19 822762 0
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... Christopher Hill has shown literary critics the way before now. Many must have felt at least mildly chastened by his remarks in Milton and the English Revolution (1977), no less forceful for their studied moderation, on remembering the effects on Paradise Lost of censorship, fear, a social context in which men were hanged for expressing Miltonic opinions and judges expressed regret at not being able to order sentences of death by burning ...

History and the Left

Jonathan Haslam, 4 April 1985

The Comintern and the Spanish Civil War 
by E.H. Carr, edited by Tamara Deutscher.
Macmillan, 111 pp., £17.50, December 1984, 0 333 36952 1
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The British Marxist Historians: An Introductory Analysis 
by Harvey Kaye.
Polity, 316 pp., £22.50, November 1984, 0 7456 0015 8
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Worlds of Labour: Further Studies in the History of Labour 
by Eric Hobsbawm.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £15.95, October 1984, 0 297 78509 5
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The Collected Essays of Christopher Hill. Vol. I: Writing and Revolution in 17th-Century England 
Harvester, 340 pp., £28.50, February 1985, 0 7108 0565 9Show More
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... applied to some of those Mr Kaye treats in his book, The British Marxist Historians (Maurice Dobb, Christopher Hill, Edward Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and Rodney Hilton). But Dobb would not normally pass as a historian; and Hobsbawm is not really British in terms of upbringing, as Kaye himself indicates. Furthermore, ...
On Historians 
by J.H. Hexter.
Collins, 310 pp., £6.95, September 1979, 0 00 216623 2
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... of a century; Lawrence Stone guided my first steps into the maze of Anglo-American historiography; Christopher Hill accompanied, a long time ago now, the infant squawks of my early Marxism, which today is much eroded. Though if I still preserve some traces of my belief in that doctrine, I owe it to the high abilities of such ci-devant Marxist historians ...

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