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On the Rant

E.P. Thompson

9 July 1987
Fear, Myth and History: The Ranters and the Historians 
by J.C. Davis.
Cambridge, 208 pp., £22.50, September 1986, 0 521 26243 7
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... Professor J.C. Davis has written a book to show that the Ranters did not exist. There was no Ranter sect: no organisation: no acknowledged Ranter leadership. Those alleged to be leaders did not agree with each other on some points of doctrine; or they denied that they were Ranters; or they quickly recanted; or (like Laurence Clarkson, or Claxton, who acknowledged in his autobiographical The Lost Sheep Found that he had been known as the ‘Captain of the Rant’) might have been falsifying their own record for the sake of better setting off their new convictions (Clarkson had become a Muggletonian ...
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 ...

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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... to read his books as period pieces rather than contributions to scholarship. Hill has become a subject of research as much as an inspiration for it: Alastair MacLachlan’s The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary England is mostly devoted to his career. Hill’s over-schematised account of the transition from feudalism to capitalism, his modernising Puritans and ...
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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... Acton a hundred years ago believed that historiography had reached so high a state of scientific objectivity that it should in principle be impossible to tell when a learned Frenchman had laid down the pen and a learned German had taken it up. That was no doubt a ‘noble dream’ in the era between 1870 and 1914, unlikely to be reiterated today, when ...
5 June 1986
... Origin of Species. To its proceedings, published in 1961, an Introduction was contributed by Dr Jacob Bronowski in which, after touching on the well-known difficulties posed by attempts to transfer the notion of the ‘survival of the fittest’ from biology to sociology, he remarked that ‘in biology, we are at this moment discovering how the atoms of ...

Mmmm, chicken nuggets

Bee Wilson: The Victorian Restaurant Scene

15 August 2019
The London Restaurant: 1840-1914 
by Brenda Assael.
Oxford, 239 pp., £60, July 2018, 978 0 19 881760 4
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... as well as ‘one of the most strangely human sights that the world can show’, according to J.C. Woollan, was the spectacle of all these millions of people being fed. On any given day, Woollan wrote, ‘there are nearly a million people lunching in restaurants within a few miles of the Strand.’ In the evenings, thousands dined in swanky West End ...

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