The World Turned Upside Down : Radical Ideas During the English Revolution Paperback
Within the English revolution of the mid-seventeenth century which resulted in the triumph of the protestant ethic - the ideology of the propertied class - there threatened another, quite different, revolution.
Its success 'might have established communal property, a far wider democracy in political and legal institutions, might have disestablished the state church and rejected the protestant ethic'.
In 'The World Turned Upside Down' Christopher Hill studies the beliefs of such radical groups as the Diggers, the Ranters, the Levellers and others, and the social and emotional impulses that gave rise to them.
The relations between rich and poor classes, the part played by wandering 'masterless' men, the outbursts of sexual freedom, the great imaginative creations of Milton and Bunyan - these and many other elements build up into a marvellously detailed and coherent portrait of this strange, sudden effusion of revolutionary beliefs.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 432 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 12/12/1991
- Category: British & Irish history
- ISBN: 9780140137323
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Review by dougwood57
In a culmination of a long period of challenges to royal prerogatives, Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army overthrew the royal government. His foot soldiers, if you will, included some of the most original, radical and exuberant political thinkers in Western history. For a brief moment the king was gone and radical leaders like John Lilburne and Gerrard Winstanley and their ideas held sway, although Cromwell and the gentry were shortly able to reassert control (before eventually losing power in the English reformation). Cromwell considered the radicals "a despicable and contemptible generation of men." Hill's book tells the marvelously exciting stories of the Ranters and Seekers, Levellers and True Levellers (or Diggers), and the Quakers. Diggers, so called because they cultivated land they held in common in communes, were the most radical strain. They vied with the Levellers, who "merely" supported the universal right of every male head of household to vote for parliament. These events scared to death the usual powers-that-be. Thomas Hobbes' wrote the Leviathan in reaction against the chaos, as he saw it, of the English Civil War. In summarizing the impact of the radicals' ideas, Hill quotes their enemy Clement Walker that they had "cast all the secrets and mysteries of government...before the vulgar (like pearls before swine)...[and] made the people thereby so curious and so arrogant that they will never find humility enough to submit to a civil rule." Hill states, "For a short time, ordinary people were freer from the authority of church and social superiors than they had ever been before, or were for a long time to be again." Hill's excellent book tells the story of how such an event came to be and how the lords and gentry regained power and smashed the radicals. A must read for anyone interested in the history of political ideas or English history.