A stunning analysis of the intellectual and social origins of the ""revolt within a Revolution"" -- the religious and...


THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution

A stunning analysis of the intellectual and social origins of the ""revolt within a Revolution"" -- the religious and political ideas of the extreme left of English Puritanism. From the torrent of pamphlets and sermons unleashed by the withdrawal of censorship in the years 1645-1653 Hill has produced a grassroots study of the brief and sudden efflorescence of the various millenarian sects -- the Ranters, Diggers, Levellers, Quakers and Fifth Monarchists. Not the gentry who ultimately reaped the economic and political rewards of the Civil War, these were itinerant artisans, preachers, laborers and even vagabonds; they spoke with thundering prophetic voices not heard since the late Middle Ages: When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then a gentleman? To most of their highborn contemporaries they represented what Hill wryly calls ""the lunatic fringe,"" mad men summoning up a topsy-turvy ""world turned upside down"" in which property was no longer sacrosanct, the lowliest He was equal to the mightiest He in the realm, and the Protestant Ethic rejected as the mainstay of social order. Milton and Bunyan were both products of this popular upsurge, this inchoate vision of a ""counter-culture"" which was quickly extinguished by the upper classes who by 1660 had once again dosed ranks. Not until the 1790's (cf. E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class) do we again get a comparable glimpse of what the common people were thinking. Hill, Master of Balliol College, Oxford, and author of numerous books on 17th century England, has done a formidable job in providing an in-depth view of this ""fantastic outburst of energy"" precipitated by religious controversy and rooted in the unprecedented social mobility of the Civil War years when the number of ""masterless men"" in town and countryside quite suddenly multiplied to produce an indigenous groundswell of radical and communistic doctrines spilling over from the spiritual to the secular sphere. A considerable achievement.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1972


Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1972