The term ‘early modern’ was introduced into mainstream historical analysis during the 1940s as a catch-all description for the changes that had occurred between the 16th and 18th centuries.
This book sheds much light on the ascendancy of liberal values in the 19th century and their role in the transformation of the fiscal military state of the previous century. While using a wealth of secondary literature, including many essays and review articles in literary weeklies and monthlies, William Lubenow charts new and important territory.
Many years ago this reviewer attended a meeting of the Cambridge interdisciplinary medievalists’ group at which Terry Jones, who had recently published his debunking book on Chaucer’s knight, bravely crossed swords with Derek Brewer, then the foremost Chaucerian scholar, in front of an audience which included numbers of the university’s teachers of medieval English literature.
Perhaps because it was concerned with maintaining obedience and the status quo rather than provoking violent eruptions of religious fervour, Socianism has remained a relatively unstudied aspect of the pantheon of heterodox religious beliefs during the English Revolution.
Poker was Maurice Cowling’s game. Late-night gambling amidst the smoke and whisky fumes probably appealed to him as one of the many means by which he rebelled against the respectability of the South London petit bourgeoisie in which he had been raised; Peter Ghosh once referred to the ‘Chandleresque’ style that he affected.
The first thing that stands out from this study is how passionate and volcanic was E. P. Thompson’s intellectual life as a historian, Marxist thinker, and informed campaigner. He was devoted to reason. Indeed, one of the left-wing journals with which he was involved was entitled The New Reasoner.
David Allan’s Making British Culture and Mark R. M. Towsey’s Reading the Scottish Enlightenment pursue the same worthy goal: to give reading a larger role in the definition and conceptualisation of the Enlightenment, particularly in its Scottish manifestation. The connection between the two books runs deep.
Addressing the Joint Session of Congress in 2003, Tony Blair issued a stirring defence of the democratic idea. Words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, he declared, were not ‘American values or Western values’:
The most forceful initial impression that emerges from this collection is the diversity of topics covered. The work focuses on the patterns of British imperialism, liberalism and modernity in the 19th century, exploring the degree to which liberalism was distinctive and the specific ways in which it was coercive.
The scholarship on the intellectual, religious and political history of early modern England presents a large use of terms such as ‘orthodox’, ‘deist’, ‘atheist’, ‘radical’, and their respective ‘isms’.