Christopher Durston has produced here the sort of history which my generation of school students was brought up to regard as the norm, taking a celebrated episode of political and constitutional history and setting out to re-evaluate it by reading a broader and deeper collection of sources for it than ever before, in both local and national archives.
The 1715 rebellion has never really sparkled in the heroic iconography of the Jacobite cause. Within the old received narrative of doomed chivalry and defeated virtue, it inhabits a melancholic role, untouched by the colour and charisma of Charles Edward Stuart and the ’45, or the epic afterglow of Viscount Dundee’s earlier stand at Killecrankie.
The New Model Army’s Declaration of 14 June 1647 famously stated that ‘We were not a mere mercenary army, hired to serve any arbitrary power of state’. This phrase, a favourite of historians of the period, captures the fateful politicisation of Parliament’s army; an event that ultimately catapulted England into its dalliance with regicide and republican government.
In 1990 John Morrill edited a collection of essays entitled Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution.(1) It was based on the premise that Cromwell was too complex and difficult a subject to be best summed up by a single biographer, and so should be tackled by a team which represented the best current experts in different aspects of his personality and activi
The civil wars that engulfed the three kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland in the mid-17th century remain a battlefield, and generation after generation they retain a capacity to provoke passionate debate and heated historical controversy.
Ian Gentles’ book (a welcome addition to the British History in Perspective Series edited by Jeremy Black) is the first new biography of Oliver Cromwell in many years. The book contains significant new research, and Professor Gentles presents us with a far more in-depth picture of the private and public life of Cromwell than have previous biographers.
The question of the nature of allegiance in the English Civil Wars has been a perennial issue for at least three generations of professional academics.
A dimension that has been either obscured or silenced in discussions of the First World War is that of the networks of intellectuals and activists who protested against this global conflagration.
For all historians of this last, most violent, century some concern with matters of war and peace has been unavoidable.
As is often the case with (in)famous remarks attributed to prominent personages, there is some doubt about whether Winston Churchill ever did describe the traditions of the Royal Navy as comprising ‘nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers and the lash.’ Churchill himself reputedly denied that he had, confiding to his private secretary that ‘I never said it. I wish I had’ (p. 1).