This is an excellent book which does everything it proclaims and more. Anthony Milton is to be congratulated for his hard work, brilliant synthesis, and excellent and accessible presentation. This book is not a biography of Peter Heylyn, but we obviously learn a lot about the man as well as the writer. Nor is it an arid history of ideas divorced from context.
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.
For those historians who have studied the English Reformation or the writing of polemics, histories and plays in the 16th century the name John Bale (1495–1563) appears high on the list of English scholars supporting a reformist agenda. Bale popularised the genre of martyrology for an English audience, later taken to its logical conclusion in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
Every mode of writing history has its attendant dangers. The problem with so much conventional political and religious history is that it is an attempt to explain what actually happened. This seems sensible enough, of course, but it inevitably privileges the ways in which the successful historical actors valued their actions, as well as almost inevitably concentrating on an elite.