God’s Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell

Phil Withington writes:

Societies, it is sometimes said, get the politics they deserve. Can the same be said for their history? If contemporary Britain is anything to go by then the short answer is probably yes. Certainly, something happened to British history in general, and the history of 17th-century Britain in particular, when I was growing up. I remember, as a teenager in the 1980s, if not quite lying ‘in awe on the bedroom floor’ (thank you, Morrissey) then sitting up with excitement as the magnitude of the English Revolution, and the range of its possible causes and consequences, were declared, debated and debunked, right before my eyes. Now, as a professional historian with an interest in the politics of 17th-century Britain, I sometimes wonder whether the same thing could happen today. My guess is that it couldn’t. The kind of history that is written – the kind that I write – has changed. So, too, has the place of history in public life and culture.

(LRB 10 May 2012)

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