England in Conflict, 1603-1660: Kingdom, Community, Commonwealth

By Shagan, Ethan H. | Anglican and Episcopal History, September 2001 | Go to article overview

England in Conflict, 1603-1660: Kingdom, Community, Commonwealth


Shagan, Ethan H., Anglican and Episcopal History


DEREK HIRST. England in Conflict, 1603-1660: Kingdom, Community, Commonwealth. London: Arnold, 1999. Pp. vii + 359, bibliographical essay, index. $29.95 (paper).

Derek Hirst's England in Conflict is a revised, updated, and considerably transformed version of his extremely successful 1986 textbook Authority and Conflict: England, 1603-1658. The revised text skillfully weaves the results of recent scholarship into the narrative in ways that specialists cannot help but admire. So, lor instance, the outbreak of the Civil War is now described in terms of a conflict of three kingdoms; the 162Os have assumed a crucial place in the development of ideological conflict; the Dutch Wars now loom large in the politics of the Commonwealth. The result is a textbook which beautifully distills new areas of scholarly consensus and takes commonsensical and middle ground positions on areas of scholarly conflict.

That being said, this is unabashedly a textbook of high politics, and as such it may not appeal to every scholar's taste. Traditional actors like the king, parliament, and the New Model Army are always the focus, with other potential protagonists only appearing on stage when they are needed to advance the plot. The Levellers, for instance, are described as the "first recognizably popular movement in politics, a movement conveniently "brought into being" by the crisis of 1646-47 (p. 242). There is no sense of antecedents for this phenomenon, and popular movements lade into the background again when no longer useful to explain shifts in political negotiations. Similarly, while "opinion in the country is often invoked, it usually takes the form of quotes from Richard Haxter and Ralph (osselin, who act as a sort of Greek chorus commenting on affairs of state.

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