Saturday, 21 October 2017

How I write

Gaby Mahlberg is an independent scholar from Berlin. I wrote to her and other leading historians asking them to provide a blog article with the title “ How they write?. Gaby’s was the first reply and has the honour of the first blog post. Hopefully, this stimulates further posts. The purpose of these articles is to provide students with better understanding of the writing process.

The way I write has not changed much since my undergraduate days, although I hope that my arguments have become slightly more sophisticated over the years. Ignoring the advice of most of my lecturers to leave the introduction to the end, I usually begin at the beginning. I need to write the introduction first to get my thoughts straight. Once the introduction is out of the way, the rest usually flows naturally – if I have done the research that is.

When I start on a new project, be it a book, a chapter, a journal article or even a blog post, I usually do all my reading and primary research first. I take extensive notes from primary and secondary sources storing them in my project folder on my computer. If the project is a book I might have a number of subfolders for different chapters and topics to make it easier to locate the notes later. I am currently writing a book on three English republican exiles in Europe: Edmund Ludlow, Henry Neville and Algernon Sidney. So I have a folder for the book as a whole and separate subfolders for each Ludlow, Neville and Sidney. Within the Ludlow, Neville and Sidney subfolders, I have yet more subfolders for primary and secondary sources. The notes on primary sources are grouped together by archive, the notes on secondary sources are listed alphabetically by author surname. In the olden days, I even used a card catalogue to reference the photocopied chapters and articles gathered in my lever arch files. But even I have gone (almost fully) digital now.

Students always want to know how much they should read. Will two books and three articles do for a 1,500-word essay? It depends, I would say, it all depends. The more you read, the better.

Some people think that reading too much will only confuse them, and they are keen to keep things manageable. But the opposite is the case. The more you read, the clearer things get. You will come to see that there are lines of argument that keep repeating themselves. They often follow particular schools of thought and you will be able to group authors and arguments together (Whig, revisionist etc). You will also find that you tend to agree more with one side than with the other, or that both lines of argument have their flaws and a middle way might be the answer (e.g. post-revisionist). Reading more will thus help you to look at the arguments from all angles and give you reassurance that you know what the contested points are.

When I have read enough to have a good sense of what arguments and debates there are on the subject and what the open questions might be, I begin to structure my own argument in my head. Once I know where I want to go with the subject, I put this rough structure of my argument down on paper writing out all my thoughts with brief notes which sources I might want to quote to back it up. (Naturally, for a book I apply this system chapter by chapter. I could never remember the rough outline of an entire book, although even there you need a general idea of what the finished work should look like before you start.)

When I have got this draft outline done, I start to fill in the gaps: I look up the primary and secondary sources I meant to quote, get the quotes and put in the references. Then I usually notice that something does not quite add up or that something is missing and do another round of reading and research until the argument sounds coherent and logical – at least to me. When I am happy with what I have written or, more likely, the submission deadline approaches, I start polishing the piece. This involves supplying missing references, editing and fine-tuning the argument by tweaking little things here and there. Then I go back to the introduction and see if it still fits with the piece I have written, or if, after a number of revisions, I need to rewrite it to make the argument sound.

Once I am happy with the piece, or too exhausted to care, I find a friendly colleague or two to read my first draft, while using the break to detach myself from the text for long enough to go back to it with a fresh look when I get the manuscript back. If there is not enough time until the deadline, or the text I am writing is very short, I might skip the personal peer review, but I will still try to get some distance between me and my writing before I have another final look at it. When I get the comments back and/ or have slept on it I make the final revisions and submit the piece.


The Civil Wars of England-John Kenyon - Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988 - xvi + 272pp

“ A Civil War is not only the conflict of opposing principles but the shock of material forces.”

Sir Charles Firth.

The causes of the Civil war have been fought over by historians for centuries. This fight sometimes resembles the real war of nearly four hundred years ago.
Kenyon’s book, which is one of the better military histories does confine itself to a straightforward, matter of fact description of the civil war.

According to Christopher Hill Kenyon’s narrative was of an “ orthodox Tawneyite: towns and cities 'solidly for Parliament', so much so that in 1643 Charles I insisted that he 'dared not trust his person inside any closed town'; the clothing areas were 'aggressively parliamentarian', Birmingham 'a solidly parliamentarian industrial town'. Kenyon grasps the fact which 'revisionist' historians ignore, that before 1642 social revolution was always potentially present”[1].

Hill also recognised that Kenyon’s book while being a military history of the civil war, was an excellent piece of history, with a deep understanding of the politics and economics of the conflict which combined well with his military understanding.

The book is a cracking read and moves along at the pace of a novel. It is methodically researched as to be expected of a historian of Kenyon’s calibre. He had a “scholarly attention to detail and ability to extract every nuance from his sources. He distrusted fads and was sceptical of theories not fully backed by historical fact”.  It is not for nothing he was described as “one of Britain's leading scholars of 17th-century English history”,

Kenyon is this book did not believe that the Great Rebellion as he calls it sprung from nowhere the quote in the introduction from Sir Charles Firth was not a throwaway line, “ A Civil War is not only the conflict of opposing principles but the shock of material forces.”This belief underpins the book.

Another belief put forward by Kenyon was that the war was the product of long-term economic, social and political trends. His quote from James Harrington, “the dissolution of this government caused the war, not the war the dissolution of this government”[2]  is confirmation of this.

As the writer and historian Gaby Mahlberg wrote in her blog of Harrington “ ‘Good laws’, Harrington believed, could give the country stability, and these laws had to be infallible, so that bad men would not be able to corrupt the state. Harrington never saw his dream come true. The Restoration of the Stuarts in 1660 meant a return of many of the old problems. But his ideas of mixed government and a balance of power remained influential in the writings of the Neo-Harringtonians of the later 17th and early 18th century. They influenced both the American and French Revolutions, while his materialist theory of political change would also strike a chord with Marxists and modern economic and political thinkers”[3]. There is no doubt that his writings struck a chord with Kenyon.

High Tide of Revisionism

Kenyon’s book appeared when writing about the Civil War was an extremely hazardous occupation. During the high tide of revisionism anyone writing Whig or Marxist history, Tawney was included in the Marxist camp was met by the revisionist attack dogs.

From a historiographical standpoint, Kenyon sought to position himself between the two camps. Kenyon tried to place his book within the context of the civil war being a product of a general European Crisis of the 17th Century. This view tends to cut across the mainly nationalist English view of the civil war. (See Eric Hobsbawm-The General Crisis of the European Economy Past and Present No 5 May 1954 pp 33-53).

His use of class terms such as “Working Class and “Ruling Class” brings to mind Robert Ashton’s view that “the idea of religious, political and constitutional issues as an ideological superstructure based on foundations of material and class interests has been influential far beyond the ranks of Marxist historians. It has indeed been adopted, in part at least and with a radically different emphasis, by some of their more formidable and determined opponents. The following passage from a celebrated article by Professor Trevor-Roper may serve to remind us that anti-Marxist history is not necessarily history which plays down the crucial importance of material factors and class interest".

Hugh Trevor Roper, “Hit by the price revolution, slow to redeem their losses by ‘good husbandry’, left in the provinces of which, they complained, the hated metropolis had drained the wealth and vitality, taxed to maintain ‘the expenses of a court so vast and unlimited by the old good rules of economy’, the English mere gentry felt themselves to be depressed, declining class, and, grumbling, consoled and –or armed them with religious dissent. Against a protestant court some of them struck under the banner of recusancy; against a ‘popish’ court others struck again, under the banner of puritanism”.

Not all historians agreed with Hill’s assertion that Kenyon was a Tawneyite or for that matter Ashton’s analysis. John Morrill for one believed that Kenyon was closer to the revisionists than he was to Tawney. He made this very clear in his obituary for the Proceedings of the British Academy (Volume 101 (1999), pages 441-461).

Morrill believed Kenyon showed a “fundamental disapproval of model-builders and systematisers. He had no time for social determinism as a tool of the historian for explaining the past or of social engineering as a tool of the politician in effecting the future”. In fact, Morrill believed that Kenyon was a consistent revisionist from his early days up until he died.

One thing is clear a reading of Kenyon’s article Revisionism and Post Revisionism in Early Stuart History[4] he did not consider himself either a revisionist or post-revisionist.

Kenyon’s book is an excellent military history of the civil war that combines an excellent military narrative with an excellent political analysis of the war.

It is hard to place Kenyon or his work in any category. As one obituary writer said “When he appeared at Christ's in 1954, he cast himself in the role of mocking outsider, offering caustic criticisms from the fringes of college power in the confident and correct expectation that they would mostly be ignored. They were. College meetings would be punctuated by Kenyon's heavy sighs and even heavier disapproving sniffs and brief, dismissive comments, but the college men of affairs went about their efficient business untroubled by these background mutterings”. This a sums up Kenyon perfectly.

[1] The Civil Wars of England--John Kenyon - Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988 - xvi + 272pp-
[2] A History of England, Volume 1: Prehistory to 1714- By Clayton Roberts, F David Roberts, Douglas Bisson

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A Short Interview With Historian David Flintham

1. You have said that your interest in this particular field of history was inspired by the 1970 film, Cromwell. Could you expand on this?

As a small boy, my parents took me to see the film Cromwell (we were on holiday in Littlehampton) staring Alec Guinness  and Richard Harris.  Soon afterwards, I had to have the Ladybird book about Cromwell, and the Airfix 1/12 scale models of Charles I and Cromwell (my first 'grown up' book about the Civil Wars was Peter Young and Richard Holmes' 1974 book).  Yes, I know that the film is is historically inaccurate, but it inspired me.

On this point of 'Hollywood history', I couldn't miss the opportunity to mention the 'Braveheart effect'.  When Braveheart was released 2 decades ago, there were so many complaints about its lack of historical accuracy.  My counter to this is that a) it is entertainment and not history; and b) it created a wave of interest in the subject which enabled historians to write 'proper' histories which, without the interest generated by the film, may never have been published.

2. Why is there so little academic interest in London During the English Civil War?

The point I’m trying to get over here is that there is so little academic interest in London militarily during the English Civil Wars.  The political, religious, and economic aspects have been very well covered academically, but the military aspects far less so, and, Stephen Porter’s 1996 book aside, not in one place (e.g. the trained bands on their own, the fortifications on their own, arms production on its own, etc. etc.)

3. How does your participation in Civil war reenactment help your true understanding of a subject that interests you?

I’ve not re-enacted in more than 25 years, so feel am unable to comment here.

4. Could you elaborate on the historiography of your subject?

This is an interesting question. 

I supposed the 'foundation'  of my book would have to be Norman Brett-James's 'Growth of Stuart London'.  I've looked at every book about 17th century London since, but as I indicated earlier, in the main, these focus on the demography, politics, economics, religion and sociology of the capital. 

So I looked beyond London itself, and the following have been important:  London Trained Bands - the research by Alan Turton, Keith Roberts and Wilfred Emberton ; fortifications - the research by David Sturdy, Victor Smith, Peter Harrington (plus my own contribution); Arms industry - Peter Edwards (general), and Charles ffoulkes (cannon), Wayne Cocroft (gunpowder).  I would also add Stephen Porter's 1996 collection of essays, and Stephen Porter and Simon Marsh's 2010 book on the battles of Brentford and Turnham Green.  And finally, but by no means least, Peter Gaunt’s 1987 'The Cromwellian Gazetteer' .

5. What future projects are you involved in?

I am involved in a project that for a while has been attempting to set up a community-based archaeological project on an ECW siege-site.  I am currently searching for a suitable site.

One of the projects I have been working on (for a while) is a ‘register’ to list/identify all the sieges (of any type) from the Bishop’s Wars to the Restoration.  This is certainly a ‘work in progress’.

As for my next book project, I’m writing a comparison between the fortifications of London and those of Oxford, and after that, it’s the sieges of the 2nd and 3rd Civil Wars.

Civil War London: A Military History of London Under Charles I and Oliver Cromwell Paperback-by David Flintham-Helion Books 2017

"From which I may say that London was never truly London till now; for now she sits like a noble lady upon a royall throne, securing all her encroaching pendicles under the wings of a motherly protection; yet these limits were never heretofore granted till the Parliament, for their better safety, confirmed this construction, that (Grand Cayro excepted), I have not seen a larger inveloped compasse within the whole universe.[1]"

William Lithgow

"And it was also Ordered that there should be Bulworkes presently raised in the Fields before the Citty, to Fortifie the same against any Invation ..."

A Continuation of Certain Speciall and Remarkable Passages -24 October 1642

David Flintham’s new book is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of London during the English civil war. London was without a doubt an essential city economically and militarily for both Royalist and Parliamentary forces during the English Revolution, so it hard not to disagree with David Flinthams new book that it does deserve a far more widespread academic interest than it has already received. It is hoped that Flintham’s excellent new book stimulates further research.

The historians who have written on London have recognised its importance. Some have gone as far as saying that King Charles I leaving London led to his defeat.

As Flintham outlines in his book, London was not an easy city to defend. At the start of the war, Parliament quickly recruited amongst the capital's citizens.

Using extensive photographs and illustrations, Flintham has expertly put together a vivid picture of how Londerners constructed a vital system of fortifications. Like today, in fact, it was not an uncommon sight to see armed soldiers patrolling the capital.

The hallmark of any good book is to give its reader a new insight into the subject, and Flintham’s book does that, who knew that London had a considerable section of its population who were neutral during the war.
Another strength of the book is that the author an acknowledged expert on London's Civil War defences and had visited the places he talked about in the book and photographed them a trait that the late historian John Gurney did to good effect.

As I said, London was of vital importance to both sides during the Civil Wars. Parliament recognised that at some point Charles 1st would seek to try to win his capital back

So in August 1642, Parliament issued 'Directions for the Defence of London'. It urged its trained bands to "take a speedy cause to put the City into a posture of defence, to resist and oppose all such force, to fortifie all the passages into same, suburbs and places adjoining whether the same be within the said City and Libertie;"[2].

Flintham is sceptical as to Parliament’s motives for such large-scale construction “In considering the effort which was put into the construction of the Lines of Communication, the question arises the Royalist threat that great that the defences needed to be constructed quickly to protect the capital? Or was the construction of the defences seen as a way of channelling Londoners' energy away from protesting at the way the war was going and the conditions they were living under?”.

London must have a been an extremely tense city in which to live in. In his Lecture London and the English Civil War the historian Barry Coward[3] uses an eyewitness account by William Lithgow to described the atmosphere during wartime

“Lithgow’s comments are not only a fantastic contemporary eyewitness account of what was happening in Civil War London, but in inviting comparisons with post-invasion, present-day Baghdad – constant military activity, a collapsing economy and a society fractured by internal political and religious divisions and the tearing down of statues – they provide an excellent introduction to the historical question that this article addresses: why did London not collapse into an anarchy of disorder, why did the capital not fall apart under the impact of the Civil War, why did the capital’s social, economic, political, religious and governmental structures survive the massive stresses and divisions brought about by the war that is reflected in Lithgow’s eyewitness account?

What makes this the intriguing historical problem is that as the major part of this article will show, London was subjected to pressures by the Civil War that could easily have rent apart its social, economic and political order, in the process shattering its internal stability. As will be seen, the general character of London on the eve of the Civil War made it a very unstable, volatile place in normal times, and the extraordinary conditions of Civil War brought massive additional economic problems, political divisions, religious controversies and a ferment of ideas that shook the stability of the capital. Yet, shaken though the stability of London was, there was no real threat that the social and political order in the capital would disintegrate into anarchy or revolution “[4].

While the first part of the book is given over to describing how London fortified during the civil war the second part provides us with a Gazetteer of Civil War London. This part of the book in no way diminishes the first in fact it enhances it.

Apparently, much work has gone into not only researching the places listed in the book, but Flintham has used an extraordinary amount of shoe leather in visiting and photographing these places.

The book was a pleasure to read and hopefully gets a wide readership. It is an excellent introduction to the military history of the civil war and deserves to be on university booklist.


Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Glorious Revolution 1688: Britain's Fight for Liberty, by Edward Vallance 372pp, Little, Brown, £20

Edward Vallance has joined a crowded market of books and articles both academic and non-academic that have sought to evaluate the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

It is noticeable that the last decade has seen a more serious study of this neglected period. The book is one of the better ones. It is well-written, researched and appeals to the general reader and academic alike.

Vallance begins the book with two quotes. One from Thatcher and one from Karl Marx. It takes a brave historian to quote both. It takes an even braver one to claim that their positions on the Glorious Revolution was similar.

In her Revolutions of 1688–89 speech said  Thatcher said this “there are many important conclusions to be drawn from those momentous events 300 years ago. First, the glorious revolution established qualities in our political life which have been a tremendous source of strength: tolerance, respect for the law and the impartial administration of justice, and respect for private property. It also established the tradition that political change should be sought and achieved through Parliament. It was this which saved us from the violent revolutions which shook our continental neighbours and made the revolution of 1688 the first step on the road which, through the successive Reform Acts, led to the establishment of universal suffrage and full parliamentary democracy.

“The events of 1688 were important in establishing Britain's nationhood, and they opened the way to that renewal of energy and resourcefulness which built Britain's industrial and financial strength and gave her a world role. They demonstrated that a free society will always be more durable and successful than any tyranny”.

It is quite striking that Thatcher believed that England’s place in the world stemmed from what amounts to a coup and foreign invasion to boot. Maybe Ted Vallance had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he wrote the book, but it is stretching a little to compare the two.

In his analysis of the Glorious revolution, Marx was scathing of both the Whigs and Tories. This on the Whigs gives us a real insight into his position “Ever since the “glorious revolution” of 1688 the Whigs, with short intervals, caused principally by the first French Revolution and the consequent reaction, have found themselves in the enjoyment of the public offices. Whoever recalls to his mind this period of English history, will find no other distinctive mark of Whigdom but the maintenance of their family oligarchy. The interests and principles which they represent besides, from time to time, do not belong to the Whigs; they are forced upon them. By the development of the industrial and commercial class, the Bourgeoisie. After 1688 we find them united with the Bankocracy, just then rising into importance, as we find them in 1846, united with the Millocracy”.[1]

Vallance could have called upon another revolutionary if he had any doubts on the nature of the British bourgeoisie’s position which was to either played down this revolution or erase it from collective memory.

The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky commentated on this phenomenon “In the seventeenth century England carried out two revolutions. The first, which brought forth great social upheavals and wars, brought amongst other things the execution of King Charles I, while the second ended happily with the accession of a new dynasty. The British bourgeoisie and its historians maintain entirely different attitudes to these two revolutions: the first is for them a rising of the mob – the “Great Rebellion’; the second has been handed down under the title of the “Glorious Revolution”. The reason for this difference in estimates was explained by the French historian, Augustin Thierry. In the first English revolution, in the “Great Rebellion”, the active force was the people; while in the second it was almost “silent”. Hence, it follows that, in surroundings of class slavery, it is difficult to teach the oppressed masses good manners. When provoked to fury they use clubs, stones, fire. Moreover, the rope. The court historians of the exploiters are offended at this. However, the great event in modern “bourgeois” history is, none the less, not the “Glorious Revolution” but the “Great Rebellion”.[2]

The labelling of the revolution as the "Glorious Revolution" or the “bloodless revolution” tends to denote that this revolution was peaceful or bloodless.Vallance’s book counteracts this argument. Vallance believes the revolution was neither peaceful or bloodless.His book which is largely narrative driven explains in concise form how the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 came about.


The book is successful in providing a basic introduction to the historiography of the revolution.
A solid read around the subject of the Glorious Revolution will tell the reader that the “Whig interpretation of this so-called bloodless of revolutions has dominated historiography.

The term the “Whig interpretation of history” can be traced back to Sir Herbert Butterfield’s slim volume of that name. Butterfield’s book was written primarily as a polemic against the Marxist theory of history. Whig historiography has always been associated with Victorian society, which oversaw a degree of stability that that had not been the case in the previous two centuries. This type of history saw Britain as having a special destiny.

According to the Marxist writer Ann Talbot, there is a sense “that in Britain things were done differently and without continental excess was not entirely new. Burke had expressed it in his Reflections on the French Revolution, but there were plenty of voices to gainsay him and the social disturbances in the years of economic upheaval that followed the Napoleonic Wars were a testimony to the contrary. Luddism, anti-corn law agitation, the anti-poor law movement, strikes and most of all Chartism demonstrated that Britain was not an island of social peace.

She continues “the Whig interpretation of history had deep roots in the consciousness of the British political class. The visitor to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire can still see in the great entrance hall a fireplace inscribed with the legend “1688 The year of our liberty.” It refers to the “Glorious Revolution” when James II quit his throne and his kingdom overnight, and William of Orange was installed as king. This was the kind of palace revolution that the British ruling class increasingly preferred to look back on rather than the revolution in the 1640s when they had executed the king, conveniently overlooking the fact that James would not have run if he had not remembered the fate of his father—Charles I” [3].

Thomas Babington Macaulay

Macaulay and for that matter, the majority of Whig historians exhibited a sort of Whig triumphalist view that the Glorious Revolution saved England from the full dictatorship of James II and the revolution led to a  constitutional monarchy which gave England civil and religious liberty and rule of law.

According to Blair Worden “Macaulay's account is thought of as the summit of Whig historical partisanship, but to him, 1688 was the triumph not of a party but a nation when the best of the Whigs joined with the best of the Tories”.[4]

Macaulay’s overtly fawning political approach put him firmly in the camp of what Trotsky called a “court historian”. Karl Marx attacked Macaulay’s writing for being one-sided and complacent and a 'systematic falsifier of history'.
GM Trevelyan

George Macaulay Trevelyan a British historian and academic was the ultimate whig historian. He was heavily tied to the political establishment, and his work reflected this fact. In his book The English Revolution, 1688–1698[6]  he portrays James II as a tyrant.  Despite this, the book has become a standard text for any university course.

On the plus side, he was a readable and talented historian. This was was spotted at an early age the Fabian writer Beatrice Webb who recounts when she met the historian in 1895 "He is bringing himself up to be a great man, is precise and methodical in all his ways, ascetic and regular in his habits, eating according to rule, exercising according to rule... he is always analysing his powers, and carefully considering how he can make the best of himself. In intellectual parts, he is brilliant, with a wonderful memory, keen analytical power, and a vivid style. In his philosophy of life, he is, at present, commonplace, but then he is young - only nineteen." 

However, not all historians were smitten by Macaulay’s partisan approach. Geoffrey Elton accused him of being "not very scholarly writer" who wrote, "soothing pap... lavishly doled out... to a broad public". John P. Kenyon thought he was an "insufferable snob" with "socially retrograde views".

It must be said that some these comments border on character assassination. Macaulay is worth reading and was one of the few historians to link both the English revolution of the 1640s and Glorious revolution in what could be interpreted as being part of an extended seventeenth century.

The Communist Party Historians Group

Much of what passed for a Marxist analysis of the Glorious revolution was written by the historians that were in the Communist Party Historians Group. Having said this, they did not write an awful lot.

The necessary myth of the “Glorious Revolution” was the aim of Christopher Hill’s first published article. This article was written under the pseudonym E.C. Gore in 1937. It appeared in the magazine Communist International and is extremely difficult to track down.

Hill wrote very little on the Glorious revolution preferring to concentrate on the English Revolution 1640. His writings on this subject as Ann Talbot says “contained a concise statement of the arguments that Hill was to spend the rest of his life elucidating”.  
In many ways, the Communist Party’s attitude towards the revolution has a strange similarity to the position of the British bourgeoisie, and that is to play down its importance.

Socialist Workers Party (SWP)

The SWP put a relatively orthodox position on the revolution. According to Duncan Hallas, “1688 represented the completion of the stabilisation of the English revolution, and it represented it in the most conservative form possible, consistent with the establishment of a stable bourgeois administration”.

They like the Communist Party have not bothered with the period. With other revolutions, it has always co-opted historians to write on them but not so the Glorious revolution.

Current Historiography

Vallance rejects the commonly held view, especially amongst Marxist historians that the English revolution and the Glorious revolution are linked in what should be termed the Long Seventeenth Century.

Revisionists and post-revisionists have according to one writer have “rebranded 1688 as a dynastic revolution serving Dutch interests - especially conflict with France - rather than the defence of England's "ancient constitution".

Vallance’s book is firmly in the Post-revisionist camp in that rejects both Marxist and Whig historiography. Vallance does not seem to want to post a new historiography appears to be happy arguing that the revolution was “less bloodless, less glorious”.

On this matter, his viewpoint is like Steve Pincus whose new book also sought to overturn the two dominant schools of historical interpretation. According to Graham Goodlad, Steve Pincus’s new study of the Glorious Revolution challenges the familiar Whig orthodoxy, originally expounded by Macaulay in the nineteenth century, and refined by successive generations of historians. According to this tradition, the replacement of James II by William and Mary was the work of a politically conservative elite, intent on restoring a balanced, historic constitution that had been threatened by the authoritarian, pro-Catholic actions of a misguided monarch. Pincus rejects both this interpretation and the more recent version of revisionists like John Miller and Mark Goldie, who have argued that James’ principal aim was to secure religious toleration for Catholics and Protestant Dissenters – a goal which led him into conflict with the narrowly Anglican prejudices of the English landed class. Pincus holds that both approaches underestimate the truly revolutionary nature of the struggle between the followers of James and William of Orange”.[5]


It is evident from the significant number of new books on the subject of the Glorious Revolution that the period is gaining something of a renaissance.

The centuries-long domination of Whig historiography has come under sustained challenge. Despite being clear what they reject both revisionists and post-revisionist historians are unclear what they want to replace both Whig or Marxist historiography with.

While classical Marxists such as Karl Marx have laid the foundations for a serious study of the Glorious revolution from the standpoint of historical materialism very few historians who professed to be Marxist, have built upon this platform. This theoretical indifference to an important period in the history of Britain is puzzling. Even more dangerous is that it mirrors the attitude of the bourgeoisie itself.

[1] Karl Marx in the New York Tribune 1852- The Elections in England. — Tories and Whigs-
[2] From Chapter 4 of Terrorism and Communism (1920)
[3] "These the times ... this the man": an appraisal of historian Christopher Hill-Ann Talbot -25 March 2003-

Sunday, 17 September 2017

La libélula mecánica y el averiguad

This article is an English translation of a review of the book La libélula mecánica y el averiguador by the Guatemalan author Arturo Monterroso. The review is by Claudine Giovannoni.

A copy of the Spanish article can be found at

Ten years have passed, and Isabel and Inés have grown up: do you remember the young protagonists of the novel La Mosca Dragon?

Arturo Monterroso brings us back to Guatemala, still full of political strokes, bloody attacks where drug traffickers, soldiers and those who make little money, say how to run terror.

This time, the protagonist is something that resembles a small insect that looks a lot like Maruca and Enriqueta’s Dragonfly in Tecpán: its code name is Rx566SL-REAPER.

There are a thousand possibilities where even the most trivial situation might be the cause of a shootout; but following the intimidation that happened that night, Antonio, father of Inés and Isabel, decides to bring his wife Nina and his daughters for some time to Gertrudis, a relative of theirs.

A week after having moved to Aunt Gertrudis’ house, Antonio and his family were invited to lunch at San Lucas in the house of the engineer lquijay, and this is where the REAPER appears during a walk in the garden of the villa.

Young engineer Manuel, Inés and Isabel’s friend, will be a valuable ally in finding out how it is made and what it is, using an electronic scanning microscope.

The pungent irony of the author takes shape in the conversations of the characters where the raw Guatemaltecan reality of each day (and of many other countries) is defused. On the one hand, pretences for shooting during the festivities of a thousand different Saints, on the other hand, he can ridicule those who must support foreign technology by possessing a cell phone.
Moreover, the improvised investigator Don Ramiro, well personify sarcasm when he speaks to his young helper Amadeo. A hitman commissioned Don Ramiro to find Adelaida Prado, while Inés and Isabel are as well on Adelaida’s traces.

The young anthropologist Adelaida kept hidden by Maruca and Enriqueta in Tecpán in the novel of the La Mosca Dragon, returned after years of political asylum in Mexico, in fact, she was not a subversive but was only guilty of not having accepted the advances of Cifuentes Ortega. Nevertheless, why are they looking for her again?

Then, the characters are intertwined: from American Zachary Collum, a gringo veteran, who has to leave his dog Henry in custody to someone before leaving for the United States. The poor black dog passes from hand-to-hand to finish with those of David Garrett (not the famous violinist), manager of the Jaguar Nook Restaurant, which then leaves him to Antonio, who finds himself as animal rights activist almost by accident.

In the story does not go unnoticed the D2 intrigues, the Guatemalan FBI, and the dirty chores of General Cifuentes that eventually die and no one knows who murdered him.

However, the final remains a question, why would Rx566SL-REAPER be recovered? Moreover, who had driven it and with what purpose? Moreover, if it was Alfredo Nottembaum, Carlos Lahsen’s partner, and Luisa’s father-in-law? He had been funding the putsch in 1989… Moreover, he is portrayed in the photograph of the conservative members of the Coffee Club along with Carlos!

A novel to read by keeping the breath, written with sincerity and humour, in which true human values are reported as opposed to violence and crime.

I like Monterroso’s style of naivety, as if it were his inner child to dictate words, knowing how to describe a variety of situations while maintaining a candid, though meticulous, language until the last detail.

Even this novel is suitable as well for a young audience; I also recommend it for educational purposes as it (unfortunately) deals with situations that are always up to date… Everywhere on this planet!


Arturo Monterroso was born in Guatemala, 1948. He is a writer and journalist. He studied language and literature at the University of San Carlos and held a degree in Journalism from the Universidad Panamericana.

In 1994 he published the short story book La ira oculta, and received the Novella Prize in 1995 for Piano Dark. This year, Editorial Norma published his novel for young people, The dragonfly. He has several novels, and some of his stories and articles have been translated into German and French.

He received the Novella 1995 Award for Oscuridad del piano  and the Award Brevísimos Dinosaurios 2009 del Centro Cultural de España, for Soy feliz. La libélula mecánica y el averiguador is his latest novel for young people.

La libélula mecánica y el averiguador can be purchased at this website
Editorial Norma– Ciudad de Guatemala , agosto 2016 ISBN 978-9929-42-210-0


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Kishlansky on The Rise of the New Model Army

Dear Keith,

                  I have seen your comments on Kishlansky's book on your blog, A Trumpet of Sedition. This work is identical to his doctoral thesis supervised by David Underdown, a copy of which is in my possession. The text was not rushed into print prematurely.

Its central argument about the post-1646 politicisation of the New Model Army depends on his claim that, prior to that date, the armies of the Long Parliament lacked political interests of their own but this is clearly mistaken as any study, for example, of the 3rd Earl of Essex's army after the autumn of 1642 or of that of Sir William Waller or of the 2nd Earl of Manchester shows. Each of these armies had its own allies and advocates at Westminster and followers or supporters in the capital and relevant counties.

Kishlansky failed to recognise the implications of the works of Hexter and of Valerie Pearl in this respect. Nor should it be taken that the Levellers alone were significant in forming the political and religious attitudes of the New Model Army: the proposals debated at Putney were, as Philip Baker and Elliot Vernon showed, formulated by Henry Marten and his radical London allies rather than by the Levellers. 

       In any case, by the time Kishlansky's work was written, his argument hardly fitted into the pejoratively-termed 'Revisionist' project of Conrad Russell and his allies: that project focused on overthrowing the Whig-Marxist synthesis embraced by Hill, Stone, Manning and others. Its dominance was, however, mythical since it had already been challenged by figures like Hexter and John Ball in the 1950s.

In Christopher Hill's case, his influence waned rapidly after c.1972 when his model of analysis came under sustained challenge. Kishlansky's thesis and book were incidental to this process rather than central to it. Peter Lake described Kishlansky in September, 2015 as a "contrarian", someone who liked turning old notions upside down. You can see what he means from Kishlansky's study of Parliamentary elections in early modern England or from his last short book on Charles I.

It was this aspect of his approach that appealed to Russell and Morrill. Revisionism itself was, in any event, spent by c.1990 and has long since passed into the pages of secondary works just like the Marxism of Hill and his CPGB colleagues.