Saturday, 10 July 2010

Further comment on J P Kenyon

By Christopher Thompson

I think that you will find it helpful to clarify J.P.Kenyon’s view of Marxism by reading John Morrill’s obituary appreciation in the Proceedings of the British Academy (Volume 101 (1999), pages 441-461). Morrill explains there that Kenyon 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.” (ibid. page 443). Later in this piece, Morrill discussed Kenyon’s 1958 book, The Stuarts, and its analysis of the pre-revolutionary period: “it is a very hard and crisp review of the political, legal, and religious culture of the period 1580-1640 and of the origins of the English Civil War. Kenyon found no evidence of a disintegration of an outdated system; no progressive movement made up of an alliance of common lawyers, puritan gentry and clergy, thrusting merchants and trendy intellectuals; rather he found a gentry confused and unsure of itself, at once timidly in awe of firebrand clergy and determined to subject the church and its wealth more and more to lay control”. (ibid. pages 447-448) That remained his view. He was never a Marxist or a fellow-traveller with them.

Christopher Thompson