As historical topics, political revolutions come in and out of fashion. At the moment the American Revolution as an ideological struggle engages the public, but historians are less sure. Books that used to have the Revolution at their centre now approach it from the edges and peripheries, integrating the experiences of people and communities excluded by studies of ideological origins.
In the United Kingdom, still mired in BREXIT, the civil war past inflects present politics even if the conflict itself has been nudged off the school curriculum. In the 1990s, historians of England re-fought the civil wars in battles of footnotes. It took entire books to summarise the scholarship on events that were sometimes civil wars, at others revolutions, here wars of religion, there the wars of the three kingdoms.
is Professor of History at the University of Sheffield, and is a leading voice in the study of England’s revolutionary past. In The Common Freedom of the People: John Lilburne and the English Revolution
(Oxford University Press, 2018), he takes a fresh look at the turmoil that gripped England for three decades in the middle of the seventeenth century. His focus is one man’s path through these years, a path that was one of stark public suffering, personal conviction, principled argument, and an unwavering dedication to the idea that common liberties were the highest political goods.
Charles Prior is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull (UK), who has written on the politics of religion in early modern Britain, and whose work has recently expanded to the intersection of colonial, indigenous, and imperial politics in early America. He co-leads the Treatied Spaces Research Cluster.