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New Left Review 57, May-June 2009


TOM HAZELDINE

CLASS AND CABAL

The English Civil War is a problematical object in the country’s history, its republican settlement undone by the installation of Charles II, and yet to be recovered. [1] John Adamson, The Noble Revolt: The Overthrow of Charles I, Weidenfeld and Nicolson: London 2007, £25, hardback, 768 pp, 978 0 2978 4262 0. Scholarly opinion about the conflict has of course shifted markedly, in line with broader trends. In 1965, Lawrence Stone could introduce a course reader comprising the likes of Tawney, Hill and Trevor-Roper with the observation that even ‘historians and politicians of a strongly anti-Marxist cast of mind’ had come to accept ‘that there must be a direct relationship between social structure and political institutions’, the former tending to dictate the latter. Perhaps he overstated; certainly the consensus did not stick. From the late seventies to the early nineties, a liberal or right-inclined revisionism dismantled the old social interpretation, substituting for long-term factors the ricocheting outcomes of religious and nationalist strife. More than a decade later, what remains is a fragmented and chaotic corpus. The latest compilation, edited by John Adamson of Peterhouse, Cambridge—The English Civil War: Conflict and Contexts (2009)—includes a medley of themes: royalist factionalism, the New Model Army, print culture and the emergent public sphere. Had space permitted, Adamson sighs, he might have included a piece on the ‘economic and social dimensions’ of the conflict. To do so is no longer de rigueur.

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