The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries

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9780571132379: The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries

What happened to the radicals when the English Revolution failed?

The Restoration, which re-established Charles II as king of England in 1660, marked the end of “God’s cause”—a struggle for liberty and republican freedom. While most accounts of this period concentrate on the court, Christopher Hill focuses on those who mourned the passing of the most radical era in English history. The radical protestant clergy, as well as republican intellectuals and writers generally, had to explain why providence had forsaken the agents of God’s work.

In The Experience of Defeat, Christopher Hill explores the writings and lives of the Levellers, the Ranters and the Diggers, as well as the work of George Fox and other important early Quakers. Some of them were pursued by the new regime, forced into hiding or exile; others compelled to recant. In particular Hill examines John Milton’s late work, arguing that it came directly out of a painful reassessment of man and society that impelled him to “justify the ways of God to Man.”

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About the Author:

Christopher Hill (1912–2003), born in York, was a historian and academic specializing in seventeenth-century English history. As a young man he witnessed the growth of the Nazi party firsthand during a prolonged holiday in Germany, an experience he later said contributed to the radicalization of his politics. He was master of Balliol College, University of Oxford, his alma mater, from 1965 to 1978. His celebrated and influential works include Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution; The World Turned Upside Down; and A Turbulent, Seditious and Fractious People: John Bunyan and His Church.

Review:

“Intensely interesting ... Essential.”
—Perez Zagorin, Journal of Modern History

“The commanding interpreter of seventeenth-century England ... No historian of recent times was so synonymous with his period of study; he is the reason why most of us know anything about the seventeenth century at all.”
Guardian

“The dean and paragon of English historians.”
—E.P. Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class

“He established the concept of an ‘English Revolution’ every bit as significant and potentially as radical as its French and Russian equivalents ... Wide-ranging, popular and immensely prolific ... the dominant figure in studies of the period.”
Telegraph

“A book I argued with from beginning to end, and I was sometimes overborne by its arguments. It is also, in an old-fashioned phrase, a book of great learning. Both these observations constitute high praise.”
—John Morrill, History Today

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