England in Conflict 1603-1660

Kingdom, Community, Commonwealth
Hirst, Derek
Date published: 
April 1999

'England in Conflict 1603-1660' analyses the early modern polity and tells the story of its disintegration. By questioning the meanings of the body politic - a metaphor too often taken for granted - it is able to bridge not only the high and the low but also divergent approaches to the period. The book's opening explorations of the practices and assumptions of politics, of religious life in centre and locality, of social relationships and economic patterns, are followed by a turn to narrative. The drama of the slide from royal peace into civil war and revolution, and the trauma of the failure of that revolution, are caught with a clarity that does not come at the price of distortion. This is a narrative that attends to discordant voices even as it situates the actors in their contexts, and assesses their responses. Derek Hirst has drawn on the research of more than a decade of challenging scholarship that has appeared since his 'Authority and Conflict', (from which this book is descended), to produce a wholly fresh work. Centred around ambiguities of community in early modern England - the community of the realm embodied in the king, the local communities with all their strengths and subversions, the political community as an autonomous agent - enlivens the debates over revisionism, Puritanism and the Church, and witchcraft while at the same time making sense of the complexities of crisis and continuity.