Radical History News Round-up

Readers of this blog may have noticed the changed strap-line. I’ve pilfered this quote from Natalie Bennett’s very kind review of my book. I particularly like the potential flexibility of this description. One commenter on the site is unconvinced, suggesting that I am ‘too much the ivory-tower academic’ who ‘somewhat fears’ the ‘radical masses’. Quite right. I spend my days barricaded inside my Roehampton office, comforting myself by reading yellowing back-issues of the LRB and TLS while, outside my window, the baying mob screams for justice.

Another nice review appeared over at Washminster.

In other radical history news, Harvey J. Kaye has posted an interesting article unpacking Sarah Palin’s appropriation of Thomas Paine. (Yes, that’s *Sarah Palin*.)

UPDATE! A Radical History of Britain picked as one of the Telegraph’s History Books of the Year by a completely unbiased reviewer with no previous connections professional or otherwise to the author.


New Statesman review of Steve Pincus’ 1688:the First Modern Revolution

My review – over here.

A Radical History of Britain round up – Pt. 5

A couple more reviews of my book out in recent weeks. It was reviewed, largely positively, by A. W. Purdue in the Times Higher Education Supplement groovy magazine and was also generously reviewed by Jonathan Pearson in the Sept 11 edition of the Times Literary Supplement (but, sadly, they don’t publish all their content online so I can’t link.)

Update! A Radical History of Britain also reviewed in the Spenborough Guardian.

God’s Executioner: Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland review

A full review of Micheal O Siochru’s book by Jason Peacey on the IHR’s Reviews in History site, plus a response from the author himself.

A Radical History of Britain Round-up

A brief rundown of the latest A Radical History of Britain news…a little review in the FT – they didn’t like the title but seemed reasonably happy with the contents … a plug from someone called Dominic Sandbrook in the Telegraph, who recommends the book as ideal beach reading…and another plug from Scott at Me and My Big Mouth (under ‘New Arrivals’). More as and when…

A Radical History of Britain – Times Review

A *very* short review of my book in The Times on Friday.

More Cromwell on Film

I think Mark Steel’s lecture on Cromwell offers a nice antidote to ‘God’s Executioner’ (see below).

On the subject of early modern history and video, this new textbook from Routledge comes with its very own promotional video.

And finally, this has to be the funniest book review I have read in a long time.

Review: Anna Keay, The Magnificent Monarch: Charles II and the Ceremonies of Power

The following review by me has just appeared in the latest edition of BBC History Magazine (thanks to Sue Wingrove for permission to reproduce it here.)

The Magnificent Monarch: Charles II and the Ceremonies of Power, by Anna Keay Hambledon Continuum, 319 pp. £25.

The notoriously sybaritic Charles James Fox, apparently without a trace of irony, described the reign of Charles II as ‘a disgrace to the history of our country.’ Anna Keay’s important and lucid book adds weight to a number of recent biographies which have helped to revise the picture of the ‘merry monarch’, stressing the shrewd and serious operator behind the louche stereotype.

Concentrating upon Charles II’s use of and participation in ceremony, Keay demonstrates that far from being indifferent to court ritual, the king was an assiduous observer of royal ceremony. Charles carefully used this to sustain and increase his power, evidenced by his desire to maintain etiquette even in the straightened circumstances of exile in 1650s.

The book is full of arresting details, such as Keay’s revelation that Charles II touched 100,000 of his subjects for the ‘King’s Evil’ (scrofula) during his reign, amounting to 2% of the entire population. This dedication to the ritual was in marked contrast to his father’s reluctance to perform the ceremony.

As the 1680s progressed the court became more formal, access to the king more restricted and its rituals more consciously modelled on the French. The public rising and going to bed of the king, the leveé and couché, were introduced, grand new public rooms built in Windsor and a prospective ‘English Versailles’ planned (but never completed) at Winchester. If the emphasis on the earlier years of Charles II’s reign had been upon munificence and approachability, in the king’s later years, it was upon magnificence and power. The Maundy Thursday ritual of washing the feet of the poor, emphasising the monarch’s humility, was tellingly performed by a stand-in – the bishop of London – during the 1670s.

Keay is very strong in unpicking what Charles hoped changes at court would achieve politically but she spends little time in considering whether these alterations secured the desired result. For example, she discusses Charles’ decision to reintroduce public dining as an attempt to counter the ‘public relations fiasco’ of the Dutch raid on the Medway in 1667. One wonders just how effective such royal spin was against verse libels as hostile as the Fourth Advice to a Painter which pictured Charles as a Nero-like figure who

‘when the Dutch fleet


Saw his ships burn’d and, as they burn’d, he


Equally, how did Charles II’s care for court decorum square with the notorious activities of courtiers like John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, and the king’s bastard son, the Duke of Monmouth? Did the French influence displayed at court in antagonise a Protestant nation, fearful about Louis XIV’s pretensions to be ‘Universal Monarch?’

Nonetheless, this is a very valuable book which reminds us of the court’s persistence as an influential institution in an era widely depicted as dominated by Parliament. Keay clearly demonstrates that, despite the challenge posed by the regicide and revolution, royal ritual, ceremony and gesture remained powerful forms of political communication.

Booya! How you like me now, Patrick Dillon?!

Over here.

Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 11:16 am  Comments (1)  
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Cromwell 350 – Things Noted

A quick trawl of the web reveals the following products/events produced to tie-in with the 350th anniversary of Cromwell’s death.

A number of books are forthcoming or just out on Cromwell. Over at the Guardian, Fintan O’Toole reviews Micháel O Siochrú’s God’s Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland. Also ‘reviewed’ over here by John Carey in the Sunday Times, but with only one paragraph actually discussing the book. Infuriating. A much more engaged and engaging review is offered by Tom Reilly here: mail-on-sunday-review, a word-doc version of a piece which appeared in the Irish Mail on Sunday.

Some other Cromwellian offerings:

My personal favourite was finding this Dr. Who audio series , ‘The Settling’, featuring Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Clive Mantle as, you guessed it, Oliver Cromwell, in an adventure set in Ireland in 1649.

As the author, Simon Guerrier says

While The Settling takes some liberties with historical facts as we know them (adding a time-travelling alien, say), I’ve endeavoured to base it as much on real history as possible.

Over here, the Historical Association is advertising a talk by Dr. David Smith on Cromwell ‘350 years after.’ If you fancy Grimsby in January, toddle along. It’s free for HA members.

Over at the Cromwell Association’s website, there is an article by Patrick Little on Cromwell’s funeral (downloadable as a word-document, as he notes, featuring exactly 1658 words!)

Also, can anyone help with this question, posted over at Yahoo! answers?

And finally, of course, over here I asked ‘Just How Evil Was Oliver Cromwell?’