The next article after this diary will bring up 400 articles on this website. I started this website in 2008 to post some of my essays from my degree at Birkbeck university. Still not sure how to celebrate. Either get drunk or write an article.
The Christopher Hill Conference is only a week away. One of many talking points will be Michael Sturza’s new book, The London Revolution 1640-1643: Class Struggles in 17th Century England. Recently Sturza took to the pages of Academia.EU to attack, albeit mildly, my review of his book and to launch a far more nasty attack on Chris Thompson. I will write a longer reply to Sturza in due course. I do not know Sturza personally, so he was within his right to attack my review in the public domain. Knowing what was “misleading” about the review would be nice. Most important is Sturza’s incapacity to understand why Hill could not tackle and oppose the onslaught of the Revisionists on anything that smacked Marxism.
The answer is to be found, not as Sturza suggests, because Hill “was unable to effectively defend the Marxist viewpoint due to the flaw in his analysis”. This is just not accurate. Firstly to tackle the Revisionists, you would have to expose their political outlook, something Hill could or would not do.
According to Norah Carlin, Hill and Manning must take some blame for the rise of revisionism. On the surface, it would seem that Carlin had a contradictory attitude towards Hill and Manning, which is not the case. Carlin praises Hill and Manning for their work on the English bourgeois revolution and says that any new historiography should incorporate much of their best writings.
However, their contribution does leave much to be desired when taking on the revisionists’ attack on Marxist historiography. The SWP saw these two as bulwarks against the revisionist onslaught. At best, this was a lousy piece of judgement. At worse, they sacrificed a struggle against revisionism over a closer relationship with these two historians who were in one way or another closely tied to the apron strings of the Communist Party.
If you examine Hill’s role, to his credit, he did, albeit to a lesser extent, play a role in the “storm over the Gentry” debate. His defence of Tawney is still worth reading today. In many senses, this was a missed opportunity to do some severe damage to the anti-Marxists. The fact that Roper could walk away from this debate mostly unscathed merely emboldened further hostile attacks on Marxist historiography.
Gifted as a historian as Hill was, he did not understand the need for a consistent struggle against revisionism. This stems not from his understanding of history but his complete lack of Marxist political consciousness. When the SWP did try to prompt Hill into a more active role in the struggle, the results were not good. In an interview with John Rees and Lee Humber, this question was asked, How do you see the development of the debate around the English Revolution over recent years? Would you agree that the revisionists have taken some ground?
Hill’s answer was, “they have made a lot of useful points, but the younger generation of historians is now attacking their more extreme views. Although the revisionists had all sorts of useful ideas, they had a narrow political approach in that they tried to find the causes of the English Revolution solely in the years 1639–41. This assumes what you are setting out to prove. If you look just at those years, it’s a matter of political intrigue, not long-term causes. I think people are reacting against that now. The better of the revisionists are themselves switching around a bit. John Morrill, for instance, who thought everything depended on the county community and localism, is now taking a much broader point of view. And Conrad Russell has become aware that long-term factors must be considered – he doesn’t like it. Still, he recognises that religion has some long-term effects on what happened in 1640, a rather elementary point, but he left religion out altogether in the early days. Now he’s bought it in. He still leaves out the cultural breakdown in the society of that period, but he is moving a bit. I think a consensus will arise, and there will be another explosion in 20 years. These debates occur regularly –since 1640, people have been arguing about what it was all about”.
Some interesting new releases caught my eye this week.
Jonathan Healey’s new book The Blazing World has just been released and has received extensive reviews in the bourgeois media.
Lucy Hutchinson and the English Revolution was published in 2022. Having just been able to borrow a copy from the London Library, I will look to review it later.
I am currently working on a review of the excellent book by Vasily Grossman, The Immortal people.
Penguin’s republication of Eric Williams’s 1944 book Capitalism and Slavery is welcome. Another possible review in 2023.
 See my review-https://keith-perspective.blogspot.com/2022/09/the-london-revolution-1640-1643-class.html
 See last two articles on this website.