Some Thoughts on the Christopher Hill and the English Revolution: 50 years after TWTUD Conference

To what extent you could describe the conference as a success is hard to say. What is undoubtedly true is that it was a significant historical event drawing many historians of the Early Modern period and general members of the public. The conference was a counterblast at all the revisionist historians who not only attack Hill but believe his writings have no bearing on today’s historiography.

It is a regret that more young people did not turn up because Hill certainly had something to say to this generation. His insight into deep insight historical questions would help them navigate some very choppy seas.

It is not within the realm of this short article to review the contents of the conference. While I understand organising it was a logistical nightmare, perhaps given the importance of the subject, it should have been spread over two days. You would not have the embarrassing spectacle of the main speaker being told to cut it short because the hall was only booked till 5 pm. I am sure that the papers presented will end up in a book.

If Penguin, who have the rights to the book TWTUD had any sense, they would re-issue it with a new updated forward. Mike Braddick would be a good choice for an introduction. Braddick, as was mentioned in the meeting, is working on a biography of Christopher Hill. It is quite staggering that this will be the first biography of this great historian.

A personal highlight was finally meeting the superb historian Rachel Hammersley. It is the first time I have been able to offer my condolences over the loss of her husband, the equally magnificent historian John Gurney. As she mentioned to me, John would have been in his element. Before he passed on, John published a fantastic paper on Gerrard Winstanley. A nice touch would have been for Rachel to read and present the paper at the conference.[1]His death robbed the world of a very good historian who, in my mind, would have gone on to even great things.

It would have been interesting to know John’s thoughts on Michael Braddick’s assertion that Hill was a dialectical materialist. Perhaps a more pertinent question is the one posed by Ann Talbot her obituary of Christopher Hill[2] Talbot who asks, “What any serious reader interested in history or politics wants to know is, when we read Hill’s books are we reading the work of an apologist for the Stalinist bureaucracy or of someone who was genuinely struggling to make a Marxist analysis of an aspect of English history? It has to be said that this is a complex question”. It is a deep regret that the subject was not mentioned at a conference of this importance. This is hardly surprising given that no orthodox Marxist historian or politician was invited to the conference, let alone asked to give a paper. A Marxist historian may be requested when the sixtieth anniversary of the TWTUD Conference is organised.

[1] Gerrard Winstanley and the Left -John Gurney-Past & Present, Volume 235, Issue 1, May 2017, Pages 179–206,

[2]“These the times … this the man”: an appraisal of historian Christopher Hill-

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