William Lamont

William Lamont most recent book, written with Christopher Hill and Barry Reay, is The World of the Muggletonians. He is Dean of the School of Cultural and Community Studies at the University of Sussex and a professor of history there.

The Great Fear

William Lamont, 21 July 1983

We shall know more about the origins of the English Civil War when we know more about English Puritans. This seems, on the face of it, an absurd proposition. From S.R. Gardiner’s confident description of the Great Rebellion as ‘the Puritan Revolution’ downwards, we have not lacked studies which linked Protestant religious attitudes to the coming of the Civil War. Titles such as Woodhouse’s Puritanism and Liberty or Haller’s Liberty and Reformation in the Puritan Revolution pay homage to this tradition. Gardiner, Woodhouse and Haller, in different ways, were showing how Protestant ideals influenced the middle-class constitutionalism of Opposition MPs. Michael Walzer went further in his Revolution of the Saints by arguing that Calvinism was a modernising ideology. With breathtaking audacity, he leapt from case-studies of Marian exiles to New Model soldiers belting out battle hymns, in pursuit of his thesis that revolutionary dogma was to be found in mainstream English Puritanism and not (as was often supposed) merely in a sectarian lunatic fringe. There was no danger in any of these studies of the religious dimension being squeezed out of an explanation of the origins of the English Civil War.


Oh well then, forget it

22 February 2007

Reading Patrick Collinson’s informative essay in the last issue (LRB, 22 February), I wondered if he remembered a Past and Present conference on popular religion we both attended in 1966. From the floor at one session, Lawrence Stone, in a high state of excitement, asked if England ever had a university don creating a popular religion. A voice at the back shouted out: ‘Wyclif.’ Stone...


7 June 2001

Lytton Strachey wrote a brilliant, error-laden essay on the Muggletonians in 1924. He wondered if any were still alive. If they were, he said, it was because in England heretics were tortured ‘not to death, oh no! – but to some extent’. J.L. Nelson (LRB, 7 June) argues that, ‘without systematic persecution’, the Cathars too might have ‘survived in a twilight zone...

Pulling Ranke

15 October 1998

Readers who enjoyed Peter Ghosh’s elegant dismantling of Richard Evans’s case for Rankean empiricism (LRB, 15 October) may wish to go on to read Quentin Skinner’s essay on Geoffrey Elton’s defence of history (Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Sixth Series, Volume VII, 1997), which it complements admirably.

Dr Who

21 October 1993

Perry Anderson’s Diary (LRB, 21 October) was moving and perceptive on E.P. Thompson. On one small point of difference with Thompson, he seems to me to be half-right. He suggests a Blake/Muggletonian connection, less in ‘New Jerusalem’ common aspirations, than in a provident keep-your-head-below-the-parapet stance in the age of Jacobinism. This is a good corrective to over-romanticising...


24 September 1992

‘The impeccably liberal Ernest Barker’ (Perry Anderson: LRB, 24 September)? Would ‘peccably’ be better? In 1937 he made a favourable comparison between Hitler and Cromwell in a swastika-draped hall in Hamburg: see his Oliver Cromwell and the English People (Cambridge, 1937).
SIR: I enjoyed D.A.N. Jones’s article (LRB, 5 April) but I was unhappy with some of the ways in which he used the 17th century – and in particular Richard Baxter – as a milch-cow for 20th-century theological debate. To be specific: 1. ‘N.H. Keeble … was responsible for the excellent Everyman edition of Baxter’s autobiography in 1931.’ He wasn’t. J.M....

It is said that when representatives of the Society of Friends came to Buckingham Palace in 1945 to present a loyal address at the end of World War Two, the king asked who these people were....

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Rescuing the bishops

Blair Worden, 21 April 1983

The publication of Patrick Collinson’s The Religion of Protestants is a stirring event in the rediscovery of Early Modern England. Unmistakably the work of a historian who has reflected on...

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