New College of the Humanities

Shifting Perspectives on the Great Rebellion

Austin Woolrych reflects on how historians’ approaches to the events of 1640-60 have been changing over the half century that he has been working on the period.

When the editor heard that I had recently completed a blockbuster which attempts to tell the general reader what the commotions in England, Scotland and Ireland between 1637 and 1660 were all about, and how they interacted, he suggested that I might write a piece about some of the themes that had preoccupied me during my book’s long gestation. I gladly accepted, and I thought it might be interesting to consider how historians’ assumptions about the period had changed since I began to work on it fifty-odd years ago, and how the focus of their attention has shifted. What follows is a broad-brushed sketch; so it will inevitably fail to name many scholars who have contributed importantly to the great enlargement of knowledge.

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