In the mid-seventeenth century, within the English Revolution which resulted in the triumph of the protestant ethic, there threatened another revolution which had established the concept of communal property. This new idea of freedom provided a broader sense of democracy in both political and legal institutions.
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The disestablishment of the state church and the dismissal of the protestant ethic may have been caused by the proliferation of a new democratic thinking especially among the lower classes. Christopher Hill examined the beliefs of radical groups during the English Revolution in his book “The World Turned Upside Down”
. He also studied the social and emotional impulses of this group which gave rise to the latter’s existence. This revolutionary belief was born from the interactions between the rich and poor classes together with the elements of slaves being free from their masters, the outburst of sexual freedom and the creations of Milton and Bunyan.
In his book, Christopher Hill discussed the radical ideas that were evident during the English revolution. As a Marxist, Hill never failed to apply this particular point of view in analyzing the given information and references. Hill placed emphasis on class struggles and attempts of the lower classes in ending oppressive exercises of the social elite.
He argued that the social change that resulted to the English revolution or civil war was caused by the rise of capitalism during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This also prompted the lower class opposition to the Royalist and Parliamentary governments.
In the book, the author clearly portrayed the diverse radial opinions of different groups in England when the government control weekend and eventually broke down. In writing his book, “The World Turned Upside Down”, the author did an extensive research in gathering information from books and other literatures written and published during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Hill’s study was evident in the many quotes presented in the narrative of the book. Together with the information gathered from the writings of scholars, Hill supported his arguments in his book with a Marxist point of view. Hill was able to use the information he had gathered from his study convincingly to support his arguments in the book.
He would present an idea and narrate the happening during that time relating such event to the notion of class oppression resulting to the reactions of the masses in their cause for individual freedom. The book presents a comprehensive outline of events which took place before and after the English Civil War which was dynamically put together by the author.
It strategically presented a flow of ideas which was well organized. Personally I was impressed by how Hill categorized his assumptions and supported such with scholarly facts from literatures which were written during the sixteenth and seventeenth century when the events took place.
The book had been effective in presenting the radicalism of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries but Hill’s arguments were weakened by his idea of a mature class dynamic and early capitalism in Britain. The author was also limited by his source materials which were political and religious pamphlets in majority.
Hill’s generalization of the lower classes also presented as a problem in his discussions because he failed to explore the diverse economic interests of the different groups this there was a lack of structure and unity between the said groups which was one of the main themes of the book.
Hill’s focus and use of pamphlet literature limited him to reveal ideals and interests of men who belonged to the social elite. These men were part of the powerful moneyed class who were educated in the finest schools and universities and who also had financial resources in publishing, printing and distributing their pamphlets which Hill used in his book.
Thus Christopher Hill’s “The World Turned Upside Down” fails to give accounts of all the peoples during the English Revolution. He based his assumptions and ideas only through that of the moneyed class and the accounts of ordinary people were not included.
Aside from the unheard voices of the lower classed groups, Hill also failed to include the views of the female group which played a significant part in the revolution that never happened. The book was written in a scholarly manner with the author’s word choice seem complex and a bit dragging. It is not an easy to read book but rather readers must pay close attention to the narrative to fully understand the concepts and arguments of the author.
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The main purpose of Christopher Hill in writing his book, “The World Turned Upside Down” was to chronicle the events that led to the world’s democratization and freedom of the people. He based this knowledge through the revolution that never happened by discussing the beliefs and ideas of the radical groups in England during the English Civil War. He elaborated his ideas in a Marxists point of view stating that capitalism was the main culprit for such drastic change in the English society.
Hill, Christopher. The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution. London: Penguin Groups. 1975. Print.