This book is about the fabrication of a revolutionary model of English history. Its focus will be the ‘discovery’ of an epochal revolution in the England of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. Its starting point will be the distinctive but contiguous concepts of ‘bourgeois revolution’ and ‘modern society’, and the attempt to relate both to seventeenth-century English religious and political conflicts – an endeavour which can be traced back to the writings of contemporary political theorists and to the subsequent ‘speculative histories’ of eighteenth-century Scottish sociologists, but which only achieved historiographical significance in the pedigrees sought by the French liberal historians of the nineteenth century for their own revolution, and in the overlapping but distinctive body of Marx’s writings and subsequent Marxist theory. The first chapter will attempt to chart some of the problems of this interpretative hybrid, and to show how a distinctively nonrevolutionary, ‘constitutionalist’ reading of England’s seventeenthcentury past became canonical in the hundred years from 1840 to 1940.
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