David Gelber

Peer Review

Charles I and the Aristocracy, 1625–1642


Cambridge University Press 350pp £65 order from our bookshop

In an essay of 1990 entitled ‘The Baronial Context of the English Civil War’, John Adamson raised a banner of rebellion against some of the citadels of modern British historiography. For more than a hundred years, the Civil War had been painted as a battle for constitutional government against royal absolutism, a fight by the rising bourgeoisie to overthrow the rotten oligopoly of crown and court, and a godly crusade to free men’s souls from the diktats of a bloated, scolding church. In none of these interpretations, Whiggish, Marxist or Puritan, did the nobility find much of a place, except as the enfeebled adjunct of a monarch who was the source of all ills, or as the trimming, irresolute bagmen of the indomitable House of Commons. Adamson’s thesis, later elaborated in his book The Noble Revolt, restored the Lords to centre stage. He argued that the Civil War was provoked, initiated and – at least in its early stages – prosecuted by a committed cadre of noblemen determined to ‘Venetianise’ the English government, shrinking the monarch to a figurehead.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,