Ehud’s Dagger

Class Struggle in the English Revolution

By James Holstun
Book Review Details
Author: James Holstun
Publisher: Verso
Edition: 2000
Page Details
Section: Book Reviews =>
Subjects: Class
Posted: Modified:

One of our visiting academics said this book was ‘hard but good’, so I took up the challenge and read it. The reason it is ‘hard’, is mainly because of the first few chapters, which launch into the sometimes vicious debate between historical revisionists (who basically think history is made by powerful individuals/institutions, we are of course unimportant), the post-modernists (who think it is so complex and non-linear it is hard to say anything so they get obsessed with making minor details the centre of their theories), and the Marxists/social historians (who come from varying shades of ‘the history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles’). Holstun fights his ‘class struggle’ position well and backs it all up with searing (and sometimes funny) critiques of his academic opponents. The second part of the book looks at some key radical groups (the agitators in the New Model Army and the Diggers) and figures (Anna Trapnel, Edward Sexby and John Felton) in the English Revolution. There is some seriously interesting stuff here, though Holstun’s background as an expert in English literature can make the text a cross between flowery and difficult. There are two absolute gems I must mention. The first chapter which tells of Cornet Joyce, the representative of the New Model Army who seized Charles I for the revolutionaries and effectively led him to his execution and Holstun’s veiled call for the assassination of Henry Kissinger, which is not something you might expect to see in an academic text! (BRHG)

Ehud's Dagger: Class Struggle in the English Revolution

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