England in Conflict 1603-1660 tells the story of the disintegration of the early modern polity. By questioning the meanings of the body politic it is able to bridge not only the high and low but also divergent approaches to the period. The book's opening explorations of the practices and assumptions of politics, of religious life in center and locality, of social relationships and of economic patterns, are followed by a turn to narrative. The drama of the slide from royal peace into civil war and revolution, and the trauma of the failure of that revolution, are caught with a clarity that does not come at the price of distortion.
Derek Hirst has blended his own continuing researches with more than a decade of challenging scholarship that appeared since his Authority and Conflict (from which this book is descended). The result is a wholly fresh work. Centered around ambiguities of community in early modern England--the community of the realm embodied in the king, the local communities with all their strengths and subversions, the political community as an autonomous agent--the text enlivens such debates as those over revisionism, Puritanism, the church, and witchcraft while at the same time making sense of the complexities of crisis and continuity.
"A superb book...Explains the 'British Problem' with authority and conviction. And the subtlety of approach and the delightful writing make a very rewarding 'must' for all those who seek to understand England, 1603-1660." --Jenny Wormald, C.E. Hodge Fellow and Tutor in Modern History, St Hilda's College, Oxford
"One of the most informed, balanced and--especially on the 1640s and 1650s--most enriching of early modern survey books. Building on the foundations of that book, Derek Hirst has now enhanced and broadened the account in ways that make England in Conflict as much a book for the first decade of the next millennium as (his) Authority and Conflict was a book for the 1980s and 1990s." --John Morrill, Professor of British and Irish History, University of Cambridge