This is a critical re-evaluation of one of the best known episodes of crowd action in the English Revolution, in which crowds in their thousands invaded and plundered the houses of the landed classes. The so-called Stour Valley riots have become accepted as the paradigm of class hostility, determining plebeian behaviour within the Revolution. An excercise in micro-history, the book questions this dominant reading by trying to understand the inter-related contexts of local responses to the political and religious counter-revolution of the 1630s and the confessional politics of the early 1640s. It explains both the outbreak of popular 'violence' and its ultimate containment in terms of a popular (and parliamentary) political culture that legitimised attacks on the political, but not the social, order. The book also advances a series of general arguments for reading crowd actions, and questions how the history of the English Revolution has been written.
'Full of twists and surprises ... John Walter has written the finest modern study of popular politics in the English Revolution.' Economic History Review 'This is an important book, and not only in terms of its conclusions. The methodological insights offered here ... are in themselves worth the price of admission. This book is packed with the kind of insight born only of profound and prolonged engagement with the issues.' Social History 'This is a book which will be required reading for all students of the English Revolution and its causes. But for its analysis of class in early modern society, one of the finest now available, and for its deep contextualization of an episode of mass direct action, it also deserves to engage a much wider audience.' The Historical Journal 'A short review cannot highlight all of this work's merits. Suffice it to say that it does much to restore local history to the prominence which it once enjoyed in the balmier days of 'localism'.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History 'A book with major implications for the understanding of the Civil War and of popular culture.' Peter Furtado, History Today '... a richly detailed, imaginative essay on families and communities in Essex and Suffolk ... Walter's microhistory brings an awareness of the great crises of the 1630s to the scale of everyday life ...' Journal of Modern History 'A short review cannot highlight all of this work's merits. Suffice it to say that it does much to restore local history to the prominence which it once enjoyed.' Thomas Cogswell, Journal of Ecclesiastical History