A Concise History from the English Civil War to the End of the Commonwealth


By G. R. Batho , published 13th June 2011

Radical Religion in Cromwell's England: A Concise History from the English Civil War to the End of the Commonwealth, Andrew Bradstock (I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 2011) xxvi, 189pp., paperback, £15.99, hardback, £52.50, ISBN 978 1 84551 7658 (paper), 978 1 8451 1 764 1(hard).

The dozen illustrations in this book, by Andrew Bradstock, professor at the University of Otago, include a portrait of John Lilburne, the Leveller leader at his treason trial in 1649 and the plaque quoting Gerrard Winstanley's views on property held outside the G20 summit in 2009.  The author is notably conscious of the relevance of his subject to modern life and was himself born to a Particular Baptist family.  He has written an accessible history of an especially turbulent period in English history and in particular the various radical movements of which the Levellers were the most significant but also of the ‘Ranters', ‘Seekers', ‘Diggers', and even ‘the Fifth Monarchists and the Muggletonians and inevitably the ‘Quakers' (who waked naked to symbolise humanity's inherent equality) figure prominently in the story.  A full consideration of the significance of each group and the role of women is provided with suggestions for further reading.  The full index lists biblical characters and books which are especially relevant.

As Bradstock comments in his conclusion, contrary to the opinion of A.L. Rouse, the core concern of the radical thinkers of Cromwell's time - democracy, equality, liberty before the law - are central to every age.  It is a valuable survey based on meticulous study.