HST694: Revolutionary England, 1640-1660: Politics, Culture & Society

Mercurius Rusticus

15 credits (Semester 2019-20: Spring))

Module Leader: Professor Mike Braddick

Module Summary

'The 1640s and 1650s were among the most turbulent and traumatic periods in English history. The civil wars and constitutional crises were richly documented by the rival administrations, political partisans and by those who kept diaries and letters from the period, and this rich source material throws light both on the crisis and on the society from which it arose. This rich body of source material allows students either to study the English revolution or to better understand many dimensions of cultural, social, economic, literary, artistic or political history of early modern England.' Professor Mike Braddick

This module will introduce you to the study of English politics and society between 1640 and 1660. You will use primary and secondary sources in seminars to analyse both contemporary writings and historiographical debates on the causes and significance of the civil war, defined broadly to include not just formal political debate but also popular movements (including witch hunts, clubman associations and forms of economic and social protest) and other forms of intellectual creativity (astrology and natural science for example). The aim is to understand both the conflict, and the social and cultural values through which it was experienced and resolutions were sought. 

Module aims

This module aims to give you a solid grounding in the pertinent primary sources and historiographical debates concerning the political, social and cultural history of revolutionary England. You will undertake a structured programme of reading, presentation and discussion. You will be expected to understand a range of contemporary perspectives and to grasp the ambiguities and complexity of contemporary responses to the political crisis and the war to which it gave rise. In doing so, you will come to a better understanding of the cultural and social history of early modern England more generally. Where appropriate the module draws on sources and methods from political thought, practical politics and social and cultural history. This will enable you to engage critically with a divergent range of historiographies, and to apply insights and models across methodological boundaries.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you will be able to demonstrate:

  1. A more detailed understanding of recent developments in the study of England between 1640 and 1651;
  2. A knowledge of selected bodies of evidence relevant to the study of these issues, and of the problems of their interpretation;
  3. An ability to engage critically and independently in current historiographical debates on these issues;
  4. A capacity for informed and critical comparative analysis;
  5. An ability to evaluate critically approaches to these issues that use a range of different methodological approaches;
  6. An ability to examine the interaction of a range of political, cultural and social factors in an informed and integrated way;
  7. An ability to elaborate and defend an intellectual position and to present scholarly arguments and historiographical debates both orally and in writing.


Learning hours
Seminar hours Tutorial hours Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes. Each class will focus on a particular theme for discussion in relation to important primary sources and the broader historical literature. Classes will enable you to research and present your ideas, share knowledge, debate controversial issues and listen and respond to the views of others in a structured environment. You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss your written work for this module.



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

You will prepare a short paper (not more than 3,000 words) which demonstrates an ability to handle primary evidence and which relates this to the key themes of historical debate for the early modern period.


Selected reading

The reading for this module is based around the module group’s interests.

If you would like to do some general reading before the module starts the following books will be useful:

  • Michael Braddick, God’s Fury, England’s Fire: A new history of the English civil wars (2008)
  • Michael Braddick (ed), The Oxford Handbook, The Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution (2015)



*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.