Revolutionary England, 1640-1660: Politics, Religion, Ideas

Module code: HS2339

During the 1640s, England experienced a civil war followed by a revolution, as the victorious parliamentarians executed King Charles I and established a commonwealth. In the 1650s England was a republic for the only time in its history, albeit one dominated by the kingly figure of Oliver Cromwell. Contemporaries were deeply divided in their responses to these upheavals, and the period witnessed an explosion in print. Between 1640 and 1661, the London bookseller George Thomason collected some 22,000 items (15,000 pamphlets and 7000 newspapers). 

The Thomason Collection is still housed in the British Library, and contains some of the most remarkable political and religious writings in early modern European history. These were years of extraordinary intellectual energy and debate and this course will examine the ideologies of the revolutionary decades. We will study key texts by Parliamentarians and Royalists, Levellers, Diggers, Republicans, Ranters, Quakers, women writers, and natural philosophers. Among the figures we will encounter are the army commander and eventual head of state Oliver Cromwell, the poet John Milton, the Quaker Margaret Fell, and the scientist Samuel Hartlib.


  • 10 hours of lectures
  • 20 hours of seminars
  • 5 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 115 hours of guided independent study


  • Essay, 2,250 words (50%)
  • Essay, 2,250 words (50%)