Blair Worden is Hugh Trevor-Roper’s literary executor. His most recent book is God’s Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell. (January 2014)

Two Letters on Treason

Kim Philby (left) at a press conference in London, 1955; Hugh Trevor-Roper (right) at Oxford, 1950
Hugh Trevor-Roper and Kim Philby worked together from 1941 as fellow recruits of British wartime intelligence. They savoured each other’s company, admired each other’s intellects, and shared a contempt for the inadequacies they perceived in their superior officers. But whereas Trevor-Roper’s attitude toward them provoked calls for his dismissal, and …

The Fires of the Rebel Queen

Mary Tudor during her first year as queen; painting by Hans Eworth, 1554. According to Eamon Duffy in Fires of Faith, she is wearing ‘a Tao cross on a choker of pearls at her neck, and hanging from her girdle is a gilt-enamel reliquary with emblems of the Four Evangelists. Relics were denounced and destroyed by Mary’s father and her brother: to display this restored reliquary in an official portrait was an overt declaration of the queen’s religious agenda.’
The middle third or so of the sixteenth century, the period from Henry VIII’s break with Rome to the early part of Elizabeth I’s reign, brought a new kind of instability to England. There had been baronial revolts before, and peasant revolts before, and contests over the royal succession before, …

Hobbes & the Halo of Power

The frontispiece to Leviathan, which ‘graphically portrays a crowned sovereign as the literal embodiment of the people, who have united to enthrone him’
Quentin Skinner, the leading historian of political thought of his generation, who has recently retired from the Regius Chair of Modern History at Cambridge, has among his other interests been writing on Thomas Hobbes for more than forty years.[^1] A rigorous student of Hobbes’s logic, he has nonetheless always sought, …

Lyrical Historian

Rarely does a historian’s reputation rise as high and then fall as fast as that of George Macaulay Trevelyan. He was, thought his fellow-scholar V.H. Galbraith, “probably the most widely read historian in the world: perhaps in the history of the world.” His first best seller, England Under the Stuarts, …

Revising the Revolution

Historians are sometimes asked to say what the verdict of history will be upon the issues and personalities of contemporary politics. The only certain answer is that whatever history decides, it will change its mind. On no subject can it have changed its mind more often than the civil wars …

Rugged Outcast

Antonia Fraser’s enormous biography succeeds in what I take to be its aim: it can be read with pleasure and profit by almost anyone who can afford it, however well or ill acquainted with Cromwell’s period. The pleasure might have been doubled, and the profit scarcely diminished, if the length …